· Filters, Diffusion, Smoke

The main ambient is sunlight, with a side kick from the M18. I rated the camera at 800, then dropped in an ND .9 and on some shots an ND .3 to keep the lens around a T2.8. There was also a 1/8th Hollywood Black Magic Filter in play as well as a 1/4 Pearl Filter. The HBM filter is a combination of 1/8th Classic HD Soft, and 1/8th Black Promist. It softens the already soft highlights, and helps keep the models skin looking completely flawless. The pearl filter is similar to the Blackmagic, but includes white diffusion, making it glow a bit. The Pearl was used in the bedroom, the HBM was used in the darker scenes.

Shot on Alexa Studio with Zeiss Super Speed MK I lenses. in the Presidential suite of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, with Victoria’s Secret model Sarah Stephens. The catch on this shoot was the fact that we only had 6 hours to shoot the whole thing, load in to tail lights. Having concise shots, and frames already established just let us focus so intensely on exactly what we needed and nothing else. I used the latitude of the alexa to its fullest using the natural sunlight, and shaping the contrast in the room with black floppies and a 1.8K ARRI M18 with a Chimera as selective fill.

THE SKULLS (Shane Hurlbut)
I brought in two LRX light trucks to blast sunlight through the golden stained glass windows at each end of the church, along with 15-18K’s to glow the windows on the left side. I loved the look of this cathedral. It was so majestic. Notice how their faces glow as the rich warm light hits their faces. I used NOBLES 110 NOIR FOGAL NET STOCKING netting behind lens, overexposed their faces 2.5 stops and also used a Tiffen Antique Suede number 3 filter to add that golden look.

NBC Smash, (DM)
The shot of Debra Messing on the street was done with a 1'x1'x1" acrylic plastic block on the left edge of frame in front of the camera, at an angle. This distorted the passing headlamps in the background. I also had a #1/8 Classic Black Soft filter on the camera.

The shot of Ivy in the blue hotel room was a fantasy moment where I dimmed the room lighting out and faded in this moonlit look. For this moment, I used a black net filter + #1 GlimmerGlass filter, plus smoke in the room.

The fantasy of Marilyn singing to Jack at the desk used a black net + #1/8 Black Frost, and the backlight from a 1K Parcan was flaring the net filter as we tilted up. We dollied 180 degrees around the desk and I set up backlights using spot Pars that faded up and down depending on the camera angle. There is no fill light, the detail in the shadows is just how the Alexa sees things, it has tremendous latitude.

SMOQUE FILTER (David Mullen)
the Smoque filter, which uses similar mist particles to an UltraCon, Double Fog, etc., looks a lot more like haze in a room. But biggest problem with the Smoque filter is that it reacts to light sources in the frame, causing them to bloom as if the room was hazed. But if the camera pans off the light source, or an actor momentary blocks it as they cross the frame, the effect momentarily disappears.

The filter was a #1 Smoque, because I couldn't smoke a four story stairwell, unlike the classrooms. Focal-length-wise, it was a tight space, with the camera down a step or two and backed against a wall, so it may have only been a 40mm Zeiss Ultra Prime: (Assassination of High School President)

A Double Fog is a 1970's combination of the old Low Contrast and Fog Filters, so it's sharper than a Fog actually but hazier/milker.

A Smoque is closer to a heavy UltraCon; it's sharper overall. However, the effect does disappear and reappear as actors pass in front of lights.

All diffusion does that to some extent but because the Smoque is sharper, it's more apparent when the blooming goes on and off, whereas a softer filter like the old Double Fogs is still visibly softening the image and milking up the contrast even when someone blocks a light that is halating in frame.

However, the strength of the filter is also a factor, the lightest Double Fog is going to be more subtle than the heaviest Smoque.

Low Cons or Double Fogs, not sure which in these shots.

"The Informant!" used Double Fogs, I think a #1/4 or #1/2. Vilmos Zsigmond used Double Fogs on his early movies such as "McCabe & Mrs. Miller". In "Close Encounters" you occasionally see the effect of Low Cons and Double Fogs. Some people still use the #1/8 Double Fog (the lightest) now & then for select shots when they want that halation.

I use Low Cons, it's when I want a pastel Low Con look -- for example, "Barry Lyndon" was mostly shot with a Low Con #3:

"War of the Worlds" Netted shots:

Classic Soft filters:


A shaft of light is most visible in smoke when it is coming at a backlit angle. You can think of this shaft as a hazy white beam. If the shaft is behind the actor, then the contrast on the actor stays close to normal. If the shaft is actually backlighting the actor, then some of the white beam will be behind their face and some in front of the face, hazing up the detail. If the shaft is in front of the actor, then there's a white beam in front of the actor's face, obscuring it.

So generally if you want to see the actor's face more clearly, you want more of the beam to fall behind their heads, unless it is only crossing below their faces.
The other thing is that it is hard to create a beam of light where you don't see the smoke drifting in curls and clumps -- it's hard to get the haze very even in a perfectly sealed-off draft-free room. So at least if the shaft is behind the actor and therefore also not in sharp focus, you may not notice some of the smoke drifting and curling, whereas if the beam was hitting the actor, then the beam itself would be in sharp focus and so might any moving smoke.

Here's some examples of using smoke from my own work in "Northfork". You can see that the beam does cross in front of the faces, but it's a mild haze and most of the backlight still falls behind the actor. It's tricky because if I had panned the beam a tiny bit more in front of the actor, their face would be more washed-out (there is a Kinoflo Wall-O-Lite between the headboard and the wall to side-light him):

Because I only had one 4K Xenon, no visible beam is created on the left with that same haze. The other window had a 6K HMI PAR through it. It's a big window and the 6K was only maybe 4' outside of it, hidden by the wall between the two windows, probably with a wide lens. I would have gotten more of a beam if the light were farther away and thus sharper, but it wouldn't have been as bright. I could have also used a narrow lens, but I was trying to rake the whole wall on the left side of frame with it.

In other scenes with smaller windows, like the gypsy house, I created beams with the 6K HMI PAR, but I still got better beams with the 4K Xenon.

SHADOWING A KEY: I tried to place the light so that there isn't shadowing, and sometimes I move it (if easy to move) after the first take when I see a problem, but sometimes I have to politely ask the actor if they can minimize the problem. Sometimes there is too much actor movement to avoid it, so I justify it that it would happen in real life, people do shadow each other sometimes. You just have to decide how distracting it is or whether it will make cutting into the shot harder:

This shot is backlit with a 10-tube daylight Kino Wall-O-Lite, used a Dedolight with full blue + blackwrap snoot for the eyelight slash, and probably a 4’ 4-bank Kino for the general fill:

This Hollywood classic is great for providing well dispersed haze or fog along a tree line, behind a ground row or to a remote location on your set. Simply roll out your desired length of plastic tubing, tie the end, and cut holes at the desired spacing. The powerful 1.5 HP blower will inflate the tube and feed smoke down the entire length. The set up works well with the Viper fog machine and the Artem exterior fogger. Death sold per foot.

Power Requirements
13amps at 110vac

Viper II fog machine, Artem Fogger, extension cords, switch box, mat knife


We lit this using two maxis at the top of a 120' crane, as I remember. The hard part was getting the right amount of fog/smoke and keeping it even for the length of the dialogue. I don't think we ever got it quite right as the wind kept swirling too much. I would have much preferred to use misters rather than smoke, much as we did in 'Ladykillers', as the look is far more natural. (Deakins The Village)

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