Fog and Haze Machines

in Buyer's Guide

For a PDF of the Dec. 2008 PLSN Buyers Guide, CLICK HERE .


I have no idea if the following story is true, but I have a good idea that I’ll hear from several of you about this. The story I’m thinking of is one told to me by Peter Cutchey, an Englishman who worked in the lighting industry from the early 1970s until shortly before he passed away in 2002. According to Cutchey, he was once sitting in an outhouse in England smoking a ciga-rette when he noticed a bright ray of sunshine streaming in through a tiny hole. When he blew cigarette smoke at it, he could see the beam of light a lot better. That gave him the idea to start building fog machines. If I remember the story correctly, he was working for Optikinetics at the time (now called Opti), and fog machines fit right in with their line of psychedelic lighting effects.

He didn’t say they were the first to build a fog machine, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they weren’t. But it seems that the popularity of fog machines did take off around that time. Those early machines were sometimes crude. I’ve heard stories of lighting techs using bug sprayers to fog sets. They would occasionally take the sprayers home to spray the yard or their house and when they returned them to use as fog machines, they would sometimes fail to clean them out sufficiently, resulting in a noxious fog mix. And then there were numerous stories of early fog machines melting down and catching fire. I’ve seen pictures of the resulting charred remains in a puddle of melted aluminum.

Thank goodness those days are far behind us. Fog machines today are much more reliable and safe. They typically have redundant thermal protection in the form of thermal circuit breakers or fuses that will interrupt the power in case they overheat. Most are temperature-regulated to prevent hot fluid from spewing out of the machine and some have reversing pumps to reduce clogging in the lines. They are usually very solidly built and reliable enough to withstand the rigors of the road. The main differences are in the output, features, noise, support, and price. For a sample of some of the best fog and haze machines, click the link to the PDF file above.