How are smoke and fog effects made in movies?

Learn more about the creative work of special effects — whether they’re created on the set or added in post-production.

From slasher movies to period pieces, special effects like smoke and fog play an essential role in visual storytelling. These effects work to diffuse light, add depth to shots, or simply create a bone-chilling atmosphere befitting of a spooky cemetery scene or post-apocalyptic world. Let’s look at how you can use these effects in your own films.

How to create smoke and fog.

To create fog, special effects teams typically use a fog machine that passes “fog juice” through a super-heated nozzle at high pressure. This fog juice is a standard mixture of glycerin and water and acts very similar to natural fog in that it hangs in the air before dissipating.

You’ll find a great example of this in E.T., where the team used artificial fog to create a dream-like atmosphere by diffusing light from the spaceship. In Jurassic Park, fog shrouds the scenes in mystery, heightening a sense of anticipation about what lies in the wait.

When it comes to special effect smoke, the real thing isn’t often used because of health effects. Although, some teams may burn wood chips to create smoke when beneficial to a specific scene. More often than not, a fog machine does the trick for special effect smoke.

Alternatives to machines.

A machine isn’t the only way to pull off these special effects. Just like you might add sound effects in post-production, you can also apply visual effects with video editing software.

Post-production edits are very helpful when you didn’t quite get the right effect in the original filming. For example, it can be challenging to achieve an ultra-foggy scene with a fog machine when wind or heat is present. Layering fog effects with editing software can instantly dial up the moodiness to your desired result. Discover even more editing tips for achieving your creative vision.

Explore everything you can do with Adobe Premiere Pro to add epic edits and special effects to your own films.