How to Make Smoke

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Making smoke for a movie effect can be done using a traditional fog machine, dry ice or a mosquito smoker. Find ways to create the illusion of smoke with help from a movie producer in this free video on filmmaking.

Part of the Video Series: Filmmaking & Movie Special Effects
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Video Transcript

Hi I am Shaun O'Rourke with Eleven Bravo Productions and I am here at suite D at EUE Screen Gems Studios this is the largest studio complex east of Hollywood. And today I am going to talk to you about movie magic smoke. There is a couple ways people could accomplish this, now on a independent level there is a couple of corners you have to cut, we do not have giant smoke machines like they do in the movie industry, but here is a couple of basic ones for you. This is your traditional fog machine, now this can make smoke you can rent this at any party supply store. It comes with a liquid solution that goes into the receptacle here. The nozzle is always really hot, the the one thing you have to keep in mind about this particular unit is that you have to time things right when you want your smoke because it kind of has a mind of its own and a smoke machine will work, and there is a delay after you hit the button to have the fog come out. This is a really cheap, inexpensive way to accomplish smoke in the film industry. So that would be your first bet, okay, get yourself a fog machine from a local party supply store. Usually you can see these around Halloween too for sale on some of these little Halloween boutique shops. Grab one up, store it away and anytime you need it for a movie pull it on out. One of the other ways you can accomplish the same type of smoke effect is with dry ice. Now dry ice is carbon dioxide which in a frozen state. Now you got to be very careful when you handle this stuff. One it could give you chemical burns and frost bite, so you want to make sure you have a heavy duty glove when your messing with carbon dioxide in a frozen state which is called dry ice. What you are going to want to do with dry ice is you are going to want to put it in a Styrofoam container, and the reason you put it in a Styrofoam container is because if you put it in a plastic one or a metal or something like that it gets super super below freezing cold which could cause the plastic to be brittle and break and therefore ruin your effect, so you want to put it in Styrofoam. Then once it is in Styrofoam you just add hot water to it, then the effect starts to come out, you will start seeing this fog and smoke come pouring out of the out of the cooler okay. But it is carbon dioxide so one of the things you have to keep in mind for safety reasons is keep your actors away as much as possible and do not let your effects people get their face too close because you could die from asphyxiation from not getting in oxygen. It is very dangerous. You can get dry ice from a shipping company, or you could get it from like an ice cream store that would give you ice cream cakes to take home with and to keep them cold a lot of times they can get a hold of dry ice very easily. So that is your second way. A third way is you could go down to your local hardware store, and you can pick up a mosquito smoker. It is a very simple type of unit to use, it has got a button you have to light it in the beginning so you have to be careful make sure you read all danger signs and labels. But what you would do with a mosquito smoker is you would pour in the same type of liquid smoke that you would get for your fog machine, okay and then you hit the button and smoke just comes out the front pouring everywhere. Okay it is absolutely a great effect but you have to be careful, remember whenever you are doing these types of things at home you have to make sure safety is important and it is first and foremost especially when you are on a movie set, or you are doing something independent think about your actors, thinking about your crew and safety comes first. Now these are three easy easy tips, you have got your fog machine, you have got dry ice or you got your mosquito smoker. Check them out and you decide which one you want to use to create that effect for yourself. There is one more way but it is post production it is the newest craze which is digital smoke. You can actually create this as a special effect. You create your plate shot, enter it into the computer, and then through digital technology you can create smoke and it does not get your actors coughing and choking to death on smoke. Does not impede your special effects crew, and it is just one other way to get it. So that is four ways, so I hope these tips and tricks have helped you out on how to create a smoke effect if you are going to pull one off in your independent film. Now I am Shaun O'Rourke with Eleven Bravo Productions and I am here at Screen Gems Studios in Wilmington, North Carolina and I just showed you a couple of tips on how to make smoke.

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