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  • - [Narrator] These three substances have

  • a lot of things in common.

  • - It looks like a bunch of talcum powder.

  • - Somebody were to grate drywall.

  • - It has the appearance of flour,

  • but it's odd.

  • - [Narrator] But, they've had one very specific

  • use in Hollywood.

  • At some point or the other they all start as snow

  • in the pictures, but snow making in film

  • isn't just one thing.

  • It's more involved and if you're anything like me

  • you might be surprised at how much thought

  • and effort goes into your holiday movie snow.

  • (gentle Christmas music)

  • If you ever wanted to make a Christmas movie,

  • in Netflix case, if you ever wanted to make

  • like four Christmas movies, there's one ingredient

  • that you absolutely need to have, snow.

  • Snow in flurries and swalls and snow banks.

  • And, this need for artful accurate big screen snow

  • has been so intense that film makers throughout history

  • experimented with everything and we mean everything.

  • There were mounds of salt and flour in Charlie Chaplin's

  • "The Gold Rush."

  • Painted cornflakes which were used in John Ford's

  • "Airmail" and which are so noisy that you have

  • to re-dub the actors later.

  • And marble dust, which gave Dr. Zhivago its sad

  • pristine permacrust beauty.

  • And infamously, there was asbestos.

  • That right there was these flakes on Dorothy's face

  • after good witch's snow spell is actually asbestos,

  • which unfortunately, wasn't yet known

  • to be a carcinogen.

  • In fact, it was even packaged and sold

  • as artificial snow in the 1940s.

  • Of course, we've moved beyond using absurdly

  • dangerous materials, but the search

  • for the perfect snow effect continues

  • and we don't always think about it as what it is,

  • a special effect, but films like

  • "It's A Wonderful Life" won Academy Awards

  • specifically for their revolutionary snow making technique.

  • Everyone I talked to for this piece agreed

  • making snow is still difficult, in part

  • because every snow scene is different.

  • So, film makers have to do and redo a kind

  • of snow calculus each time.

  • Appearance, availability, affordability,

  • continuity, sustainability all matter.

  • A lot of snow scene preps starts like this

  • with the producers making a huge choice

  • filming it on location versus filming

  • it in studio.

  • The benefit of filming on location is of course,

  • that real snow looks and acts like snow should,

  • but it's also unpredictable, fleeting

  • and as every New Yorker can tell you,

  • it gets disgusting after like three hours.

  • The crew of "Let It Snow" for instance,

  • drove around snow chasing for days

  • until they lucked into finding suitable

  • spots like this.

  • And even when there is some real snow or when the producers

  • decide to film in a studio, something extra

  • is often needed to fill a gap or augment

  • what's on the ground.

  • In fact, even when there's enough real stuff

  • on the ground, sometimes warm, artificial snow

  • is piled on top of cold real snow

  • for the comfort of the actors.

  • Artificial snow almost certainly means a call

  • to Snow Business, whose mail I just got.

  • A snow effects consultancy who works on at least

  • a dozen huge films per year, plus TV and commercials,

  • along with the film's production designer,

  • they choose the snow substitute

  • or on average eight to 12 snow substitutes,

  • from their 200 variety strong arsenal

  • that best evokes a snow look or a mood

  • without of course, eluding the location.

  • Paper snow is commonly in the mix.

  • It's made in huge machines which tear and shred

  • the edges to get it to clump and drift

  • like real snow because if you cut it

  • it just acts like confetti.

  • It's then sprayed at high pressure,

  • combined with a fine mist of water

  • to make it stick onto the set.

  • Paper snow is a good solution for big spaces

  • and it interacts well with the actors,

  • but it can't be used in a studio

  • where fire becomes a concern.

  • - No.

  • - [Narrator] There's also plastics, cellulose, foam,

  • shaved ice, snow blanket, snow membranes,

  • they all have their pluses and minuses.

  • So, there's no one magic snow bullet

  • for dressing snow, industry talk

  • for snow on the ground.

  • There is however, a bit more of a clear winner

  • for falling snow.

  • 90% of it is evaporative foam shot out of a blower.

  • The machinery can be loud, but pretty.

  • But, we're not quite done because this

  • is Hollywood in 2019 and of course,

  • visual effects plays a huge role.

  • You might not guess it, but holiday movies

  • like "Let It Snow" have around 500 visual effect shots

  • that either supplement or actually supplant

  • it's practical effects.

  • Snow of course, changes when actors or nature

  • interacts with it, so the visual effects team

  • often serves as a guardian of continuity,

  • fixing footsteps or compensating for changing winds.

  • They also fill in, quite literally in some cases,

  • by using giant mat paintings to cover areas too big

  • to fill with artificial snow.

  • But, also figuratively when practical effects

  • are impractical.

  • The falling snow in the window here was done

  • by the visual effects team because the blower

  • proved itself too loud.

  • But, with increased number of shots

  • and shot complexity visual effects get really expensive.

  • It too is no magic snow bullet and probably

  • nothing ever will be.

  • Maybe instead of a magic snow bullet

  • film makers will have to settle

  • for a magical snow ball, a big bundle

  • of little techniques that joyfully lob

  • at our holiday movies to make them

  • wintry wonderlands.

  • But, enough from me.

  • Who better to get you excited about snow

  • than Miss Joan Cusack?

  • - [Joan] See, didn't I tell you?

  • Snow can make a difference, especially on Christmas Eve.

  • - [Narrator] The question that Snow Business gets

  • the most often, their biggest job.

  • It turns out it's Kenneth Branagh's "Hamlet."

  • In order to turn England into Denmark,

  • Snow Business covered, wait for it,

  • 156 acres of land with artificial snow.

  • To freeze or not to freeze.

  • That is the question.

- [Narrator] These three substances have

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How Hollywood Makes Movie Snow, Explained | Netflix

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