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Lighting Foggy Windows


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#1 Waseem Shaikh

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Posted 23 October 2010 - 08:08 PM

Hi there,

My first post here! :D

I'm shooting a scene on Wednesday where the script involves two characters on two sides of a window pane, and one of them writes a romantic message on the fogged up glass (See image below).

1) This is not the right forum for this, but - does anyone know how to create and ensure sustainable fog on the window?

2) How do we light this so that the text is clearly visible on screen? Do we backlight it, or do we light it from the front, so that the frosty fog is visible, leaving the gaps created by the writing dark, and thus easy to read?

Any help would be appreciated.

Thanks :)

22670_315082584739_315079809739_4695661_7269528_n.jpg
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#2 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 23 October 2010 - 08:39 PM

Boil some water in a kettle or pan, and allow the steam to condense on the window. Either front or backlighting should show the message written, although in different ways.
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#3 Waseem Shaikh

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Posted 23 October 2010 - 08:42 PM

Boil some water in a kettle or pan, and allow the steam to condense on the window. Either front or backlighting should show the message written, although in different ways.


Hey Stuart,

Thanks for the prompt response. I tried that earlier today at home, but the steam disappeared in less than 30 seconds. Anything we can mix into it to make it stay longer and/or more visible? Oil? Coloring? I will try it again right now and let you know.

Thanks again :)
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 23 October 2010 - 10:45 PM

Ever since I was a Super-8 filmmaker, I always used Arid Extra Dry spray, which has powder in it. Funny thing was that I was on the set of "United States of Tara" the other day and the efx person was using it for a shot with some fog around a mirror, just like I did when I was a beginner. As someone writes in it, you do get a bit of the powder piling up, so it's not completely perfect, if you can do real fog, the better.

As you can tell from the photo, a bit of backlight on the glass whites-out the fog, so the writing becomes more visible when the background beyond the window has a bit of darker areas to it.
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#5 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 23 October 2010 - 11:17 PM

Thinking about it, maybe a light oil such as WD40 would work. It sprays in a relatively fine mist, contains no powder (unlike anti-perspirant) and won't dry out (unlike hairspray)

Let us know how it goes.
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 24 October 2010 - 02:42 AM

Thinking about it, maybe a light oil such as WD40 would work. It sprays in a relatively fine mist, contains no powder (unlike anti-perspirant) and won't dry out (unlike hairspray)

Let us know how it goes.



I've tried that - the trouble with oils instead of powder spray is that when you try drawing in it with your finger, it smears rather than creates a clear/clean area. But if no one touches it, it's probably more convincing as a mist covering.
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#7 Waseem Shaikh

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Posted 24 October 2010 - 06:59 PM

Ever since I was a Super-8 filmmaker, I always used Arid Extra Dry spray, which has powder in it. Funny thing was that I was on the set of "United States of Tara" the other day and the efx person was using it for a shot with some fog around a mirror, just like I did when I was a beginner. As someone writes in it, you do get a bit of the powder piling up, so it's not completely perfect, if you can do real fog, the better.

As you can tell from the photo, a bit of backlight on the glass whites-out the fog, so the writing becomes more visible when the background beyond the window has a bit of darker areas to it.


I just bought a can of Arrid Extra Dry and tried it on my mirror. The result is PHENOMENAL! You guys are geniuses. Thank you so much for your help.

You're right about the powder piling up a bit, but I'm thinking one way around it would be to keep it extremely tight on a profile shot of his finger writing, and on the wide shot that reveals whats written, i'll wet a Q-Tip and clean out the text so that you don't see any powdery build-up.

Also, the powder isn't so bad, as it looks like frost. And it helps that the powder is white, because it really picks up light very well.

You guys are amazing! Thank you! :)
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#8 Cole Paquette

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Posted 02 November 2010 - 11:03 PM

ummm... just my 2 cents here.
try cooling down the glass. condensation (steam) should form easier and stay longer.
somewhat like when you are in a car, it's snowing outside, and you turn the heater, and the window fogs up.
if the side without the fog is cooled, then the fog should form easily and stay around.
I find angling a front or rear light gives the best appearance, I feel that front light makes writing too hard to see.
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#9 Waseem Shaikh

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Posted 06 November 2010 - 01:53 PM

We shot with the Arrid Spray, and it's come out decently.

I'll be posting the video up very soon! :D
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#10 Waseem Shaikh

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Posted 15 November 2010 - 12:39 PM

Guys! Thank you for your advice. Here's the end product. The fog came out pretty realistic:


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