Today, we are going to create two amazing scenes in a super small space, and almost zero budget, but we have a secret weapon, the Smoke Genie. The Smoke Genie is a portable smoke machine for small sets. This video uses the Genie (buy here), but PMI also recently announced the Smoke Ninja, which has similar features but for a smaller budget.
Selling a set
We’re going to use the DIYP studio to stage the scene, and, it’s not a big studio, so we are using a few tricks to sell the magic. Mainly, props, lighting, and smoke.
If you have ever produced a video on a super low budget, you know that your best shot is to reach out to family and friends (and the dollar store). We got the typewriter from a friend, an ashtray from the dollar store, and the bottle was from my private stock. None of us smoke, so we just got one unit and let it burn to create some ash.
Creating the smoke effects
I just love volumetric lights because they do wonders in terms of atmosphere. The thing is that you can’t really see light rays. You can only see the light once it reflects off of something. In a scene like this, it would be smoke. To create the smoke, we used a portable smoke machine called the Smoke Genie.
To create our volumetric rays, we created two gobos out of foam core: a set of blinds and an industrial fan. Since foam core is so incredibly affordable, there is a lot we could experiment with.
Once we had the room filled with smoke, we used some hard backlight on those gobos. The light and the smoke really gave the scene some depth and added a lot of mood.
The Smoke Genie
The Smoke Genie is a set smoke dispenser or a portable smoke machine. The only thing is, it’s really tiny – a phone size. This is why it’s an incredible tool for small sets.
To create smoke, you fill a small chamber with smoke fluid, and when you press a button, the Smoke Genie shoots smoke. You can select between four types of smoke:
- Haze – distributes an even cloud of smoke in a very fast way, and is great for volumetric light
- Fog – This one is a little bit thicker and has some features and shapes to it.
- Dry ice – for a low-hanging smoke blanket or filling up all sorts of tanks.
- Mist – which is similar to fog, but a bit lighter.
The only thing is you want to disable any smoke detectors before you run it. Trust me.
We had a lot of fun that day shooting a tiny film noir scene. And despite the small space, we were able to create a cinematic vibe but using smoke. If you can afford the big Smoke Genie ($750), it is a great device to have on set, but even if not, check out the smaller Smoke Ninja that starts at $199.