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Looking for info about fog machines


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#1 Scott Fritzshall

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Posted 29 October 2006 - 02:44 AM

Next month I'm going to be shooting a project that uses steam as a major element. One scene takes place in a steam room, and other shots involve actors directly interacting with steam, sometimes touching it, and sometimes activating bursts of steam. I'm looking for recommendations about how to create the effects of the steam. I'm assuming that we will need to use a fog machine of some sort, but I'm not sure what kind.

First and foremost, it must be safe. There's a scene where steam washes across an actor's face, for instance. I can create this as a visual effect if it cannot be achieved practically, but I'd vastly prefer to do it for real. Also, in the steamroom scene, the actors and crew will be exposed to quite a bit of it, so I need to make sure that it's ok to breathe and that it won't cause allergic reactions or anything like that. I'm assuming most fog machines are safe in that respect, but there's going to be quite a lot of exposed skin in this film, and it would be pretty awful if someone broke out because of it, so I'd just like to cover my bases.

Secondly, I would like it to be controllable. Most fog machines I've seen kind of sputter out big bursts, but I would like to be able to precisely control the duration and intensity of the output. Do machines like this exist?

I don't know a whole lot about this area, so I'm not even sure if I'm asking the right questions, but if anyone has experience with dealing with fog machines or any other device that could create something passing as steam, I'd like to hear about it. One thing I'm pretty sure I don't want is a hazer- its output is way too even for what we're trying to do, and probably too thin to really register well on camera as anything other than atmosphere.

Thanks.
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#2 Hal Smith

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Posted 29 October 2006 - 03:00 AM

Next month I'm going to be shooting a project that uses steam as a major element. ..........exposed skin in this film, and it would be pretty awful if someone broke out because of it, so I'd just like to cover my bases.

Actor's Equity has a very thorough set of documents on use of foggers around actors at: http://www.actorsequ...rary.asp?cat=33 . Equity basically requires use of approved foggers with approved fluids. If you look through the documents, you'll find specific setting/duration/distance parameters for different combinations of machines and specific fluids. I haven't heard of an equivalent SAG requirement but I'm not authoritative on matters SAG.
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#3 Scott Fritzshall

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Posted 29 October 2006 - 03:27 AM

Actor's Equity has a very thorough set of documents on use of foggers around actors at: http://www.actorsequ...rary.asp?cat=33 . Equity basically requires use of approved foggers with approved fluids. If you look through the documents, you'll find specific setting/duration/distance parameters for different combinations of machines and specific fluids. I haven't heard of an equivalent SAG requirement but I'm not authoritative on matters SAG.

Thanks, I'll have to take a look at that.

I should also mention that we've got a very minimal budget, so solutions that are inexpensive are preferred.
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#4 Stuart McCammon

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Posted 29 October 2006 - 06:00 AM

Depending on where you are located, you should be able to rent a fogger cheaply and find cheap juice - in LA I would buy juice from Expendable Supply Store. The fog oil is literally that - oil - so you are going to have trouble making it look like steam. Also, with the shots you are contemplating, you will need to fool around with the rigs to get them to look and work just right, so it may make more sense for you to buy a fogger (have seen them used around $300). As far as rules, you are going to have more real-world limitations than anything - most people simply can't function that well breathing in oil for sustained periods, and on top of that fog juice really smells awful.
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#5 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 29 October 2006 - 07:52 AM

Hi,

If you're after steam, you really don't want fog machines loaded with fog fluid. There are two approaches:

- A wallpaper stripper. I've seen these used on sets for steam effects and they work fine; a little trickle. In my experience you could, if they were more than a few inches from the nozzle, happily spray it at someone with no ill effects, but obviously you'll want to test that out. There is no control over the outlet; you'd need to add a T valve and arrange to send the steam either to the set or to a dump location (obviously, you can't just valve it off)

- A fog machine loaded with deionised water. This is generally how they're cleaned and, I'm told by the people who rent them to me, won't cause any problems. The minimum safe distance will be somewhat more than for a wallpaper stripper and the steam somewhat hotter, which may make it less visible. Pushbutton releases, but as you've noted, it's not fine control.

In any circumstance you'll need to ensure that your stage is as cold as possible to make the steam condense back into water vapour as quickly as possible; if it's heated to an indoors temperature, that can be a limiting factor. True steam is invisible - the white cloud is water vapour. The last time I did this was outside, in November, in the UK, and it worked like a charm, but I've seen fog machines cleaned in a warehouse (on full blast until the tank empties) with virtually no visible effect whatsoever.

A southern california ambient temperature will not help you; turn up the A/C.

