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Controlling Smoke


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#1 craig bass

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Posted 12 March 2017 - 01:56 PM

I apologize if this isn't quite the right forum to post this question in, but I wasn't sure of the specific category, and I've always had great luck here with the kindly assistance of other filmmakers. I will be shooting a music video this coming weekend, for which I want to have smoke in the background of a scene. This scene will be shot in my, relatively small, studio: 1,500 sq. ft.. Every attempt that I have made to do something similar has failed, as, once released, the smoke tends to move through the room--as it will--and simply fog up the entire image. Is there anyway to relatively reliably control the smoke so that it is confined to half of the space. This may seem like a silly question to many of you, but I am hoping that some member may have a secret technique they'd be willing to share:) 


Edited by craig bass, 12 March 2017 - 01:56 PM.

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#2 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 12 March 2017 - 02:19 PM

That's just what smoke does, fill up an enclosed space. If you fully enclosed the background, you could contain the smoke to that area. Perhaps in front of a huge window or wall of plexiglass. That's not very practical though, and would create all kinds of reflection issues. It would also not really give you the volumetric effect - it would just be a clear box full of smoke behind the subject and appear mostly white.

Typically, what you see in movies is that the whole room is smoked, but because the lens in much closer physically to the foreground subject, there is less smoke to shoot through and so the subject appears more or less clearly than the background.

Lighting also helps to create the illusion of depth - backlighting or sidelighting the smoke will make it appear more visible and keeping it in shadow will make it disappear. If you notice in a lot of smoky scenes, the lighting is kept fairly dark, with a shaft of hard backlight in the background to illuminate the smoke, and a soft 3/4 back or 1/2 side keylight on the foreground subject to make them pop.

Lastly, you could try using a hazer instead of a smoke machine, which as the name implies creates more of an even haze in a room and not thick billowing smoke or fog. The DF-50 is a commonly used hazer, and there are water-based fluids available for it.
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#3 craig bass

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Posted 12 March 2017 - 10:40 PM

Thank you, Satsuki, for your input. I pretty much figured that was the case, but I was curious if there was a way, perhaps with fans, to control the rough location of the fog. Seems I am probably fighting against physics here:)


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