Fog and Foggers – The Ultimate Guide – Learn Stage Lighting .com

Fog and Foggers – The Ultimate Guide

Have you ever woken up, looked outdoors and seen beautiful, hanging fog with the sun streaming through?

Theatrical Fog

Photo Credit: ViaMoi via Compfight cc

Perhaps you were in the forests of Mirkwood looking for your best friend Sam, or just down the street?

Or perhaps you’ve wanted to create that 80’s rock “KISS”-like moment where you break out into a guitar solo in a cloud of smoky goodness, or create a theatrical appearance on to stage!

Either way, you’re looking to have a fog type effect in your production, and you need to know how in the world to create it.  I want to show you through this page how to create the various types of fog effects, and importantly, how much it costs to get into the fog game.

Now, before we get going, I do want to mention that fog effects are typically cloud-like or low-lying mists or jets of steam-like spray.  Fog is not a long-hanging medium to catch light beams.  

You’ll need haze for that, and I’ve already written a complete guide right here: The Ultimate Guide to Haze and Hazers.

Types of Fog and Foggers

As I alluded to above, there are many type of Fog and Foggers, depending on the type of effects you want to create.

In general, most units will only create one type of fog, so you’re not going to find a machine that can do many types of fog well.  The processes to create the different effects are all a little different mechanically, so it’s not mix-and-match.

“Regular” Foggers

Fog Machine

“Regular” Fog will look like this.  Photo Credit: UT Connewitz via Compfight cc

The first type of fogger is your typical “regular” fogger.  This is anything from your basic “halloween” fogger to high quality professional units like the High End FQ-100 or the Look Solutions Viper NT.

This creates a cloud of smoky, 5′-10′ tall fog.  Depending on how long you run it, the fog cloud will get bigger and taller and slowly rise, as it is a heated vapor, and the heat causes the slow rising effect.

It is not a fog effect that will lay low, due to the warmth in the vapor, it will rise.

All in all, it’s a pretty good effect, and these standard foggers are the lowest priced units out there.  The cheapest units will not have DMX control, but there are many cost-effective models that do.

My recommendation for a gig, cost-effective fogger is the Chauvet Hurricane 1301 or the larger Chauvet Hurricane 1800 FLEX.

The 1301 is a smaller, “gag” type effect perfect for smaller stages or just fogging up a small portion of stage, while the Hurricane 1800 is a much larger, smoke up your stage kind of fog machine!

Tiny Foggers

Next up on our very foggy tour is the tiny fogger.  I’m not going to go into huge detail on these, but know that they are ideal for set pieces, costumes and other unique places.

They’re definitely a very tight niche product.

These specialized theatrical instruments are perfect for special effects, but that’s about it.  The #1 maker of tiny foggers is Look Solutions.

Low Foggers

For a breath-taking, fog up to your ankles effect, you’ve got to cool down your fog and to get it flowing low.

Low lying fog effects are insanely epic and look amazing in the proper setting, but do require some work to get right.  For this type of fog effect, the Le Maitre LSG is the king!  However, if you don’t need to fill an arena with low-lying CO2 fog, there’s a lot of other great units that will meet your needs.  CO2 units also need to be carefully monitored as too much CO2 can replace the oxygen in the air and cause breathing problems – not good!  Plus LSG’s are quite expensive.

A great alternative to CO2 fog is to build or buy a fog cooler to keep your fog lying low.

As I mentioned above in the section on regular foggers, the nemesis of good fog is heat, which causes it to rise.  The only problem with that is that heat is required for most foggers to generate the fog.

So, we need a fog chiller to keep things sitting low.

Keep in mind that chilled fog will only lie low for as long as it is cold!  Once it warms up it will start to creep into the air.  So, you’ve got 2 options – either wisk that fog off stage using fans, or move your scene upstage/roll video until it clears.

If you’re looking to build a low-fog chiller, check out this webpage.  The downside to building your own unit is that they’re often bulky and not as rugged as manufactured units.  The great news is that American DJ and Antari make really great foggers with chillers attached that use regular ice which is very inexpensive.

Plus, you can use the unit without ice in the chiller for a regular fog effect.

These 2 units are really simple to use and make a great effect, but you do get what you pay for.  The American DJ Mister Kool lies low for a minute, and then rises and doesn’t have a ton of output.

