Sunday, 7 August 2011

In the beginning there were fog tests!

When Jamie Stone comes up with a concept, he sure makes it interesting! From cardboard box robots, brides on fire and entire films set in bins... his imagination is what we love him for!

So when we had well developed, visually stunning script from Jamie back in June, we were filled with excitement - and one BIG question. How on earth are we going to do the fog?!

Questions arose from all directions; was there such a fog machine that would give us the required density? Would that amount of smoke pose health risks for the crew? How long would the fog linger for and could we even afford that many smoke machines and the consumables for a 7 day shoot? And even if it worked inside, we still have an exterior night shoot to consider - how would we do that?

Thankfully our friendly neighbourhood SFX company provided us with some answers. On 6th June 2011, the Skyborn team tested the glycol based Rosco 1700 smoke machine on the NFTS Main Stage, and here were the results.

DoP Robin Whenary tries out a basic lighting setup after the first puff of smoke.

Our Health and Safety Officer pops by to assess the visibility!

John Merry, Production Designer readies himself to disappear without a trace..

Jens, the Sound Designer is roped in to check drop off distances.  

Jens and Jamie test whether we would be able to see the 20ft flying machine that we just commissioned in this fog density!

There are several 'flying' sequences in the film, when our characters Blue and his father Gideon are trying to get off the ground in the flyer. We decided very early on to try and do as much as possible in camera to get that tactile, hand made quality to the film, so here the crew watch as Jamie demonstrates his genius method of cheating flying through fog: a fog machine, a large fan, and a mouth full of smoke!

Jamie sets a fan and smoke machine on the first of many unsuspecting victims.
The Producer steps up for a bit of test action!

 With the daylight tests out of the way, we set up the space to look like a forest for the 'Polythene Trees' scene. We use markers to judge distances, and kept notes of how long the fog was sticking around for between bursts. In these tests we left the Rosco bursting smoke at 1 minute intervals to maintain the density.

Jamie tests the light from a bulb, before deciding a flaming torch would do the job much better.

Robin tests the lighting. 
In the true spirit of student filmmaking, Jamie grabs a fire lighter on a canteen fork to test fire in fog!

The earliest test of polythene trees
John Merry wonders how flammable his set is going to be..
With the studio tests wrapped, and having breathed a sigh of relief that the fog seems a viable and cinematic direction to take the production, Robin and Jamie headed to the woods with a couple of Artem Handhelds to find out just how hard exterior fog could be to control.

Although beautiful, exterior fog does indeed have a life of its own. Even in the most still woodland, any breeze will whip the atmospherics away before you know it. Interestingly however, once dispensed the fog would often settle further into the woodland in a random spot, so they spent the afternoon chasing the atmospherics and came back with these pictures:

Perhaps sunlight in fog will give the game away?

Fog chased into a clearing!

Robin gets lost.

After a day's rigorous research we concluded that exterior fog was not a good idea, unless it was in some kind of a natural 'dip' where it could settle. The forest floor would ideally be damp, the area protected from breeze and it also seemed best that we shoot in the early morning so that the fog wouldn't heat up too much and escape. So followed a long and arduous search for the perfect 'dip' and also the perfect oak tree on which we could hang out polythene flowers...