Isn’t it great when the best, most evocative effect is dirt cheap and easy? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the mighty fog machine.
Whether you’re shooting footage of your actors or miniatures, a little bit of haze can add instant depth and visual interest to the scene and give all that lighting you worked so hard on something to really play around with.
Fog machines are generally dirt cheap, especially around Halloween shopping season (which, lets face it, is usually like late august these days). You can usually find inexpensive fog machines for around $20-$30 dollars, along with the chemical solution that it uses spew out the haze.
It takes some finessing to get just exactly the look you want. Fog machines do ‘haze’ pretty well right out of the box, but if you’re looking for more of a swirly, thick fog that rolls and ‘falls’, you’re probably going to want to build a chiller.
CHILL THAT FOG
Fog machines work by heating up a kind of oil until it vaporizes. This means its warm when it comes out of the machine, and as my favorite science teacher Mr. K taught us back in high school, warm air rises. The result is a thinner, gauzy haze rather than rolling fog.
In order to get a thicker, rolling fog effect…the sort of mist that clings creepily to the ground around graveyards in old movies…you need to chill the fog before it disperses. This is pretty easy to do. Here’s a video of a guy (via the ever-awesome Backyard FX) who came up with a shockingly simple solution:
NOT JUST FOR SPECIAL OCCASIONS
Its important to note that using a bit of haze and fog in a scene isn’t necessarily just for explicitly foggy scenes. Filmmakers employ haze in films all the time when you’d least expect it. This is because a little bit of haze in the air gives light something to reflect within, which can really help build and direct the composition of the scene. Almost any time you see a beam of light actually spanning a distance in a movie, you can bet a little bit of fog has been used.
Here’s a pretty damn fantastic YouTube vid from polcan99 explaining how fog can be used in this way. Pretty much says it all:
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