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Posted by Eric Scott, on 2004-04-06 18:47:36

Smoke Machines for Stop-Mo

Anyone know where to find a haze machine that can regulate the smoke output accurately enough for stop-motion? I remember Dave Allen used one for the Nova documentary on KING KONG and that it utilized a laser beam to precisely control the amount of haze in the air. I've yet to see anything like that so I wonder if it was custom made? Would it be possible to rig something up? How about side effects (besides breathing the stuff) I mean on the puppets, sets and lights? I don't recall if anything was mentioned but I've noticed while some smoke is non-toxic others tend to leave a residue. Also, I've never seen WALKING WITH DINOSAURS but I believe there was some stop-motion or animatronics involved with smoke used for the jungle sets? Any help would be much appreciated. I'm all in a fog on this one. ;)

Posted by Nick H, on 2004-04-06 21:38:32

Robocop2 used some kind of laser to monitor the smoke levels precisely. I tried it manually, letting out a little burst of smoke after every shot, with a fan mixing it to a homogeneous consistency, but I couldn't keep the levels even. Walking with Dinosaurs was live background plates, with physical effects on location like tugging on branches, water ripples, etc. to tie in with the cgi dinos. (Some close-up shots had animatronic puppets.) Any smoke would have been live.

Posted by Eric Scott, on 2004-04-12 21:59:22

Thanks, Nick. Just watched the IMAX Kong video again. No details mentioned really but they used a laser too. Some of the more professional haze makers claim to provide pretty consistent levels. Perhaps it would be possible to film live smoke on the set and then use that as a background, animating the puppet in front of a green screen and compositing them together? Another layer of just smoke filmed on a blue screen could be used as a foreground element? Just speculating. Further research is in order. :)

Posted by David Rosler, on 2004-04-12 22:18:36

Eric, I think your last speculation MAY be your best option, though there are other ways of posting smoke as has been otherwise described on the boards. The only other thing I might suggest is splitting the difference between on-set effect and posted smoke. You might try this for a general IMPRESSION of smoke (since perception is everything): get some very sheer nylon and strech it out tight onto a series of frames and set them up along the z-axis from the camera, so they effectively work as layered theatrical scrims. You have to do some testing on the lighting but testing and shooting are essentially one in the same in digital since nothing goes to the lab (unless you're shooting film, of course). Try for translucent WHITE nylon, since I'm assuming a white smoke (or grey nylon for dark some, you get the idea) Then superimpose some smoke on top of that. The impression would be an environment thick with the haze of the smoke with telltale signs of the drifting smoke to sell the illusion. You would NOT get atmospheric shadows off your figures and objects this way, of course, but lighting it in such a way as this would not be apparent would be the way around that. Hope this helps.

Posted by Eric Scott, on 2004-04-12 22:58:16

That's a good idea. I seem to remember reading or hearing something about the nylon technique used in NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS too. I'll have to look into it. I'd like to get that London Fog look, although maybe not quite so thick as pea soup. YUKON: Fog's as thick as peanut butter. HERMEY: You mean pea soup. YUKON: You eat what you like and I'll eat what I like!

Posted by David Rosler, on 2004-04-12 23:36:06

Funny, I thought I just came up with it, doing a variation on the old stage thing. But then I probably read about it and forgotten I had. There isn't alot new out there, just things forgotten.

Posted by Jim Aupperle, on 2004-04-13 01:55:56

RE: "I seem to remember reading or hearing something about the nylon technique used in NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS too" Posted by Eric Scott Hi Eric, I recall that the material we used was called bridal veil. It was white and very sheer (hmmm, sounds more in Ed Wood's line there). We used a variety of techniques to get the fog effects but I thought the bridal veil was the most successful and had the added advantage that it could all be done in camera without any double exposures. It's just an old stage effect so what you see through the camera is what you get. If you look at Sally's song in NBC you can see the bridal veil effect used in all the shots from outside the gate looking up the hill in the direction of the band. Other angles used double exposures to put in the fog. good luck, Jim Aupperle

Posted by David Rosler, on 2004-04-13 05:54:52

"I recall that the material we used was called bridal veil. It was white and very sheer (hmmm, sounds more in Ed Wood's line there)." This is really funny. }>

Posted by Eric Scott, on 2004-04-13 08:35:09

Thanks for the tip, Jim! I'll have to watch that part again. I always thought it was some sort of filter on the lens or something. Although it may be a lot of work initially to set up the shot, it looks great and turns out to be a real time saver in the long run. You don't have to worry about compositing in software later - what you see is what you get. Now if you'll excuse me, I have an appointment at Victoria's Secret. ;)

Posted by Jim Aupperle, on 2004-04-13 08:54:35

RE: "I always thought it was some sort of filter on the lens or something." Hi Eric, We did use a thin fog filter over the lens in most all of those shots but we couldn't use it alone since then the effect would have no depth. My favorite shot of Sally is when the fog seems to close in behind her and obscure the BG except for the street lights. That was all one pass in the camera with layers of bridal veil behind Sally. RE "Now if you'll excuse me, I have an appointment at Victoria's Secret." I guess we'll have to start a new thread with photos now... Evening wear for stop motion animators. Say, I just did a Google search for evening wear and the first thing that came up was http://page.auctions.shopping.yahoo.com/auction/85172647?aucview=froogle "This Elegant evening dress w/ sheer panel makes for a beautiful woman, whether it be for the prom, night on the town, or any other affair. RUFFLES ON THE BOTTOM!" This one Ed Wood like! -Jim Aupperele

