Creating Smoke, Snow, and Other Effects

A smoke machine is a must for making horror, suspense, music videos and even romantic movies. Think about all the mini heart attacks you had when the skeletal hand suddenly shot up from the ground catching the protagonist's best friend unaware. What would be that scene be without smoke?  This heavy vapor is a superb cinematic tool, which adds much-needed depth to shots and diffuses the light. Conversely, you can also create a stylish atmosphere via the one-time injection of smoke. Video production houses utilize a number of methods to create a realistic hazy feel.

alien smoke


Creating smoke could be a costly affair. If you have a frugal budget, fear not, as many effects could be achieved via economic means as well. You simply have to combine the effects of a smoke machine, PVC pipe, Styrofoam cooler and some dry ice blocks, you can also use ordinary ice instead of dry ice, but this includes constant replenishment of the ice, as the heat from all the lights will quickly melt the ice into water. You can rent a smoke machine if you cannot afford to buy one of your own.

The first action to take is to make a slit in one side of the cooler box. Make a hole on the other side of the box and connect the box to the fog machine via the PVC pipe. It is a good idea to use scotch tape to secure this rig. Wear specialty glove and put some dry ice into the cooler box. It is important you wear gloves or take similar protection. Handling dry ice is no comedic film. The substance is dangerous. One wrong move and you could kiss your film career goodbye.

Lean the dry ice against the wall of the cooler box in such a way that the fog coming through the pipe from the fog machine hits the ice immediately after coming into the box. Put the lid on to the cooler box. You are now ready for the show. Start the fog machine. The fog comes into the box and hits the dry ice. The result is a heavy, cinema-friendly fog, which hangs low. This new fog will come out of the slit you made earlier in the box. The fog will stay near the floor giving it a superb cinematic potential. You could set up a green screen for more special effects in the movie. The dry ice fog moves around the floor in a photogenic way. If you do not turn off the machine, the whole room and then the house will be filled with fog. Do note that the fog will stay near the floor and it will not climb on to the ceiling.

fake snow


Dry ice works wonders for many special effects. Want a witchy cauldron effect? Boil a little water; pour into a bowl and throw in some dry ice. As mentioned earlier, the fog will stay near the floor and not float up. It means that you can safely work without the alarms going off. Many filmmakers use boiling water and dry ice combinations to mimic the “smoke coming out of the engine” of broken down cars. The process is the same as above. The only extension of the above method is that you must place the cooler box below the car (to be more exact, below the car engine). The effect will be identical to the natural engine fault one.

You can also make fake snow. Once upon a time, a long time ago, asbestos was made of fake snow. Those times are thankfully over. Modern film productions use Sno-Foam, a standard product used in the industry. It is biodegradable and non-toxic. Sno-Foam looks excellent on camera. You can wash the compound away using water after your shoot gets over. One gallon of product will make 3,000 gallons of real snow. Even governmental agencies have approved its use in natural forests and other areas. It means you can use this compound in reserved, protected areas.  A more economical option is to use soap studs. Low budget serials use these along with a standard box fan and a Flurry Machine. You can build your own machine using plywood and a C-stand.  Unlike fog, the fake soap studs snow will scatter around the room and in every height.

If you are considering having a video made, contact Melty Cone today and let us know - we are here to help! Melty Cone is a full-service video production company in NYC providing video production services for New York and beyond!

Lucas Chu

Melty Cone is a full service video production company in NYC. We make commercials, corporate videos, branded content, brand videos and the best videos in New York!