Magazine article American Cinematographer

"Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. . ."

Magazine article American Cinematographer

"Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. . ."

Article excerpt

Rosco Laboratories, pioneers in the inventive use of fabrics, filters, gels, paints and breakaway bottles, won a scientific and engineering award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences this year for smoke. Smoke is that timeless entertainment concoction used to simulate fog, surround with mystery, or to glamourize production scenes. The resultant effects on screen are beautiful, and until now-potentially deadly.

Rosco's smoke-in part developed by Gunther Schaidt of Germany-is harmless, non-toxic, nonirritating and non-flammable. Its uses in theater, opera, ballet, music videos, discotheques, television and movie productions are becoming legend. Purple Rain, Ghostbusters, The Flamingo Kid, Flashdance and The Right Stuff all used Rosco smoke in varied effects.

Used theatrically for nearly five years, Rosco's smoke fluid and smoke machines are featured in hit Broadway shows such as Dreamgirls and Cats. It was used in The Metropolitan Opera's Flying Dutchman and on rock concert stages with the group Kiss. It was most recently seen in the Michael Jackson Victory Tour.

Historically, there have been two basic approaches for generating smoke in the film industry: pyrotechnic smoke and oil smoke. Smoke pots or smoke bombs have been used to create realistic smoke effects, and kerosene or mineral oil have been vaporized in aerosol generators. Petroleum-based fluids produce an oily cloud. When inhaled, the oil coats the lungs. The body's normal filtering system is clogged and a residue can build up resulting in "oil pneumonia" and other serious conditions.

"The benefits are really a list of what it doesn't do," says Stan Miller, president of Rosco Labs, who shared the award with Schaidt. "Dancers can dance and people can walk without slipping and sliding. This smoke is non-flammable. This smoke has no oil and cannot be ignited."

The substance does not have a petroleum base and contains no chemical salts. Previous smoke systems irritated the eyes, throat and lungs as actors and crews can attest. Up to 100,000 cubic feet of smoke can be produced from one liter of fluid. Three gallons would be enough to fill St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Some new and unexpected applications of the new smoke fluid include: fire departments using it nationwide to simulate smoke conditions for training sessions. When the new Boeing 767 was rolled out in Washington, DC, it emerged through a curtain of Roscomade clouds. In fact, the recent Academy Awards show used Rosco smoke extensively during its musical presentations. Rosco received an award from the Academy in 1974 for its Cinegel line of filters for lighting.

Rosco Laboratories, Inc., founded 75 years ago, has global offices that include Hollywood, London, Madrid, Toronto, and Tokyo, and is headquartered in the New York City suburb of Port Chester. For further information, contact Rosco at 36 Rush Avenue, Port Chester, New York 10573; telephone (914) 937-1300.

New Video Camera

Panasonic Industrial Company has unveiled a new color video camera developed to withstand the toughest professional applications. The WV-890 features sturdy construction and advanced technology, which delivers high quality images.

The WV-890 incorporates [fraction two-thirds]-in. Plumbicon (S4803) tubes for natural color reproduction, while an 8-bit digital memory locks in images and color balance when shooting for long periods of time. To provide stable operation, the camera uses a middle-index f1.4 prism optics system.

The WV-890 also offers high sensitivity and clear images in low light - an important benefit for professional operation. It employs a low-noise preamp with signal-to-noise ratio of 59dB and one touch gain switch, allowing the selection of either +9 or + 1SdB. As a result, it produces sharp pictures in lighting as low as 4 footcandles (+1SdB at fl.4). In addition, image boundaries are well defined due to a 2line vertical aperture correction device. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.