Watch Smarter

Why Is It So Hard to Make Realistic Snow in the Movies?

A fake snow specialist explains.

Watch Smarter is Slate’s series that teaches you to spot hidden tropes in pop culture and beyond. Watch all episodes.

In movies as far apart as Star Wars and Fargo, realistic snow on screen has always been a unique challenge. Filmmakers have thrown money and experts at this problem over the years, but despite advances in technology, including CGI, making the white stuff look real remains difficult.

In this episode of Watch Smarter, we consider early attempts at movie snow—they’d use pretty much anything that looked white and flakey, like salt and flour and even asbestos—and then into more sophisticated methods used today. A lot of factors play into what kind of fake snow will produce the most realistic-looking result. It’s not an easy feat, but thankfully we have snow specialists.