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Simple question, mainly asking for your collective experience.

I am planning a short-film in a post-apocalyptic scenario which is supposed to be very dusty with a thick-looking atmosphere. Part of it is easy to achieve with haze or fog, but I was wondering about those little specks, kind of like ash blowing in the wind.

How would one safely achieve something like this? Is it a good idea to actually just blow around some burnt paper (essentially ashes)?

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    I'm all for doing things in-camera, but have you also considered doing it in post? You could augment the real particles with CG particles. – stib Aug 21 at 1:34
  • I considered it, but really don't want to. Characters are supposed to move through the illuminated particles which then form lightshafts etc. and just thinking about doing that in post gives me bad anxiety :D Also, since I am working on a budget, these type of particles animations aren't really favorable in my case. – Florian Claaßen Aug 21 at 8:04
  • Fair enough. Good luck. – stib Aug 21 at 13:42
  • Dust is free in most environments. The trick is to have enough light that you can actually see it. Since you are on a budget, I'm guessing that an ARRISUN lamp or a K5600 ALPHA 18K is out of the question. But if you did have such lights, and the proper flags to catch that light and not blow out your scene, you could certainly see enough dust in the ambient air that you could then bring out that effect in post. – Michael Tiemann Aug 31 at 18:00
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I would avoid burning things to make ashes. Not very environment-friendly.

But instead of paying attention to the acting and to the light, and framing you will be worried about the effects. That is not a good idea.

Now days is pretty simple making particles in a 3D program. Try Blender, that can track the footage and have a very robust particle system and render options.

Here is an example of how a normal scene can be transformed into an apocalyptic scene, one typical example is Silent Hill.

  • Thank you for your response! The example really convinced me that rendering it might be a good idea. I'm thinking of houdini and rotoscoping out the talents so I have some occlusion going on... thanks again and have a good one! – Florian Claaßen Oct 11 at 7:24
  • A good idea, if you do not have camera movement is to take a shot without the actors on each location. – Rafael Oct 11 at 18:48

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