Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Old-School VFX: Cloud Tanks

When the Barbican Centre museum in London wanted to develop imagery for its upcoming science fiction exhibition, they used an analog technique: a cloud tank.


Cloud tanks were used on such films as Raiders of the Lost Ark, Independence Day, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Never-ending Story, and Poltergeist.

Image Via Wonder How-To
A cloud tank is essentially an aquarium filled with water. If you light it just right and drop in some paint or ink, the result is swirling, mysterious cloud effects.

You can use a layer of a concentrated salt water beneath a top layer of fresh water to create a boundary layer that looks like the base of the clouds in the actual sky.



(Link to YouTube) The Barbican Centre produced a video showing how they created their cloud tank.
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The exhibition "Into the Unknown: A Journey Through Science Fiction" opens June 3 in London and it will include six of my most important Dinotopia paintings.
Here's an online tutorial showing how you can make your own cloud tank from an aquarium.


4 comments:

Kyle Patterson said...

Thanks! I've been wondering since i was a kid how they did that before cgi.

Gary said...

I like the positioning of this just after a blog entry on traditional illustration. Both seem to be so much about setting a mood for other works of art. Gary

Meera Rao said...

Fascinating! Thank you :)

Sarah Burns Studio said...

This is so amazing!!! Thank you for sharing!