The Whats and Whys of Airborne Effects







By Adrian Cavlan

There are three kinds of airborne effects that we use here at Sound In Motion: Fog, Haze and Dry Ice. This post will show and explain what they are and what each is best for!

Fog: Basically the generic name for… well, all things foggy. BUT - in the lighting and special effects world, this now specifically refers to machines that heat “fog fluid” (water and glycol) to the point of vaporization and then, with the assistance of a pump, emit a dense vapor that looks like fog or smoke that hangs cloud-like in the air. Fog machines are a go-to effect in the nightclub world as well as at school dances. When and why to use a Fogger: It can be a spectacular moment in a dance set to, out of seemingly nowhere, fill the room with fog. As a DJ, it is always awesome the first time you turn it on during the night - the crowd always screams with delight! When used judiciously a few times in the night, it is a really fun addition to the party and it makes the light show look spectacular!

Even though the fog is dense and takes over the room, it is perfectly harmless if used correctly. Even if used incorrectly (i.e. used too much and in rooms without decent ventilation), the worst that can happen is some dryness or irritation in the throat.

A fog machine:

Haze: A Haze Generator, a.k.a. Hazer, is a machine that produces a much subtler and in many ways more useful effect. You get one of the main benefits of a Fogger, but without the sense of ever being overcome by the clouds of fog that come from a fog machine.

A room can be “filled” by a Hazer in advance of an event and the haze will last a good long time, only requiring some intermittent reinforcement by the machine as the night goes on. Upon entering the room, attendees will likely not even notice that the effect is present. Fog, on the other hand, fills the room much more noticeably, with the effect being gone after just a few minutes.

The benefits of the Hazer are seen immediately when the light show comes on, as it immediately gives dimension and directionality to the beams of light just like a Fogger would! So you get a good amount of the visual benefit of the aftermath of a fog machine, lasting a good amount of time, without the “intrusion” of a fog blast. It is indeed the perfect solution for some events.Lastly, note that event venues who have fire systems that can be set off by fog machines are often able to have haze machines with no such issues.

The effects of a haze machine:

Lastly, let’s talk about Dry Ice:

Dry Ice is essentially frozen solid carbon dioxide. It has some handling characteristics that require care on the part of the person using it and it should be noted that prolonged periods of directly breathing it are unsafe, but that said, it is usually only used for very short (and thus safe) periods of time and the effect is classic and beautiful.

While a Fogger produces billows of fog/smoke that rise and fill up a given space, vaporized dry ice naturally falls to to the ground and evaporates relatively quickly. It is what allows us to create the illusion of “dancing on the clouds” - again, the “smoke” billowing out on the ground ONLY and people being able to stand/dance in it. There are machines that allow this to happen in an efficient way by using hot water to create the vaporization and then channel the vaporized fog out of a port on the side of the machine. From there, it can be focused into a specific spot and cover an entire area relatively quickly.

It is a relatively complex operation to execute, with the timing of the purchase of the dry ice and how much to purchase given its sublimation rate and the scheduled time of use, etc. but in this writer’s opinion, it’s so cool it’s worth it!

A the effects of a dry ice machine:

Thanks for reading and remember, at Sound In Motion, we proudly offer all three of these airborne effects for your consideration!

Adrian Cavlan