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Question about smoke

Petr Berger

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Today i visited a shooting of a movie taking place in depression era. They were shooting a scene in an interior which they fill with smoke by smoke machine, but they waft the smoke to even it out until it was almost invisible by eye. So my question is, why they used the smoke? There was no shafts of light or something like this. Probably just for an atmosphere?

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What are the uses of smoke in movies (instead of creating beams of light)?


The second question is... They used small handheld smoke machine which was not connected by cable to anything... I thought you need a power to operate a smoke machine...

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It's often used for "atmosphere." It gives a thickness to a set that you can't get by putting a filter onto a camera. I find it interesting that smoke tends to heighten the drama of a scene even though it's lowering the contrast in the lighting. I'm sure M. David Mullen- who has smoked a few sets in his time - can give a more complete answer.

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What are the uses of smoke in movies (instead of creating beams of light)?


If there are any light sources in the frame, even soft ones, they will glow in a hazed set, increasing aerial perspective in the space (background fades into haze more quickly). The contrast will be lowered, but dimensionally. Colors and background detail therefore will be softened. And of course, occasionally a hard source will appear in the frame, like a flashlight, or a door or window opening and a shaft of sunlight crossing the room, etc. You want the hazed look established even if only in a few shots will a beam appear.


I tend to haze bars even though most don't allow smoking anymore, they just look too clean and pristine otherwise... which also brings up that a hazed set can feel "dirtier" as if the room is dusty, useful in old garage or attic scenes.


Haze tends to add drama mainly because it shows off every source off-camera that is not frontal, therefore forcing one into a more dramatic, single-source lighting approach lest the frame ends up looking cluttered and washed-out from too many beams crossing the frame.


Some small hazers I believe just need to be heated up and then can be disconnected from power for some time. And then you have those big ones that can be gas powered like lawn mowers but they have to be used outdoors, and they are very loud.

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