Zacuto

How do They Create Snow in the Movies?

There are perhaps few movie special effects older and more magical than the creation of snow! And through the years the process has changed more times than we can count. There are as many techniques to making snow as there are types of snow itself. Are you looking for flurries? A few falling flakes? A whirling snow storm? Massive towers of ice or a residual crunchy blanket across the ground?

See our infographic to find out how they created some iconic snowy moments in film. (Click to enlarge.)

zacuto snow in movies infographic

More Movie Snow Magic!

Dr. Zhivago, 1965 – To create his abandoned, icy home, the special effect team (led by Eddie Fowlie) sprayed every surface with hot wax. They wax was then blasted with cold water and sprinkled with a heavy layer of marble dust. That’s why everything seems to sparkle.

dr zhivago snowy scene

Airport, 1970 – Real snow has saved the day on quite a few occasions! Bleached sawdust was being used on the set of Airport at the usually snowy Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport. But the actors and crew were saved that fate when a beautiful snowstorm hit mid production.

The Shining, 1980 – The iconic maze at the end of the film was made “snowy” with 900 tons of dendritic dairy salt (which has a star shape) and crushed Styrofoam.

Potato Flakes Rein Supreme in TV in the 90’s – Potato flake snow was used in Friends, Boston Public, American Dreams, Ally McBeal, and The West Wing.

Snow White and the Huntsman, 2012 – An excellent modern example of in-camera effects blending with CG VFX. In camera effects provided (as is usual these days) by eco-friendly originally UK based company Snow Business. Their central product line, Snowcel Artificial Snow, is 100% biodegradable cellulose based snow. Snow Business offers over 140 types of snow!

Multiple VFX companies came together to create the CG components of the film. Blue Bolt VFX created some of the more snow-centric scenes working off small practical sections of the set.

See the transition from the set thru to the final image with CG at 1:42min.

#withmycamera

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About the Author


Rachel has been with Zacuto since 2009. She began working in the sales department and moved to marketing in 2013. In her role as Digital Marketing Director she oversees the gear loan and review program, social media, blog content, zacuto.com, and works with the team on overall marketing strategy. Rachel has a BA in Theatre with a focus on Directing from Arizona State University. Those who have spoken with her on the phone know she occasionally reveals her homeland by slipping into a British accent. Rachel likes tear-jerker sports movies, reading cookbooks for pleasure, and crossword puzzles. Contact her at rachel@zacuto.com

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