The Surprisingly Practical Way The Mist Pulled Off Its Signature Effect

Berndnaut Smilde is a maker of clouds. A Dutch artist, Smilde creates temporary clouds inside picturesque places and quickly photographs them before they disappear. The images often feel impossible as they depict clouds hovering in the middle of vacant galleries and seemingly abandoned spaces, places a cloud should not logically ever be. To create these magical compositions, Smilde uses a specific recipe of cold temperatures, a damp environment, and water vapor to birth the clouds into existence. His technique feels almost like he's playing God, tricking the natural order of things to recreate the outside indoors. His work is fascinating to look at, and his technique is not so dissimilar to one used in the world of film.

"The Mist," directed by Frank Darabont, tells the story of a group of strangers who find themselves trapped in a supermarket as a strange mist begins to cover their town. Since this is based on a story by Stephen King, things get bad, and quickly — the strangers find themselves under attack by giant insects, tentacled monsters, and other creatures that emerge from inside the mist. The film relies heavily on the visual effects of said mist, and fans of the film know that it is very convincing in its portrayal of this ethereal, natural curtain which, much like Smilde's clouds, was created using nothing but good old fashioned science. 

Science is cool!

In the Blu-ray and DVD commentary for "The Mist," Darabont talks about the special way the mist was created on set. He credits Darrell Pritchett for creating the special effect of the mist that allowed it to remain just outside the interior shots, essentially creating a border between the outside world and the inside world. "He had this very interesting system set up, it was a lot of trial and error to get it set up during prep but once he had it working it worked like a charm," explains Darabont. In the particular scene at the loading dock, Darabont details how this border was developed during filming. He says, "It had to do with temperature in the room, and air pressure, and the mist that was outside the loading dock was kind of in a tented environment to contain it." 

In order to control the mist so that it didn't encroach into spaces where it wasn't wanted, Pritchett would just alter the temperature of the inside room effectively manipulating the mist to retreat. Talk about controlling the weather! Ultimately though, the creation of actual mist for Darabont's film is inspiring and goes to show that good old fashioned science can help you achieve many things, even badass special effects.