B1 Intermediate US 40 Folder Collection
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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.
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How Hollywood Makes Movie Snow, Explained | Netflix

40 Folder Collection
Courtney Shih published on December 30, 2019
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