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A Fog & Haze Machine Primer
Glycol/water based Fog Machines.
This is the most common genre of fog machine nowadays and is characterized by the leading professional machines such as High End Systems F100, Martins MP2000 and the Rosco 1500. Most of all the smaller and lower end machines from a host of manufacturers follow the same principle of operation. That is a fluid mixture of water and glycol is pumped through a pre-heated block. The fluid vaporizes and is expelled through the nozzle as a mist of varying density depending on the concentration of glycol in the fluid.
It is very important to use pure fluid containing de-ionized, distilled water. Any impurities in the water will leave deposits in the heat exchanger and eventually clog it up. Most manufacturers will insist you use their fluid to validate any warranty. However, most of the popular machines use a similar formula and may be used in different machines with caution.
By varying the composition of the fluid used in the machine - different effects can be created with the fog. High End systems produces three formulas that are most widely used.
Cold Flow or Low Flow Formula - A fast dissipating formula designed for use with a fog chiller attachment. The fog chiller reduces the heat of the expelled smoke so that it is heavier than the room air and there fore lies low to the ground as it comes out of the chiller. As the fog warms up in the air - it tends to rise. The fast dissipating characteristics of the fog makes it disappear as it rises. Therefore you are left with a low-lying fog without substantial haze throughout the performance area.
When used with out the chiller, the fog comes out as a white, dense cloud and disappears quickly, without fogging-up the whole area for any length of time.
HQ Formula - The standard High Quality formula. The fog created comes out of the machine as a thick white cloud and slowly dissipates throughout the air, giving Atmosphere for lighting effects. It is both a fog effect and haze creator. The use of a fan behind the machine will break up the fog into a haze quickly.
Stage Formula - In many instances the user will not require a cloud of fog emanating from the source. Very often the only desired effect is a haze to enhance the lighting effects or just to create a mist. In these cases it is also desirable for the haze to remain in the air for as long as possible. The stage fluid is designed to come out of the machine as a thinner steam but to hang in the air for a longer time. Called Stage fluid as it is most often used for Stage concerts as a light enhancement medium. Also called a Slow Dissipating fluid.
Martin, Jem, Le Maitre, and many others make fluids. The High End and Martin HQ fluids would appear to work the best in most machines.
A chiller, as simple as a basket of ice in front of the machine output, will cause the smoke to lay lower. Other attachments are also available to do the same job. Most notable Co2 heat exchangers and modified refrigeration units. The Le Maitre LSX machine and the Jem Heavy fog are examples.
Haze machines in general tend to be different from fog machines in that they do not use heat to vaporize the fluid. Two types of fluid are used, either a mineral oil or a glycol. The hazers generally use a high pressure pump and nozzle to atomize the fluid into tiny particles. These particles tend to be much smaller than those generated by the heating method and so create a fine haze or mist in the air. The particles also tend to create a much more even mist and the oils in particular, tend to provide a more reflective light enhancement medium. In many cases the haze is barely detectable in the air until beams of light can be seen.
The haze units have a much lower fluid usage. However the use of oil in the atmosphere can eventually cause some residual build up.
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