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Old September 18th, 2004, 08:07 PM   #1
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Cheap (really cheap) fog machine

I was at CVS today and in their Halloween section they had a toy fog machine. The box was maybe a foot and a half long, 10 inches square at the edges, and fairly heavy. All of 30 bucks. I'm sure it wouldn't perform like a real pro unit, but heck, you could buy five of the things and put them all over the room for the price of a decent light stand. I think I would just use it to add a little haze in the air to capture shafts of light anyway. I mean, how often do you need an actual fog effect? It's so -- "Heaven Can Wait." The thing was called Lite F/X and is made by MME Inc. The Web site listed on the box was www.mmeworld.com. There isn't much useful information there though. Anybody ever used something like this? I'm tempted to buy it just out of curiousity.
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Old September 18th, 2004, 09:41 PM   #2
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Target has them for $26 bucks.

Hmmm...

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Old September 19th, 2004, 01:24 AM   #3
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I have a couple of high end fog machines. The big difference is going to be output, duty cycle and other features such as automatic timer, as well as the ability to link it to a light show controller or another fog machine.

If you only need to fog up a small area, then the $30 fog machine will work just fine. If you do buy one, try fogging up a room to zero visibilty. Even with the lights on, you'll get lost. Gives you a whole new appreciation for what firefighters have to contend with in a burning building.

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p.s. DISABLE any smoke detectors before using the fog machine. It WILL set them off.
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Old September 19th, 2004, 06:39 AM   #4
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the main difference between a small model and big one is the length you can press the button and get the smoke.
usually cheap and small models have a cycle of 2-3 minutes of heating for a 30sec smoke production.
For continuous smoke, you need the big model, when if you just need a puff of smoke to give a light haze, any small model is ok.
For example, i doubt you can fill a room until "no visibility" with a small machine.
The liquid used can help to get different smoke. usually the liquid is simply water + glycol (anti-freeze), but additive can make the smoke whiter or heavier and so on....
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Old September 19th, 2004, 09:34 AM   #5
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I have used all types of hazers and foggers over the years. You should be aware that there is considerable controversy over the health effects of the various fog juices. Most of this has centered on the glycol based fluids, which are probably what these cheap machines use. Actors Equity recently came out with some pretty strict rules. AGMA, the union our singers belong to, is even stricter. There have been a couple high profile lawsuits which brought the issue to the forefront. We cannot use the glycol based units at all ourselves now. We use glycerol based fluid that is 90% water. One concern with these cheap machines is that you probably won't have good data on the fluid or its effects.

Now if you're just playing around on Halloween I wouldn't worry too much, but if you're exposing people to the smoke for longer periods then there might be a concern. If nothing else you could be exposing yourself to some liability if your cast or crew has complaints. Here's an article about a recent study in British Columbia: http://www.shape.bc.ca/resources/pdf/summary.pdf

Last edited by Boyd Ostroff; September 24th, 2007 at 01:06 PM. Reason: updated a bad link
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Old September 19th, 2004, 10:03 AM   #6
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Yikes! Burning anti-freeze?! Thanks Boyd and everyone. I may pass on this after all.
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Old September 19th, 2004, 04:11 PM   #7
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Great article Boyd! Thanks for sharing.
Here is another URL for seeing what uses which
http://www.lightfool.com/features/fogfluid.html

Around this time of year those cheap fog machines start
to show up in local discount stores.

At the video studio, I wanted us to buy a MDG atmosphere,
but like most things that are top of the line, the $3500 price
tag scared the boss. He came in with one of those $50
machines all happy. I was pretty skeptical, but it turns out
that they use the water based fog liquid. Yes, it takes a while
to heat up and gives one good blast before going back to reheat,
but it works pretty well and the fog isn't as bad as some I've
had to suffer.

The cool thing about the MDG Atmosphere is that the particulate
is so small that it doesn't trigger our fire alarm systems.
(I've cleared the entire building before using smoke . . . twice . . . and
most of our students and profs. don't like standing outside in the cold
while the Dept. of Public Safety runs around trying to reset the system ;)

I did a test with this cheap machine and it did trigger the alarm, but
only after blasting the sensor with a full cycle of smoke.

All in all, great bang for the bucks! (But I still want a real machine ;)

What system do you recommend Boyd? If those opera divas
don't complain, I WANT IT!
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Old September 19th, 2004, 04:40 PM   #8
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Thanks Jacques. We have two LeMaitre G300's. These are combination fog and haze machines which use Glycol-based fluid in Fog mode and Glycerol-based fluid in Haze mode. However we only have union approval to run them in Haze mode with the water based fluid I described above. We also have DMX-512 interfaces which allow them to be programmed from the light board, although more often than not it's easiest to just have an electrician manually run them.

