Fog is every cinematographer's secret weapon, but you've got to know how to wield it.
When it comes to cinematography, especially in terms of lighting, fog is one of its biggest unsung heroes. Fog, haze, smoke, whatever you use, can do so much. It can diffuse light, give your film that quintessential horror look, and make your footage appear more cinematic and stylish by adding depth and thick, juicy light beams.
But fog is...fog. You can't grab it like a big bunch of cables and throw it where you need it and expect it to stay put. However, in this video, filmmaker Olufemii shares a few tips on how to use this stuff like a true master. Check it out below:
Get a Haze Machine
These things are usually several hundred dollars to buy and are still pretty expensive to rent at around $150 to $200 per week. However, there's a reason they're pricey: they produce some beautiful atmosphere without all of the thick, messy smoke. You'll still be able to get those nice light beams, diffuse light, and give your shots more depth, but, you know, it'll cost you.
Get a Better Camera
How many of you have I lost with this one? Yeah, for the vast majority of us, just running out and buying a new camera so we can have better-looking fog in our videos is an absolute impossibility (and even if it wasn't, just...don't). But, it's true: expensive cameras with better sensors, latitude, resolution, and all the other image-making bells and whistles may be able to turn your shots of a foggy mess into a slightly more aesthetically appealing foggy mess.
Put Fog in the Right Place
Sometimes, if you're not getting the look you want with your fog, ask yourself if it's in the right place or not. Wait...fog is a lot like cats: it just sits where it fits, right? Yeah, but you can actually have considerable control over fog if you properly ventilate your space and use a fan on low power to direct it where to go. (You can also cool down your fog so it stays low to the ground.) And where should it go? Well, it depends on the look you're going for, but if you want to add some depth, get those light beams, and diffuse a little light, try putting the fog behind your subject. Fog that is between your subject and your camera is going to affect your images' quality.
A Little Fog Goes a Long Way
If fog is choking your cast and crew and ruining your shot, just use less of it. Yes, this is a no-brainer, and yes, it feels dumb to say it, but if you've never turned on a fog machine and watched that oozy smokiness pour out all over your set, then you don't understand how transfixing it can be. But fight it! Fight the urge to keep the fog flowing and use less.
Use Stock Overlays
While editing, maybe you decide that your shots would look so much more awesome with a little fog. Too bad you didn't use any during production, right? Nah, you can add some fog or smoke overlays in post. Tons of different stock footage sites have really great assets, but make sure that when you add them to your composition, that you make the look subtle. People are smart; they know what real fog looks like. So, you're not going to win many hearts if you've got your asset doing its thing at 100% opacity.
Here are some other really helpful tips and techniques you can bust out when using fog, haze, smoke, or atmosphere.