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class="Paragraph">Steamy Breath

class="Paragraph" Published : 16th January 2004

A scripted scene calls for someone to steam up a window with their breath and write in the condensation.

It'll be shot on location and I'm just trying to work out in advance how to guarantee that the effect works and is repeatable.

It'll be cold (January - UK) but has anyone had to do this before? I'm considering ordering an air con unit to get the room arctic. Apart from giving the actor a hot drink before takes is there any purchase in trying to raise the overall humidity of the room?

Yours,

Tom Townend,
Cinematographer/London.


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Tom Townend wrote:

>A scripted scene calls for someone to steam up a window with their >breath and write in the condensation.

The only thing that has to be cold is the window, which will naturally condense the vapour from one's breath. May be a hot cup of tea for the actor to make sure there is plenty of water vapour available in their breath. Air conditioning the room will only serve to dry out the air in the room which I think works against your purpose.

Mark Smith
Oh Seven Films
143 Grand St
Jersey City, NJ 07302


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>Apart from giving the actor a hot drink before takes is there any >purchase in trying to raise the overall humidity of the room?

Raise the humidity of the entire room and you risk having the entire pane fog up immediately, and uncontrollably, like with a car windshield (and no AC) in the rain. Ideally, you want the window as cold as possible, the room as cold as possible (slower dissipation from the window to an adjacent warm field), and the hot air source (heh heh, your actor's breath) as humid as possible. in an equally cold environment, you can wipe clean and repeat as much as is necessary.

The hot drink is a good idea too- your actor wont dry out if you end up doing a bunch o' takes.

Todd Liebman- Cinematographer
Los Angeles, CA.


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You should check out the scene in "Patton" where Montgomery plans out the invasion of Sicily on a bathroom mirror using his breathe. Very legible and lasts on scene for an extended time.

Mitch Gross
NYC DP


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Mitch Gross wrote:

>You should check out the scene in "Patton" where Montgomery plans >out the invasion of Sicily on a bathroom mirror using his breathe.

I keep wondering if there is a way to show him breathing on the glass, then cut to a CU of his finger writing, but use something like removable dulling spray for the steam on the glass. I've never used it, can it be wiped off with a wet finger?

If that worked it would reduce the requirements of temp. and humidity for the set.

Wade K. Ramsey, DP
Dept. of Cinema & Video Production
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC 29614


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Tom Townend wrote:

> I'm considering ordering an air con unit to get the room arctic.

1) Make sure the glass is cold. Don't air condition the room as that will lower the overall humidity and dry out the air, which will tend to make any condensation on the window evaporate faster.

2) You could warm up the room( warm air holds more humidity, meteorology 101), add a room humidifier which will tend to make the condensate on the cold glass last longer.

3) Have your actor drink warm teas which will add moisture to their breath.

4) Keep the glass cold

Mark Smith
Oh Seven Films
143 Grand St
Jersey City, NJ 07302


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>A scripted scene calls for someone to steam up a window with their >breath and write in the condensation.

Might I suggest doing this gag in two shots. The first, CU ACTOR: he blows on the window pane. The second, (after you have sprayed the window with a suitable dulling spray) : shoot the reverse angle of window pane.

Mort Zarcoff
Los Angeles, Cinema Educator


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There was a freezer aerosol spray available from plumbers merchants. It is used to spray onto copper pipes either side of a (minor) leak so the water can be frozen inside the pipe making it easier to repair. If this works, you could try using the spray on the window pane. That would ensure the temperature of the glass was low enough for breath to condense on it.

Aerosol freezer is also used in electronic repairs to fault find on components. Give these a try.

John Samuels
www.johnsamuels.co.uk