Dark Side of the Sun

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Chaiten's Pyroclastic Lighting Storm

An artist is as good as his references. That's one statement I hold as very true, and it applies fully to a VFX artist's day to day work. A very important aspect of our work is to look for good references from the real world. As many as we can, and as good as we can. They serve as foothold to achieve more realistic and/or more interesting effects, and are a great tool to communicate ideas from/to the client/director.

That's why I want to share these very unusual and spectacular references. What natural phenomenon could be more spectacular than a pyroclastic flow? Well... what about a pyroclastic flow coupled with an electric storm!


These photos were taken in 2008, in Chile, when the Chaitén volcano erupted for the first time in 9000 years. The eruption also caused a spectacular lightning storm. This can happen when the hot gas and ash rises through the cooler atmosphere, causing a transfer of charge. The excess of electrons within the cloud makes it act like a capacitor, and if all the conditions are correct, huge electrical discharges may be observed as bolts of lightning during volcanic eruptions.

Nature's capacity to amaze, awe, scare and inspire is greater than anything we can ever imagine. That is why we have to learn from it when trying to carry those feelings through the big screen.

NOTE re. photo credits: I did not credit the photos because I found them all over the internet, and finding out who the photographer(s) is seems like a difficult task. I apologize for this. I do take very seriously the proper crediting of images in blogs and web articles, so if you have any information about who the authors of these beautiful images are, please let me know, and I will do what is proper.

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