The Antari ICE-101, on the other hand, has a very generous output and also stays low for much longer, which is key.  Of the 2 cheaper units, the Antari is a much better value, but the American DJ will get the effect across for a really great price.

If you’re really serious about your low fog, or will use the effect a lot, check out the Antari DNG-200, which has a build in A/C compressor to keep the fog cool.

That means no water to dump out at the end of the night, and no ice to haul!  It’s a really, really, really nice unit, and the fog hangs low for a very long time!

CO2 Look-Alike Fog Jets

Another really cool fog effect that you may have seen recently is the CO2-like jet of fog.  

In the past year or 2, a number of companies have introduced foggers that shoot straight up in a colored jet of light and steam.

Before these units existed, the only way to get a cool jet of “steam” was to use a ton of CO2 with an extensive head and hose system.  With these systems, you had to be extra careful again with CO2 quantities and oxygen starvation – not fun!

Units like the Chauvet Geyser T6 and Geyser P5 offer this really cool functionality that can look like a jet of fire or simply a jet of CO2.

The T6 is lacking the DMX control, and also has less light output than the P5, otherwise, the 2 units are very similar.

Fog Curtains

Last on our wonderful tour of cool fog machines is the fog curtain.  Simply put, this is a really cool effect that was formerly only available from a CO2 product.  Isn’t technology wonderful?

Fog curtains work by pushing fog through a chiller and onto a distribution unit overhead, which then rains the fog evenly upon

Though a full fog curtain system isn’t cheap, it’s totally worth every penny if you have clients requesting it!  A completely unique effect, fog curtains can really bring to Wow! factor to a party entrance, DJ booth, stage entrance or theatrical exit.

The #1 manufacturer of these curtains is Vortex Chillers.

They offer curtains sized from 3′ to 8′ wide, and work up to a height of 7′.  If you were contemplating a CO2 based fog wall, these guys are totally worth checking out.  They offer up a water-based fog wall that can save you serious money over a CO2 wall.  Check them out today!

Buying a Fogger: Last Few Things to Note

Before we close, there are just a few other points I want to clarify for those of you looking to buy foggers.  My goal is to inform and entertain you as you look for the best fogger in your situation, and I truly hope that I am helpful.

When looking to buy, it’s always absolute best to demo a unit and/or call someone who owns one, or at least read online reviews before buying.  Here’s a few things to look out for as you compare models:

Noise Level and Spew

Simply put, some foggers, especially older models, can be really loud.  Many actors can recall starting theater shows with a loud “PSSSSS” as the stage filled with fog – not cool and not necessary anymore!  There are many quiet and many silent units on the market today!

Another issue that older models of fogger also tend to have worse than newer models is “spew”.  This is when little bits of fog creep out of the machine after you’ve stopped generating fog.  Unfortunately, the only way to get rid of this is to point the fogger away from your stage once you are done fogging.  Thankfully, newer foggers tend to be much better with preventing spew compared to older units.

Fog Fluid Cost and Consumption

Every brand and model of fog effect is going to consume a different level of fluid, and every brand of fluid is going to cost a differing amount.  On the low end, Chauvet Fog Fluid is around $20/gallon and on the high end LeMaitre is around $150 for the really fancy stuff, but that’s all totally relative to the consumption rate of the model you’re using!

If you’re looking for a fluid of a different consistency than the default, then check out Froggy’s Fog Fluids.  These guys have a ton of great products that work in most foggers, but may void your warranty.  While they most likely won’t damage your machine, read the instructions well and make sure your machine is compatible with the fluid you run in it!

Watch out, experiment, ask questions and you’ll find out how much it costs to run a particular model!  In general, foggers are pretty cheap.

You (Typically) Get What You Pay For

Stage Fogger Test

Photo Credit: clickykbd via Compfight cc

If you go really, really, really cheap, you’re probably not going to get the effect you desire.  And the fog will smell overwhelmingly like maple syrup, which is great for a pancake breakfast, but who uses a fogger at a pancake breakfast?

On the other end, the most expensive units will a) last a long time, b) be mostly maintenance-free and c) be road-worthy.

However, as I always recommend, there are many medium-level units that will work incredibly well for most people.  Just don’t abuse your fogger, and don’t tour non-stop, and a mid-level unit will work great – that’s why I recommend these units in this post.

And as always, if you got something out of this post or have a question, please feel free to shoot me an email.  You can do this by joining my email newsletter below or on the sidebar, and hitting reply to any of the messages.


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