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Sno-FX Fake Snow, Invented In North Van, Now Patented

NORTH VANCOUVER, B.C. - John Quee spent more than $1 million perfecting his fake snow to be a stand-in for the real stuff in movies and TV productions.

Now, a decade after Sno-FX hit the market and became an industry standard, Quee has obtained patents for the product.

"These patents mean we can now go with protection and find partners to manufacture Sno-FX so that people in Australia or Europe can make better movies and better attractions or displays or whatever they need to at a lower cost without sacrificing quality," he said.

Until now, movies such as "The Hobbit," which was filmed in New Zealand, had to have the fake snow shipped from Quee's North Vancouver company at considerable cost.

That's on top of the price of Sno-FX, at $72 for a two-and-a-half kilogram box, which covers about 44 square metres.

In 2002, Quee's frustrations with earlier snow substitutes led him to invent Sno-FX.

"The colour wasn't as white as it should be, the flake size wasn't consistent, there was often debris in the snow and it was not biodegradable," he said in the snow room of his company, Thomas FX Group Inc.

Those problems were inherent with fake snow made from minerals, Styrofoam or plastic dry-cleaning bags.

Quee's snow menu includes coarse, medium, fine and ultrafine powdery "snow" for various uses.

"It looks and acts like real snow," he said. "It drifts, it forms cornices, it blows across a street like that wispy early November snow." "And it's white enough that it can be used seamlessly alongside the real thing."

When a client asked Quee to make black snow, another invention was born.

"That led to using black snow as a volcanic ash substitute. Because we can dye it any colour, wedding planners are using it. It's increasingly popular for wedding throws, replacing confetti or rice."

Quee's company was also the first in Canada to make breakaway glass for the film industry, and his wife, Betty, was the first female stunt performer in the country.

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