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Bad Ice

For as long as film (and later digital process, of course) has been capturing food and drink, ice has been a point of contention for the production world. Real ice melts and the drink dies quickly — usually before the shot is properly lit. The ice moves and the nice light through the glass is gone. The drink dilutes and the color is not as vibrant, or the carbonation disappears. These issues have been the crux of the matter since day one. Fake ice has historically been the solution, but so much of it looked, well, fake. This seems pretty obvious to anyone that’s been paying attention for the last thirty or so years. Prop masters, stylists and photographers have been relying on what was available in the market. This usually meant using really expensive, handmade acrylic cubes, or inexpensive and almost passable mass produced (molded) cubes. The latter worked well for background elements or for quick shots that only appeared on screen for seconds.

Cubes of Today

Thanks to social media and a seismic shift in the fake ice market (no exaggeration, it’s laughably true), it seems that a lot of productions are trying to push the bar even lower. Any search of acrylic ice on Am*zon or eB*y will bring countless results of very identical, extremely bad quality, super fake looking cubes of plastic. The companies marketing these cubes are doing their best to try to convince us all that these perfectly square, 100% identical, characterless, impossibly clear pieces of plastic are really ice. Frankly, they just look bad and cheapen the whole shot. As a prime example, here’s a still from a recent, actual Bounty paper towel commercial that appeared on practically every major network in the US:

Is this supposed to be ice?

Shop for drink glasses at any major online retailer and you’ll see the exact same, low quality cubes of plastic in shot after shot. Some examples:

The ice styling is so bad it’s almost funny. It does a disservice to the product photography — the photographers of these shots took the time to light the glassware, light the liquid, retouch the shots. But the subpar quality of those cubes ruin every shot they appear in.

Insta-trends

It doesn’t just end there. Without calling out any of our friends and colleagues, we’ve seen established professional photographers and stylists post images on Instagram and LinkedIn using these exact same cubes. Yes, we understand, they’re accessible (two day delivery on Am*zon!) and ridiculously inexpensive (20 cubes/$6!). And many make the argument that the tried and true, handmade acrylic ice cube which has sort of been the standard for a few decades now, has maybe jumped the shark for most applications. But it seems that in trying to buck the old trend, these pros are moving the needle backwards. Way, way backwards. The old cliché rings true even now — you get what you paid for. We’ll just come out and say it: It’s hurting your images that you chose the cheapest route possible to solve the problem of melting ice. You put cheapness into the glass and that cheapness translates into the final image. Ouch(!), but it’s true.

In Conclusion

We know we’re presenting this information with considerable bias. We sell products that would improve this situation 1000% and we definitely will not compromise on that statement. This absolutely does not mean dropping 100s of dollars of your production budget to buy handmade cubes. There are viable alternatives! Rubber ice, floating cubes, our set of 12 random cubes, renting our cubes, anything that isn’t an exact replica of the cube next to it will add to the shot instead of detract from it. Heck, if you want something unique and interesting, just reach out with your ideas — we’d love to make something custom just for you — cloudy, bubbly, wild shapes, you name it.

And if you still wish to question our motives in this post, we will admit that we once sold the very cubes we are discussing here today — in 3 sizes no less. We didn’t give up on them because we thought we couldn’t sell them (we sold A LOT 6 or 7 years ago), or that we couldn’t compete with the rock bottom prices of our competitors. We stopped selling them simply because they are BAD fake ice.

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