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When Should I Shoot With Fog?

When Should I Shoot With Fog?

Adding the right amount of fog to your scene can create the environment you want your audience to feel.

While we’re huge advocates of adding our fog, haze, and smoke VFX assets in post-production, there’s also a tremendous value to be had when it comes to shooting fog in-camera, and it may be much more affordable than you think!  

How to Shoot Fog on Set

While you can rent expensive fog machines or try a DIY method to create your own, a great option for most filmmakers is to simply buy some cans of Atmosphere Aerosol!
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Atmosphere Aerosol creates the easiest solution for adding on-set fog/haze, and it’s really easy to shape and control. Their website gives a few tips worth noting, one being that a can must be sprayed for 20 seconds in one spot, so make sure you buy plenty of cans if you’re going to be shooting for a while.

Another tip to remember is that you need ample backlighting sources, and you need to carefully consider their placement for achieving the optimal look you’re going for. The good news is that the fog will linger for at least a few minutes or more depending on the conditions, providing there’s not much wind or airflow. The end results are outstanding!
So when should you include fog/haze on-set?

Stylistic or Atmospheric Tone

If you’d like to make a statement visually, fog is a great tool to wield. You can use it to add a sense of impending dread in an alley or club, an epic feeling during your movie’s slow-motion climax, a film noir aesthetic, or a beautifully organic look in nature (such as a moonlit night, an early morning scene, or a humid forest/jungle).
Think about building the world that your characters are going to be living in, and how you’d like to wrap the scene around them. Fog may only need to be minimal to get the look you want, or you may need to really fill the frame depending on the context of the narrative and the environment.

Increase Scene Depth

You may want to shoot an empty room or facility without much character, but you don’t want it to look bland. If you only have one or two characters on screen, especially with wide shots, adding layers of fog can give your scene a compelling sense of depth that will draw the viewers in.

Their eyes will naturally drift to the talent or point of focus in the scene, because the fog smooths out the rest of the frame, and slightly obscures tiny details that may have previously been minor visual distractions.

Plus, your room will have added character that will enhance the dramatic vibrancy of the scene, rather than feeling dull and uninteresting.

Enhance On-Set or Natural Lighting

If your lighting isn’t achieving the look you want, fog can be a terrific way to make your lighting look incredible. You can use it to highlight volumetric shafts of light that might be spilling in from a window or door. You can also use it to even out the lighting on set, as your lights will become diffused throughout the space.  

Shadows will be less dark, and highlights will be softened. Depending on the amount of fog you use, you could have a fog-filled dreamy sequence, or a really intense scene with subtle hints of fog lingering around your characters. 
Of course, adding additional VFX polish in post-production with smoke, fog, or haze assets can give you even more control over your scene and allow you to further enhance your environment.

The fact that you’ll already have smoke interacting with your talent and catching details of the real-world environment (like volumetric lighting) puts you in a great place for achieving a seamless look.

What’s cool about using fog in-camera is that it naturally elevates the production value of just about anything you could be working on, and gives your scene a polished ambiance. 

The next time you watch a movie, look for all the times that fog is used. You’ll probably discover that even in locations you typically wouldn’t find fog, a little bit has been added here and there to amplify the atmosphere of the scene.  

There are honestly a million other ways you can use fog, so get some cans of Atmosphere Aerosol, grab your camera, and get creative!

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