What do “Poltergeist,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “Cocoon” and “Independence Day” all have in common? Aside from alien storylines, each feature predominantly uses cloud tank magic in order to depict supernatural weather. You may not have known it by its formal name, but you have no doubt come across cloud tank magic if you have seen any movie in the past several decades, including “Star Trek,” “Total Recall,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and dozens more.
In a new web video courtesy of PBS Digital Studios and Shanks FX, special effects guru Joey Shanks highlights the process behind cloud tanks. A cloud tank consists of a bottom layer of salt water and a top layer of fresh water; clouds are produced when various forms of liquid are injected into tank. The technique was the Hollywood standard for depicting overdramatic weather for decades as evidenced by the numerous examples in the video above.