The 7 Best Fog Machines
7. American DJ Storm
6. Chauvet Hurricane
5. Theefun Portable
4. ADJ Mister Kool II
3. 1byone 550ml
2. Fansteck Professional Machine
1. ADJ Products Fury Jett
There's Something In The Fog!
If you recognize that headline from John Carpenter's 1980 horror classic, The Fog, then we can be friends. There's a good chance that no other film in the history of cinema created quite as much fog as this one, except, perhaps, the redux of Apocalypse Now.
Fog is associated with a lot of scary stuff. You see it floating ominously around cemeteries and church yards, hovering over seemingly haunted ponds and forests. In Los Angeles, they have smog, which is more scientifically frightening than culturally scary.
That said, fog can also create a great atmosphere for light shows and dances. The waves from bulbs and lasers alike reflect off the fog's particles and let you see the beam as it transverses the space. This is thanks to a phenomenon called Rayleigh scattering, which is the same reason that the sky looks blue and that the sun looks redder as it sets, as our atmosphere scatters certain wavelengths of light from the sun.
While most fog in nature consists of the same water vapor that condenses to the clouds in the sky, fog out of a fog machine is a mixture of water and another element, usually glycerin or a mineral oil. The added material keeps the fog from rising too quickly or dissipating too effectively. In other words, it makes the fog hang around longer.
A fog machine pumps that water mixture through a heat exchanger, which vaporizes the mixture and releases it all in one fell swoop. That exchanger needs to reach a certain temperature to be effective, and pushing the mixture through it causes it to cool down, requiring a kind of recharging process between lengthy emissions.
Operating Above The Ideal
The units on our list are all pump-based, heat exchanging fog machines, a category into which most fog machines on the market fall. They create a fog that will likely rise in any room temperature environment. If the dance hall is particularly hot from all the popping and locking on the dance floor, the fog might hang around longer and lower.
That's because fog obeys the same thermodynamic laws as air does–though this time applied to ideal gases, and if the fog is hotter than the air in the room, it will rise. Some fog machines work with dry ice and other materials to create a low-lying fog, but they tend to be prohibitively expensive, especially when you can make a simple fog chiller to compliment your fog machine with a box, some ice, and a fan.
Looking at this great selection of foggers, there some variables that will help guide you toward the perfect choice for your purposes. If you're using the fogger for its most traditional purpose, to enhance the spookiness or mystery of a given space, knowledge of the space is paramount. Take note of each fog machine's capacity and recharge times. If the space is too big and the fog machine too small, or too slow to recharge, you could lose precious fog density when you need it most.
For a live music venue, this is even more important, and you'll likely want to invest in multiple machines, in which case price could considerably become an obstacle. Fortunately, there are some very well-performing budget-friendly options on our list in addition to the higher-end models.
Either way, make sure you also take a look at the wattage of each unit. If you're running multiple machines at once, you're going to want to run them on separate circuits so that they don't blow a fuse.
Controlling The Weather
It isn't easy for man to have a fast and specific effect on his local weather, although the Beijing Weather Modification Office does its best.
I once stayed in a pair of adjoined hotel rooms in Florida with some friends. We had one of those inner sets of doors connecting the two rooms that usually remain locked. We turned the air conditioning all the way up in one of the rooms and the heat all the way up in the other. In the hot room, we also ran the shower on hot until a thick mist filled the space.
When the one room was sufficiently dry and frozen, filled with low pressure air, and the other was steaming hot like a sauna of high pressure air, we violently swung the connecting doors open, hoping to create a small thunderstorm where the pressure systems met. Nothing happened.
Reaching back at least to Elizabethan England, the players at the Globe Theater, where Shakespeare's plays debuted, reportedly used smoke from small controlled fires to create a spooky effect in appropriate scenes like those of the three sisters in Macbeth or Hamlet's visitations from his father.
It wouldn't be until the early 20th century, as air conditioning became a more common application, that the technology of refrigeration would lead to the harnessing of flash-evaporated gasses.
The exact inventor of the fog machine is a disputed fact, but I think if he or she were to make themselves known, we'd have a lot of gratitude to send them.