Home of Professional Cinematography since 1996

Heat Waves

Published : 2nd November 2003


I think this subject has been covered before but I cant find it in the archives and hope someone can lead Me in the right direction. I am about to shoot a small feature and one of the gags is that it is supposed to be during a very hot summer and we need to get that shimmering heat effect.

Needless to say that at this time of year in Canada it is not going to happen naturally so we will have to produce the effect in camera. A flame bar below the lens has been suggested but I would like to know if any other working ideas are out there?

Guy Paterson
Gaffer de jour



I've used a few methods to get this effect. A Blond or Mighty faced up in front of the lens, a Coleman propane stove w/ 2 burners (no flame) set the long way just at the bottom frame line, and the heat from the "festering" charcoal in a Weber grill.

A longer lens always helps as well.

Jack Cummings
Buffalo/DP



Guy :

I have had to accomplish this effect in very close quarters before where flames/heat were prohibitive. We duplicated the shimmering heat effect using high pressure helium. We used one of the ~ 5' tall canisters with the appropriate regulators attached. We had a 50' high pressure hose line connected to the regulator, and on the "business end" we had a simple on/off valve.

Now what you have to do, to spread the effect across your entire frame, is to fashion a diffuser nozzle. We made a very simple inverted triangle box out of foamcore ( think V ), the nozzle was connected to the "southern" end of the V. We placed this under the lens about 4 feet in front of the camera and it worked like a charm.

One caveat, however. The high rate of flow can be VERY loud, so if you are in an enclosed area, communication can be hampered and ear protection is advised. Good luck and no sucking on the hose between takes.

John Sheeren
Operator/AC
Houston, Texas



One easy portable way to go is to use a few cans of sterno (jellied alcohol in cans used for heating food trays in buffets and such) on a board right below and in front of lens. Advantage is nearly colourless, smokeless flame, portability, ease of extinguishing, relatively safe.

Not as much poop as a flame bar but not as much fuss either (no propane container, hoses, etc).

If you need to do a lot of these shots, you might consider buying a lot of cans at Costco - they will not last all that long. Cheap and easy to test, however.

Mark Weingartner
LA based



Editing can do it easily, safe, no flames, gas, loud sounds, etc. Definitely an easy post maneuver so you can concentrate on making nice pictures.

Walter Graff
Producer, Director, Creative Director, Cinematographer
HellGate Pictures, Inc.
BlueSky, LLC
www.film-and-video.com



>any other working ideas are out there?

I've always used a couple cans of sterno just under the lens. Have a guy hold them with a pair of fireplace gloves and wiggle them around a bit.

Can't get much easier than that.

Hope this helps...

Ken Glassing
LA Based
OP/dp



On "Sega Howdedodat!" we used flamebars in front of the lens for every shot, sometimes 2 at staggered distances.

I really don't think anything else looks like it.

http://www.gboyle.co.uk/HOW%20qt.HTM

Actually not EVERY shot

Cheers

Geoff Boyle FBKS
Director of Photography
EU Based
www.cinematography.net



Geoff Boyle wrote :

>On "Sega Howdedodat!" we used flamebars in front of the lens for every >shot, sometimes 2 at staggered distances. I really don't think anything >else looks like it.

What's cool (or hot) about your method there is how it works with the wides. I've gotten great results with Sterno on longer lenses, but wide angle is tough, with any kind of wind very tough unless you want to set up windbreaks with flags etc etc.

Sam Wells



Geoff Boyle wrote :

>On "Sega Howdedodat!" we used flamebars in front of the lens for every >shot, sometimes 2 at staggered distances.

Recently did just that on a table top food shot, but a bit unnerving with flame bars pretty close to the camera in a modest sized studio.

That roll was first up in telecine while I was out getting some rocket fuel and when I came back the colorist (new, young and a bit inexperienced but pretty good) had this really worried look on his face. "Ah, something is going on here, I don't know if it's the film or the Rank." I explained the heat wave thing and he was much relieved. Seems like the effect worked pretty good.

Mike Evans
DOP i25productions, inc.



I've done it w/ an electric hot plate below the lens.

Bill Berner
Hastings on Hudson, NY 10706



>On "Sega Howdedodat!" we used flamebars in front of the lens for every >shot, sometimes 2 at staggered distances.

I really don't think anything else looks like it.

Geoff, I really like your light in this commercial. I’m about to shoot a video clip which has a sequence of western, I was asked by the director to recreate this kind of light in a studio. I’d like you to tell me specifically how do you get this kind of warm and hot atmosphere, apart from the heat waves that I’ve used before... was the color get it in spirit transfer or ambient light or filter, can you tell me if you remember about key lights, your work with mirrors, exposition, all you can to get same results...and to all CML’s that can help in this way all welcome!!!

Best

Manuel Bullrich DP
Argentina. Bs As



Manuel Bullrich

>Geoff I really like your light in this commercial. I’m about to shoot a >video clip which has a sequence of western, I was asked by the director >to recreate this kind of light in a studio.

First of all you shoot on a stock that isn't available anymore Agfa.

No, seriously a lot of the look come deliberately overexposing highlights, really walloping the level down on the stock! expose for the shadows and to hell with the highlights!

We also printed this commercial, just the selected takes, and telecined from the print.

Contrast levels that scare you to death are important, if you're not panicking when you shoot you haven't taken it far enough.

This was Ursa not a Spirit.

Heavy use of Polas and NBRA's help as well.

Lack of sleep on this shoot probably helped as well, ie I got to a point where I'd just go for it, it was the local festa so we finished shooting around 7pm went to the Festa until, err 3 maybe 4 am and then went on location at 7am.

Repeat for 6 days and you are in a strange state of mind!

I'm not going to post here what the director did when we set-up the last shot, suffice to say the he was found in Granada 3 days later and our grip was found chewing the bathmat the next morning. Hmm, that's not what it sounds like, it's to do with chemicals.....

Cheers

Geoff Boyle FBKS
Director of Photography
EU Based