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Thread: Smoke effect

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Dec 1999

    Smoke effect

    I tried to create a smoke effect from kettle, hot coffee etc. I tried dry ice. It didn't work too well. I noticed that the the smoke is heavier than air, so instead of going up, the smoke is going down or sideways. What is the best method to create a natural looking smoke/steam? Question #2: What is the best method to create sweat on bottles so they will look as they just came out from the fridge?

    Thanks for your tips.


  2. #2

    Smoke effect

    Both steam and the fog from dry ice is heavier than ambient air. Smoke from a cigar, cigarette or pipe is best with a dark background and back lighted.

    I've heard of using glycerine spray on cans/glass for the sweaty look.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Dec 2003

    Smoke effect

    Have you tried a smoke machine? This may be a good solution that is usually affordable to rent.
    For what it's worth, it seems to me that smoke "rises" only because of the inherent heat in it, and that only when the air it is rising in is cooler. So, for example, in a smoky room, the smoke will be thickest near the ceiling, and gradually less thick as you get closer to the floor. However, there may still be smoke at the mid-point of the room, because the smoke there will be cooler than the dense, hotter air at the top of the room.
    To re-create this with a smoke machine, use a hose or simply point the machine where you want the smoke-- e.g. toward the ceiling, etc. The chemical "smoke" from a good smoke machine will linger for a while, and it generally stays put unless there is a draft.

  4. #4
    Whatever David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2000
    Honolulu, Hawai'i

    Smoke effect

    I don't know how much this is done today, but at one time smoke was often considerably enhanced with retouching on the negative.

  5. #5
    Moderator Ralph Barker's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 1998
    Rio Rancho, NM

    Smoke effect

    Steam, such as that from a hot beverage, rises and needs be be back-lit to catch it at all on film. Often, it is easier to retouch to get the full effect, as it is difficult to keep the beverage hot enough unless shooting in a very cold room.

    Smoke from a smoke machine tends to hug the floor, but can be moved with gentle air flow. Be aware, however, that it is mildly unpleasant to breath the stuff, so some caution is required if people are involved.

    For frosty bottles, put the bottle or glass in the freezer for a while beforehand. A mix of glycerine and water in a fine spray bottle will produce slightly larger condensation, making it easier to catch on film. (The glycerine/water mix is often used to simulate perspiration on oiled bodies for fitness shots.) Otherwise, you can get "normal" condensation with the steam from an electric tea kettle aimed at the near-frozen bottle or glass.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Mar 2000

    Smoke effect

    The following is from Scott Smiths website at

    Heavy and low to the ground Back to Top

    Q. Is there anything I can add to the fog juice or know of a company that offers fog juice that will produce a very heavy and thick fog? I am currently using Visual Effects Inc. fog juice which produces nicely but not thick enough to suit my needs. Regards, John...

    A. While thick fog to one person may not be thick to another person, there are two common fluids that go by a number of different names. Fog fluid like that offered by Rosco is thick and hangs in the air for a very long time which can be a real problem when working in the studio. Several shots of the “Fog” fluid and you have to open all the doors and start the fans to get the air clear. Fog fluid is what you may be wanting. Warning: bypass or dismantle your security system smoke sensor or you might get an alarm!

    On the other hand there are faster dissipating fluids. It dissipates more rapidly than fog fluid and is perfect for general photography. You can get the shot and begin again in less than a minute without the need for ventilating the studio. The Rosco version is called STAGE and STUDIO Fluid.

    Q. I am guessing that what I am trying achieve is not possible with a fog machine. I really want to get a nice low layer of thick fog that it holds itself and won't dissipate. I am trying to get results similar to dried ice. Any ideas?

    A. To do the low fog effect you want is pretty easy but you have to do a little construction. You will need an old ice chest that you don't mind cutting holes in. Put a hole in each end near the top. Get some thin flexible pipe that is ok in water and resistant to the heat from your smoke machine. You will have to improvise with plumbing fittings or whatever you can find to make the connections. Connect the pipe to one end of the ice chest on the inside. Now coil several feet of pipe around and around in the bottom of the chest. The pipe should be 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter. (not critical). You can fill the chest with ice or dry ice in water. With the dry ice in water, the cooler will itself generate some fog. If that is a problem, just use simple ice and water. The idea is to cool the pipe way down which will in turn cool the fog. When you squirt the fog into one end (you need somewhat of a tight fit to avoid losing a lot of smoke) and it exits at the other end, it will be cold and will hug the floor just like in a horror movie. Once you have built your fog cooler, you will have it whenever you need it. Ssssssmokin!

    Here is an e-mail that came in refering to the above article.

    Dear Mr. Smith, I was reading through your web site and found where someone had asked about smoke machines and how to keep the smoke laying near ground level. Well I tried your suggestion and it works fantastic! The parts cost me nothing and the effect that I got from the cooled fog was priceless!! Thank You!!!! Sincerely, Jim Robertson

  7. #7

    Smoke effect

    A great way to make smoke is with saltpeter. Mix a couple tablespoons in a quart of water. Soak newspaper in this solution. Dry the paper. When the paper is thoroughly dry you can light it. As soon as it catches, you have to snuff out the flames and it will smoke like crazy. I use this as a smoker fuel for my bee hives.

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Fremantle, Western Australia

    Smoke effect


    Where can you get saltpeter without the local version of the CIA coming down on you? The smoking paper sounds like a really portable way of getting the effect and might make some interesting landscapes. I'll start carrying some for certain conditions, if I can get the saltpeter.

    Cheers, Graeme

  9. #9

    Smoke effect

    Graeme, I buy the saltpeter at our local drug store. I have never had any trouble buying it. The only trouble I got into was about 40 years ago as a kid we lit some rags soaked in saltpeter and someone called the cops on us. Musta thought the woods were on fire!

  10. #10

    Smoke effect

    I should add that this fuel works best in a closed container such as a bee smoker. When exposed to the air it has a tendency to flame-up. You may want to put it in a metal container such as a coffee can with a metal lid with a hole in it, and maybe a small hole near the bottom for a bit of air.

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