Snow Lighting Effects

Written by anne hirsh
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Snow Lighting Effects
Stylised snowflake patterns are cast by some snow lighting effects. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Creating a snow effect through lighting can enhance holiday parties and winter special events. However, depending on the level of realism you want, you may have difficulty achieving the effect with lighting alone. Several physical snow effects exist that can also enhance your winter atmosphere. If you light these effects correctly, you can achieve realistic-looking snow no matter what the weather is outdoors.

Spinning Effects

Some of the least expensive snow lighting effects achieve the look of individual snowflakes falling by shining light through pinholes in a spinning disc. The motion of the disc passing in front of the light makes the dots of light that shine through seem to fall downward, creating the effect of a very evenly paced snowstorm. These effects require a relatively flat physical surface, as the distance between the light and the wall or other surface the light hits will affect the size of the "snow" specs. Spinning effects usually offer multiple speeds so you can control how heavy your snowstorm appears.

Scrolling Effects

Much like spinning effects, scrolling snow lighting effects use tiny holes that light passes through to create the appearance of snow. These effects usually use a metal loop that scrolls vertically in front of the light and generally require a specific type of theatrical lighting instrument to work. You can purchase effect reels with small or varying sizes of dots, or stylised snowflakes for a thematic rather than realistic look. Scrolling effects have the same limitations as spinning effects, and as such are best as background decoration on a wall or other flat surface.

Lighting Physical Snow Effects

A common theatrical snow effect uses wax flakes that gently sift down from a bag attached overhead. You can also rent machines that send out tiny clusters of bubbles that look very much like real snow, even to people standing among them. With either type of physical effect, lighting the "snow" from both the front and the rear is important. Lighting behind the effect, known as back lighting, makes the snow effect visibly distinct from the background, which is especially important if the background is white. Lighting from the front allows people to see the flakes of faux snow but can also wash out the background. To get the best lighting, shine coloured lights on areas behind the snow, such as an event backdrop or the walls in your home. Then, light the middle of the room or stage from high angles at both sides. This side angle lets the light bend around the snow, keeping it lit from most viewing angles without making the view appear too flat.

Choosing an Effect

Simple spinning or scrolling snow effects work well for dressing up your home for holiday parties. If you are having a large gathering, special event or winter theatrical production, the soap bubble method works best, although the machines that produce the effect can be quite noisy. Wax flakes are a good standby if you only need the effect for a very short period, as someone must operate the system that drops the flakes for this type of effect.

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