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SMOKE MACHINE Tips and Hints

Get more out of your smoke machine for any application with these fun tips.

Haze rather than smoke - By wafting or fanning smoke generated from your machine, you will create a finely dispersed haze which will hang in the air more evenly and pick out light beams. (It's not officially the haze that is generated by proper haze machines)

Ducting - Using ducting with your smoke machine slows the projection distance (or 'throw') of the smoke down and creates a very thick fog with less movement. The particle size of the smoke is also greater due to the particles merging together.

Cheap low-smoke - Again, using a long length of ducting (preferably metal/foil based) you can attach one end to your smoke machine, and route the ducting outside, curving back and forth as much as possible, in the snow. Put the end of the ducting where you require, and you have a basic fog chiller unit thanks to Mother Nature! Note: you need it to have snowed/be snowing for this tip to work. It's also best to use a quick dispersing fluid, as the fog isn't chilled to the temperature a conventional fog chiller would, which therefore makes it rise a lot sooner.

Dispersion system 1 - Seal off the end of a conventional length of ducting and pierce plenty of holes throughout. Smoke will dissipate from the holes fairly evenly, covering a greater area and being less conspicuous than without the ducting. Using an inline fan will push the smoke out of the holes.

Dispersion system 2 - Build a wooden box for which to pump smoke into and make several holes. By using squirrel cage fans and ducting, you can pump smoke to several areas of a building utilising just one machine. The smoke will be nicely mixed in the air giving it a haze-like effect.

Acoustic space - By filling a room with so much smoke that you cannot see your hand in front of your face, you'll notice that the acoustics of the room change. If you speak or shout, it'll sound like you're in an acoustically treated recording studio. Great for recording voiceovers, as long as you don't mind editing out the coughs and not being able to see the script!

Draught check - Check doors or windows for any draughts by filling the side of the door or window that is blowing through with smoke. The smoke will show you where the gaps are that are causing the draughts.

Fog chiller - You can make a cheap fog chiller with a beer cooler carrier. Create an smoke entry and a smoke exit hole, then fill with either water ice or dry ice.

Double heavy fog power - If your stage production has hired a heavy fog machine, you can effectively increase the output by using another smoke machine just under the smoke output vents of the chiller unit. Again, remember to use very quick dispersing fluid, as the secondary smoke machine's output isn't chilled as much as the other's.

Sea of smoke - On stage, by locating 4 prism convex lamps with dark coloured gels (dark blue/purple, etc.) at each corner of the stage on knee/waist high stands all pointing into the centre of the stage, and filling it with heavy fog, it creates a very mysterious effect which gives the stage a watery texture.

Tornado - For detailed instructions on how to build a great tornado effect in your own home, follow the link on the links page. Instructions are in English and Dutch.

Ultrasonic water misters - are great little devices, now readily available from the most unlikely of outlets. By using hot water, the mister will not only create much more fog, but the fog will rise rather than staying on the surface of the water.

If you've had a eureka moment with your smoke machine, send us your tip and we'll publish it on this page!

This one from Jason in the USA:
Please don't try this unless you know what you're doing! We're not responsible if anything happens!
On an inexpensive fog machine such as an Antari F-80 with a dead-band, if the pump is hard-wired and connected to a lighting dimmer, you can effectively create a variable output, continuously operating, DMX controlled machine. It has one fatal flaw however. If the pump is activated before the block has reached operating temperature, there is no fail-safe to guard it against spitting out warm fluid. This could easily be overcome by adding a correct "open on rise" disc thermostat to the block and run one leg of the pump power through it. This isn't a particularly elegant method, and will void the machine's warranty, but in a pinch, it can be just the right solution.

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