What makes you think the opera diva's don't complain? ;-) Seriously though, the principal singers usually don't complain. More often than not it's someone in the chorus. Although last year we had a difficult diva that was a problem (although she complained about almost everything).

Now remember we're working in a 3000 seat theatre with a backstage area around 100' x 70' x 70'h so your needs in a studio are probably much less demanding.

I've used the MDG Atmosphere a couple of time and it really impressed me also. Very quiet and it produces a beautiful evenly dispersed haze (in the theatre "fog" usually implies dense smoke whereas "haze" is an evenly dispersed atmospheric effect). That system uses mineral oil and unfortunately our singers union has only approved water based systems. We have been thinking of submitting data on this machine to them however and see if they will approve as the lawyers thought they might. During last year's negotiations they asked for more information on the previously-approved LeMaitre machine and fluid.

We used this on a PBS project I worked on last summer at the Mann Center in Philadelphia which is an outdoor theatre (with an enclosed stage). I was amazed to see how effective one of these machines was, placed in the back corner of the stage behind the set. You could actually see the haze drifting out through the proscenium and hanging outside.

We used to own a DF-50 haze machine which also works with mineral oil and it produced a similar effect. They are pretty noisy however, maybe not so good in the studio? We sold it after the singers union mandated water-based haze.

I assume you've seen the "fog in a can" aerosols sprays? I understand they work pretty well in a small space if you don't need the effect too often.
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Old September 19th, 2004, 05:07 PM   #9
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<<<-- Originally posted by Boyd Ostroff :

What makes you think the opera diva's don't complain? ;-) Seriously though, the principal singers usually don't complain. More often than not it's someone in the chorus. Although last year we had a difficult diva that was a problem (although she complained about almost everything).>>>

We had a diva come in to Hill Auditorium (4500 seater) and she complained
about EVERYTHING. She demanded the air conditioner be turned off
as it made her throat sore. The house guy (a funny old character now
retired) was fed up with her and the complaining. During the show
he went (while mumbing curses) and turned the air back on saying
something about the b*tch will never notice anyway. Well, she DID notice
and stopped the show in the middle of a song demanding over the mic
that the air be turned back off!!! That was good! :)

<<<I've used the MDG Atmosphere a couple of time and it really impressed me also. Very quiet and it produces a beautiful evenly dispersed haze>>>

Yeah baby!


<<<We used this on a PBS project I worked on last summer at the Mann Center in Philadelphia which is an outdoor theatre (with an enclosed stage). I was amazed to see how effective one of these machines was, placed in the back corner of the stage behind the set. You could actually see the haze drifting out through the proscenium and hanging outside.>>>

Yes, and their foggers can actually keep up outside with a bit of wind.
That is amazing.

<<<We used to own a DF-50 haze machine which also works with mineral oil and it produced a similar effect. They are pretty noisy however, maybe not so good in the studio? We sold it after the singers union mandated water-based haze.>>>

Noisy, but those work well too. Plug in and go. No waiting at all.
I thought they used the water based liquid?

<<<I assume you've seen the "fog in a can" aerosols sprays? I understand they work pretty well in a small space if you don't need the effect too often. -->>>

Yes, at the Detroit Public Library I did a gig in their small theater and had
a couple of helpers manned with two cans of fog in a can each on either
side of the stage. Used comm to tell them when to start and stop
their spraying. Worked great!
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Old September 19th, 2004, 05:16 PM   #10
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All good information. I read Boyd's post in its entirety. Let me clarify a couple of points in my original post.

I got the impression that Marco only wanted to experiment with a $30 dollar machine. He won't be able to generate enough fog with that thing to create a long term health hazard.

Giroud, he can get a small bedroom to zero visibilty. It might take a few heat cycles, but if you limit the excape route (close the door) then it's possible.

One of the units I own will produce 10000cfm. I can get my garage to zero visibilty real quick (I called the fire dept. to warn them that my house really wasn't on fire). Ever been lost in your own garage?

The bottom line is USE COMMON SENSE! What was very telling in Boyd's post was the mention of 'special brew' fog juice. You should ALWAYS use what the manufacturer specifies lest you burn up the unit or worse, spew something toxic out of the unit.

I have helped with haunted house events for the past several years as well as trained in emergency response scenarios using fog. I can admit that after several nights of 3 or 4 hrs. exposure that my mucous glands are running overtime. However, I have to take an annual physical where they test my pulmonary function to be certified for SCBA (self contained breathing apparatus) and the results have always been good.

Have fun Marco, but be careful.

best regards,

=gb=
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Old September 19th, 2004, 05:23 PM   #11
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<<<-- Originally posted by Jacques Mersereau : Noisy, but those work well too. Plug in and go. No waiting at all. I thought they used the water based liquid? -->>>

I know they have updated the machine over the years... we bought ours around 1994. But it definitely used 100% mineral oil, and I don't think this model has changed. What was impressive was just how little oil it actually consumed and how long it hung in the air. We could create a very dense haze effect throughout a 3 hour opera and only use 1 or 2 oz of fluid.

Now it's hard to imagine that amount of oil being a health hazard in such a huge area, but I know concerns have been raised over these machines. But the tests I read about were centered on use in film and video studios where it was a small space with heavy concentration of haze throughout the day for extended periods. I know there have been many concerns raised regarding the older style "oil crackers" used for many years in Hollywood films.

ESTA, an organization of theatrical equipment supplier/manufacturers has studied the whole fog safety area and has some publications you can download here http://www.esta.org/tsp/index.html. They also have a fog testing service that may be of interest if anyone wants to know how safe a given effect is. For a low cost they will rent you the test equipment and provide instructions on its use. The idea is that producers can run these tests in their own facilities, then post the results to reassure cast and crew that everything is OK http://www.esta.org/foginfo/index.html.
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Old September 19th, 2004, 05:33 PM   #12
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Greg, the only problem is that it all comes down to whether a performer or crew member thinks the fog/haze is creating a health hazard. I am not particularly sensitive to this sort of thing, and like you guys I love the effect. But other people will start coughing and complaining as soon as they see any sort of atmospheric effect. Unfortunately in our litigious society you need to keep this in mind. If you're making a "basement movie" with your friends then there's probably little to worry about. But if you're using professional talent then they may already have some preconceived notions that you will need to deal with. I'd be especially careful if working on some sort of music video with singers who might later claim you damaged their voice and ruined their career.

I don't know that I agree with your assessment of the safety of these cheap machines. Using your own example, if you can reduce the visibility in your bedroom to zero then you will be inhaling a significant amount of the stuff, especially if you do this during an extended period of time.

When it comes to yourself, just use some common sense. But if other people are involved then it all gets more complicated...
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Old September 19th, 2004, 05:35 PM   #13
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<<<-- Originally posted by Jacques Mersereau : Noisy, but those work well too. Plug in and go. No waiting at all. I thought they used the water based liquid? -->>>

I know they have updated the machine over the years... we bought ours around 1994. But it definitely used 100% mineral oil, and I don't think this model has changed. What was impressive was just how little oil it actually consumed and how long it hung in the air. We could create a very dense haze effect throughout a 3 hour opera and only use 1 or 2 oz of fluid.

Now it's hard to imagine that amount of oil being a health hazard in such a huge area, but I know concerns have been raised over these machines. But the tests I read about were centered on use in film and video studios where it was a small space with heavy concentration of haze throughout the day for extended periods. I know there have been many concerns raised regarding the older style "oil crackers" used for many years in Hollywood films.

ESTA, an organization of theatrical equipment supplier/manufacturers has studied the whole fog safety area and has some publications you can download here http://www.esta.org/tsp/index.html. They also have a fog testing service that may be of interest if anyone wants to know how safe a given effect is. For a low cost they will rent you the test equipment and provide instructions on its use. The idea is that producers can run these tests in their own facilities, then post the results to reassure cast and crew that everything is OK http://www.esta.org/foginfo/index.html.
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Old September 19th, 2004, 09:13 PM   #14
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I totally agree with you Boyd. My main employment for the past 20 yrs. is in the semiconductor industry as an equipment technician. I also belong to the emergency response team within our facility(hence the annual PFT and SCBA cert.) We have so many toxic gases, acids, solvents, etc that the workers are ready to run if they so much as smell diesel fumes that get pulled into the air intakes from a truck on the loading dock.

I don't want folks here to think I am careless about suggesting entering a room filled with glycerine based fog. We do it for training purposes and have experienced no ill effects. This is termed acute exposure. Your examples of the film and theater employees would come under chronic exposure which may indeeed cause problems after many years.

I wouldn't want anything bad to happen to any of the good people on this forum. It's truly the best group of folks around.

regards,

=gb=
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Old September 20th, 2004, 12:59 AM   #15
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I spent two 14 hour shooting days this summer in a warehouse basement that was almost continously being pumped full of fog. I'm not sure what type it was, but myself and several other crew members had swollen throats for the next 3-4 days. The video looked great, but I'm sure glad I don't have to do that every day for a living.
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