Out of the Fog: A Fog Machine Guide for the PerplexedFog machines have long been one of the most popular effects in theatre and stage lighting. Fog not only sets ambiance, but it can also be used to emphasize lighting and laser effects as they pass through it. There are many fog machines with diverse specifications and features to choose from. This article is aimed at helping you sort through some of the product information and eventually choose the fog machine right for your needs. You will immediately notice that fog machines come in a wide price range, from about $38 to $1,400. The low-end fog machines are separated from the high-end fog machines by level of fog output (cu. ft./min), heater power, rate at which the machine heats, machine quietness, and other criteria. You should note that although fog output is one of the central criteria in fog machine specifications, there is no industry standard for this measurement: different manufacturers measure this differently and thus making a decision based on this spec alone would be premature.
Fog machines work by heating up the ’fog juice’ (often a mix glycerin or glycol mixed with water) and thus produce fog. Higher end fog machines have heating systems that heat up at faster rate. The Elation 800w Portable Fog Machine, for example, heats up in only 100 seconds. Fog machines with fast heat up feature stainless steel or nickel-aluminum alloy to ensure rapid and efficient heat transfer. Higher end fog machines will also have DMX universes so that they can be controlled remotely by a lighting controller and integrated into a larger lighting system. In addition to rapid heating-up, higher end fog machines, like Optima’s Lighting Blizzard, will feature fine tuned fan systems that are nearly silent and are ideal for noise sensitive events.
Low end and high end fog machines are also differentiated based upon the quality of the fog they produce. High end fog machines produce fog with a perfect haze of fine-particles that is also low in residue and thus requires less cleaning than a lower end fog machine. The dense and low hanging fog of dry-ice fog machines has long been the industry standard for fog. Dry ice fog machines, due to the difficulty in handling dry ice, have been replaced with fog juice based fog machines. Therefore machines that can replicate dry ice fog, like the Elation Low Lying Fog DMX Cooler, are often more expensive because they require additional technologies to ensure that the fog is adequately cooled after it is heated so it can hang low.
There are many fog machines out there with many different capabilities and features. Check out our comprehensive range of fog machines and see for your self how they differ. BulbAmerica stocks many different fog machines at many different price points so whatever you determine you need, we have it!