Posted by Eric Scott, on 2004-04-13 09:44:30

JIM: I just looked at the clip again. Sally's song is one of my favorite parts of the film, you can really feel the mood and atmosphere in that scene. To control the level of density in the fog, I would imagine you would add or remove layers of veil as needed. As the fog closes in around Sally, you simply add more veil behind her just in front of the band right? How much distance is there between Sally and the Band? http://members.cox.net/ersco961/sma_images/PDVD_039.jpg Also, would it be possible to use the veil on a movable rig to slide from left to right or is it better to just keep it stationary? I thought it might look interesting to see it move slightly. P.S. I prefer Angora myself. :7

Posted by Eric Scott, on 2004-04-13 10:25:38

Found a shot from behind the scenes (it's a bit dark but I think you can still see it). This looks like the stuff you were talking about. I never knew what that was until now. I think I would rather use the veil technique than to be breathing in all of that haze anyway. It says "non-toxic" on the bottle but you never know. http://members.cox.net/ersco961/sma_images/PDVD_047.jpg

Posted by Jim Aupperle, on 2004-04-13 10:35:00

Hi Eric, Yes, that's an example however it's not one of my shots (I'm not even sure who that is in the photo). I'll go into more detail about your questions above when I get home from work tonight. Thanks for posting the Sally frame. That one I did light using the bridal veil fog gag and it's a personal favorite. Jim Aupperle

Posted by David Rosler, on 2004-04-13 10:44:27

Eric, I'd still try supering a light, drifting smoke on top of it. You could even seperate the extreme forground elements by shooting them with a green card behind it and use that as a holding matte for the smoke. Even the extreme close-ups you post appear to have the scrim in front of them. I think for very close shots I'd keep it off. Those shots, while really nice, appear as much a diffusion filter on the lens than a series of scrim; I don't get too much of a feeling of atmospheric depth from them(maybe its the low res jpeg you usually find on a web posting). Maybe more layers, using something slightly heavier. It can obviously work, but those Nightmare pics look gauzy (and beautiful, don't get me wrong) but don't really seem like smoke.... but clearly COULD with a bit more emphasis and a little supered smoke.

Posted by Eric Scott, on 2004-04-13 11:58:55

DAVID: I see what you mean but after watching the scene again, it seems to work pretty well. Like you, I would like to see more depth and I think this could be achieved with more layers and perhaps by using different types of veil material. This combination might work extremely well as you suggested. I'd like to achieve a real sense of atmosphere as the fog is almost a character in itself and should have a very realistic and ominous look (some movement would be nice too). Jack the Ripper simply wouldn't look as threatening without realistic fog. I can't remember the thread but I think ROGER described how to duplicate a double exposure effect using a digital still camera, so that might help. I think all of these combined together would be enough to get the look. While I like the IMAX KONG, one thing that bugged me (while at the same time inspired me) was the haze effect. Even though it is real haze, it somehow doesn't look real. It looks more surreal, which may have been what they were going for. I thought with some tweaking and adjustments it could be improved. I found some interesting smoke elements over at Artbeats. Have you had any luck compositing these type of elements together with animation? I remember your Pteranodon clip which I think used a cloud sequence as a background. How would it look if you used a foreground element of a few wisps of cloud going by in front? JIM: Thanks, much appreciated. I look foward to hearing more!

Posted by David Rosler, on 2004-04-13 15:49:58

I would custom shoot the smoke and DEFINATELY not reley on stock footage for something that subtle to be superimposed in... even cigerette smoke, if you let it settle in the air a bit, so it kinda has the look of those establishing shots of Zenobia's castle in Eye of the Tiger: layered and drifting slowly(it does settle that way in the air, eventually). Fog however, does look kinda smoky in the cloud-like way(yes the pteranodon does fly in front of a time-lapse cloud, but that was shot by me, not stock footage.... stock is usually a gamble insomuch as you never really know the resolution of those digital files until you have bought them and decided to reley on them, and then it may be too late. Custom allows you to shoot it as you need it, not arrange the animation to match the stock, which would be a terrible situation to be in). Have someone you know who smokes blow smoke cloud slowly in front of black velvet, lighting appropriately.(Shoot front, back and side lit, and then lay in whichever is appropriate to the lighting of a shot - something else you can't do with stock shots) Use after effects to superimpose the smoke. Unfortunately, your characters won't throw atmosphetic shadows, but you can probably create rays of light by training small spots along the nylon. If not, they can always be supered. For London fog one thing to sell the smoke as fog besides the nylon is to make sure there is a wet reflective shine on all the props and set areas; everything is perception! If you ever want to see fog that looks like billowing smoke, by the way, drive over the Golden gate Bridge in san fran late at night some time. Its definately sea monster territory.... but go slow! Jack the Ripper sounds like a great subject for a very atmospheric puppet film, by the way.

Posted by Eric Scott, on 2004-04-13 19:47:20

Re: Jack the Ripper, it's more of an inspiration really but thanks. :7 The wet look on the buildings and streets would compliment quite nicely, good suggestion. I can't wait to try this stuff out.

Posted by Eric Scott, on 2004-07-09 20:50:25

Just came across this brief article on lighting and smoking techniques used for photographing the model of V'ger for Star Trek (The Motion Picture). Thought it was interesting. http://www.barbeefilm.com/vgerpage02.htm