Buyers Guide: How do I Choose the Right Hazer, Fazer, or Smoke Machine?
This effect will truly make or break your light show. Just a little bit of smoke is all you need to ensure the intricate light beam and laser patterns you've created become more visible, and your audience can enjoy your spectacular show. You could even say, no light show is complete without a smoke machine. In this buyers guide, we'll be talking about smoke machines, as well as hazers and fazers. What are the differences between these devices, and which one is right for you?
Let's start at the beginning. Of these three devices, the smoke machine is the most commonly used. It creates thick plumes of 'smoke', which are actually comprised of a sort of steam. The concept is pretty straightforward. Inside the smoke machine, there's a heating element. When this element has reached the right temperature, it warms up a special smoke fluid and expels big, thick smoke plumes.
Then, we come to the fazer. Unlike the plumes produced by a smoke machine, this machine produces a thin mist of smoke, and uses special smoke fluid as well. It has an integrated fan which continually blows the smoke fluid out to create a low-hanging fog-like bank of mist.
And finally, there's the hazer. This machine is a lot like the fazer, except that speed of the fan and the smoke fluid pump are adjustable. Hazers often require a different type of smoke fluid than smoke machines or fazers, which both use regular smoke fluid. Perhaps the most important difference though, is that the hazer can operate continually without the need for a warming-up period, during which time the production of smoke temporarily stops.
In this buyers guide, we'll also discuss the low fogger, which is a variation of the smoke machine. Smoke from a low fogger stays close to the ground because the smoke fluid runs over or through a layer of (dry) ice, which cools the smoke off so quickly, it doesn't rise upwards as it normally would. This kind of effect offers all sorts of possibilities you just can't achieve with a regular smoke machine.
Use and applications
The most important benefit to using a smoke machine, hazer, or fazer, is that your audience is able to see every detail you've put into your light show. What people tend to forget, is that these machines are also capable of creating spectacular effects on their own. For instance, you can set up a row of smoke machines to face your audience and create a thicker smoke (CO2) effect. For safety reasons, always be sure to maintain enough distance between your audience and the device. The smoke fluid is extremely hot when it's expelled from the machine!
Hazers and fazers can also be placed in the venue hall to create a wide dispersion of smoke or mist, allowing your light effects to be seen all the way to the back of the room. This dispersion also prevents smoke from gathering and becoming too thick in one area and too thin in another. It also makes it easier to see what's happening on stage.
Some machines have LEDs located around the mouth to illuminate the smoke directly as it comes out. This can be used to create an effect such as a flame thrower. The possibilities are endless!
These days, there are even machines that expel smoke vertically! In combination with LED technology, you can really let your imagination run wild!
Please be aware that the smoke or mist produced by these machines can sometimes set off smoke alarms. In larger venues, they often automatically send an alarm signal directly to the fire department! If that happens without good reason, you could be looking at a hefty fine.
Each machine comes with its own remote control. In some cases, it's part of the housing, but usually, you can connect it to the machine using an included cable. Some remote controls feature nothing more than a button to turn the machine on, while others offer various control options like a timer with interval, duration, output, and whether you want the fogger to run continually or not.
Other machines come with a wireless remote control, which usually offers some simple control options.
Some manufacturers offer special controllers for certain machines, which are often more robust and can be mounted in a 19-inch rack, which is especially practical for permanent installations.
DMX is an option as well, particularly for larger machines. Using DMX, you can use your lighting controller to operate all the functions of your device and easily integrate them into your light show.
What will you use the smoke machine for? It seems like a straightforward question, but the answer will greatly influence which machine you end up buying. How big or small is the room where you'll be using the machine? Will you use it as an effect during your show, or would you prefer to have it working continually in the background? These are questions you should answer first before making your decision. Here at Bax-shop, we're happy to help you make the right choice; after all, we know which machine is right for every location or application.
Important during use
There are some important things to bear in mind while using these machines. As mentioned before, some distance between the machine and the audience is essential, as the smoke being expelled is hottest at the point where it leaves the machine, and it gradually cools off a few metres away.
Smoke machines can be suspended from the ceiling or placed at an angle, but be sure you don't hang it above your audience! Unused smoke fluid is very hot and could drip from the machine nozzle onto anyone standing underneath it.
Hazers and fazers are never suspended, and it is strongly recommended not to do so. The built-in fan disperses the smoke well, but would function less effectively if the machine were suspended or placed at an angle.
When it comes to smoke fluids, there's plenty of choice. Manufacturers often guarantee their machines only work best with their own fluid, and that's sound advice. Many machines are designed specifically for a certain type of fluid.
There are three types of fluid: light, medium, and heavy. The difference between the three is simple: if you want light smoke that dissipates quickly, you'll want light fluid. If you want a longer-lasting smoke effect, then you're better off buying heavy fluid. In general, though, medium fluid tends to be most commonly used and is applicable to virtually any location.
There are also scented fluids available. This may seem unnecessary, but imagine you're in a club full of people who have been dancing and drinking all night long. Slowly but surely, the place will start to smell of perspiration and beer, so a nice fresh fragrance being expelled into the air every so often can be a godsend! Just a dash of the stuff in a full tank is enough to spread the scent of vanilla, coconut, banana, or even coffee across the room.
Tips and tricks
A simple trick that's often handy on location is the use of an external fan. Sometimes, despite the best efforts of the machine itself, the smoke can gather up in one place. This problem is solved by placing a fan near the smoke machine, which will disperse the plumes evenly. You can even get a fan that works with your DMX switch pack so you can switch it on or off as needed from a distance.
If you're unable to mount the smoke machine where you want, some manufacturers supply a special isolated hose that can be inserted in the mouth of the machine. All you have to do is aim the other end where you want your smoke effect to come out!
You can explore the relevant product categories below: