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Miniature Smoke ?

smoke miniature ship

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#1 Doug Palmer

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Posted 29 March 2015 - 12:01 PM

I'm preparing to film portions of a miniature ship 1/35 scale.  It's on fire, and about time of dusk.   I am making full scale plates for the fire and smoke effects,  but it would be nice to have some actual smoke as well.   Is there a kind of smoke effect that would look sufficiently large and billowy  to work on a miniature ?  If necessary it could be slow motion but only to say 64 fps.


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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 29 March 2015 - 12:13 PM

No, puffing clouds of moving smoke do not miniaturize just like fire doesn't.  Better to leave that for post.  You can do an even haze of smoke for a miniature though.


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#3 KH Martin

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Posted 29 March 2015 - 06:11 PM

Well, you can create some animated haze by playing lights with dimmers over a piece of screen door material (usually bent over double) that is in front of the camera as a scrim. I remember having to do some pickups to match to a smoke environment on a live set, but for the retake we couldn't put any atmosphere into the room. With this method it actually looked more interesting visually than the shots with the real smoke, as the highlight edges of the screen mesh, even out of focus, gave the fauxsmoke some punch, though obviously there are limitations, like you can't have anything come through on the Z-axis. 

 

One other thought ... if it is a static shot, you could also take a piece of glass at right angles to your setup, and reflect in a large smoke source set up at 90 degrees from your scene. I used to do that to put laser beams into a model setup, just by illuminating chalk or lines of blacklight paint that I had lined up on this adjacent right-angle setup. (yeah, I am a seriously old-oldschool guy for this stuff, backwinding in the camera for double exposures, shooting models in daylight against a huge backlit starfield and I've never shot a traveling matte in my life.)


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#4 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 29 March 2015 - 09:21 PM

A few things I tried that were successful while I was experimenting with miniatures for storyboarding purposes was lighting cotton fibers with gels and or paint to mimic smoke. I also had some success using canned smoke, cigarette and cigar smoke in aquariums where the air inside was not significantly effected by the room's turbulence. It worked best when the ambient temperature was stable letting the smoke just hang in the air.

 

There are ways to make scale models look VERY realistic but 1/35th scale tends to be too small for a realist look in general terms. The detail tends to get lost. I actually prefer 1/6th scale, myself. For a ship, I'd probably look for a model that is close to say 6 ft long minimum as water also has scale issues and you'll want the bow and waves to scale reasonably well. Just my opinion.


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#5 Doug Palmer

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Posted 30 March 2015 - 01:09 PM

Thanks folks :)

I take David's point that smoke doesn't miniaturize, but also see from KH martin and James that maybe things can work.  I like the idea of randomly lighting the scrim which I would probably have anyway somewhere in the miniature set.  Yes maybe 1/35 is rather small. But that's one reason I'm going for a dusk/twilight effect so there's not too much detail seen. As for the bow wave (it's a warship) I was hoping to get away with projecting a plate that I've shot, onto the miniature, frame by frame. I definitely don't want actual water !  The miniature smoke effects I am seeking would not be in these animated shots. They would be in other rather brief shots, showing the chaos unfolding on the ship (intercut with smokey shots of sailors).  

So the miniature smoke effect doesn't have to last long. But because of the somewhat frantic camera movement I wish to use it needs to be in real time or in not very slow motion.

I was even wondering about dust. Talcum powder or something like that ? If it was puffed in somehow would that look like smoke ? I guess as it's small with limited depth of field whatever you use it can be soft focus.  I'll probably be using a U16 Bolex with 10mm.


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#6 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 30 March 2015 - 09:44 PM

I would try and see what happens. Here, you might want to read these:

 

www.modelshipsinthecinema.com

 

http://minimodelfx.BlogSpot.com/

 

I also got a LOT of hits for this search

 

"  Ships movie miniatures tips and techniques  "


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