VFX Firsts: What was the first film to use a cloud tank?

Surprise! befores & afters launches a podcast.

I’m excited to announce the VFX Firsts podcast here at befores & afters! It’s going to be a weekly audio limited series podcast looking back at major pioneering moments in visual effects, with expert guests who work in the particular area of focus of each episode.

This week, VFX Firsts tackles the question: ‘What was the first film to use a cloud tank?’, with special guest Gavin Graham, DNEG Montreal general manager.

Your VFX Firsts podcast hosts this week, Gavin Graham from DNEG, and Ian Failes from befores & afters.

While the answer to that question is revealed further down the page, you can go ahead and listen now without spoilers over at Apple Podcasts or on Spotify, or via the embedded player right here. Spoilers in the show notes, below.

1. Gavin Graham’s cloud tank test from ten years ago

2. Gavin Graham’s more recent cloud tank set-up at home

3. The first cloud tank film: cloud tank set-up and results from Close Encounters of the Third Kind (imagery courtesy Scott Squires)

Cloud tank shoot.
Cloud-like results on film.

4. Cloud tank effects shots compilation from Close Encounters, care of Johnny Banta

5. Wait, could it have been The Ten Commandments?

Read this CineMagic article on that film’s part of the Red Sea effects.

6. Where to find out more about cloud tanks

Scott Squires’ Effects Corner blog post, featuring cloud tank instructions

The Single-Minded Movie Blog

VFX Voice article on Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Shanks FX Cloud Tank demo

Shanks ‘Cloud Tank Magic’ compilation

The Slow Mo Guys – Hypnotic Ink Physics in 4K Slow Motion

Finally, did we get it wrong? Is there a different film you think was the first to use a cloud tank? Let us know in the comments below. Thanks for listening!

Sign up to the weekly b&a VFX newsletter