Phil
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#6 Scott Fritzshall

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Posted 29 October 2006 - 11:42 AM

The fog not looking like steam was something I was afraid of. Regular fog probably is too thick and opaque to look like steam, but I'm still worried that actual steam/haze will be too transparent. The deionized water idea is interesting, but I have no idea what our AC situation will be. We're shooting in a warehouse in Chicago at the end of November, but I don't know if we'll have any control over the temperature inside. Also, since we're going to have some actors wearing very little, I'd prefer not to intentionally make it cold.

I'll look into the wallpaper stripper idea. We might need to use two different machines- one for the environmental effect in the steam room, and another for the interactive steam. I liked some of those "low foggers" in Hal's link, we might be able to make use of something like that, but I've got a feeling it would be way out of our budget. I'm anticipating having a total production budget of ~$1,500. We might end up with more, but for now I'm assuming that we won't, and I'd like to think small.
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#7 Dan Salzmann

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Posted 29 October 2006 - 12:51 PM

Is dry ice an option?
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#8 Scott Fritzshall

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Posted 29 October 2006 - 01:16 PM

Is dry ice an option?

Conceivably, but doesn't dry ice tend to hang low to the ground most of the time? That would work for one or two shots, but for most of them we need out "steam" to be very light.
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#9 Hal Smith

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Posted 29 October 2006 - 03:30 PM

I liked some of those "low foggers" in Hal's link, we might be able to make use of something like that, but I've got a feeling it would be way out of our budget.

I've seen people improvise pretty decent low foggers by running a standard fogger's output hose into a 25 gallon or so plastic drum or trash can with dry ice in it, and constructing an outlet hose spigot about a foot off the ground.

An additional thought: a fog filter on the camera might help to increase the overall "steamy" look. If I were to use my Harrison set, I'd start testing with a #3.
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#10 Luke Allein

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Posted 29 October 2006 - 04:43 PM

HURRY UP before Halloween is over, you can get a pretty damn good fog machine WITH a timer/remote switch from Party City or any Halloween store in town right now. (I was in Party City last night waiting in line for three goddamn hours trying to get a mask for a halloween party, so I had ample time to check them out.)

A friend of mine picked one up from Wal Mart earlier this month for only $14 and used it on his project, it looked really friggin good. They sell all the fog fluid that's totally safe and non toxic. Check it out, you probably only have a couple more days. You could probably even buy a few of them with remotes and keep em' forever for well under $100.

Did I mention "hurry"?
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#11 Stuart McCammon

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Posted 29 October 2006 - 06:08 PM

Here is an idea for your steam shooting out of something shot (forget what you said you wanted it to shoot out of)

Rig up:

1) A tank of compressed air - very cheap at any scuba shop.
2) Plumb the comressed air into some sort of a "Y" - use the same principle as an ordinary garden sprayer from Home Depot - the vacuum created by the compressed air rushing by draws fog into the "Y"
3) Rig a sturdy, airtight reservoir (a 5-gallon paint bucket or a bigger garbage can maybe?), fill it with fog and attach it to the "Y"
4) rig a valve to the line out and plumb it to whatever you want to shoot steam out of

The compressed air will do two things, it will make the "steam" shoot out with force, and it will thin the fog out and make it look more like steam.

Not sure if that is the best way to achieve your goal, but it is a thought)
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#12 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 29 October 2006 - 07:54 PM

Hi,

You need to be a bit careful sending smoke or steam through any lengthy series of pipework; until it's all warmed up to the same temperature as the steam (which will require you to pass a lot of steam through it first). If you don't do this, you won't get any visible effect out the far end, just intermittent dribbles of water and an ichorous sticky oil which stains everything and is hard to clean up. This is an issue for both hot and cold steam/fog effects which have to get the pipework up/down to temperature by exhausting a lot of effect before the take.

If you want valves, and to do what I think you want, you do, they need to be very close to the exit point.

If it's coming through a hole in the set, couldn't you just have someone wave the nozzle past the hole from the outside to get a brief blast?

Phil
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#13 Phil Connolly

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Posted 30 October 2006 - 12:01 PM

You could use a party fogger, but generally the fog is quite dense and lumpy looking.

I used one on a short last year and it was ok but not very even. Maybe a combination of a fog filter and a small amount of smoke from a party fogger to give it a bit of depth. Also wafting the smoke through a desk fan also helps even it out. Its not a perfect substitute to steam, but maybe workable with the right filtration and lighting

But there not expensive, I got one for less than $20 , so you could get one and shoot tests.

The attached still shows some of the 'issues' :D I had with trying to get smoke look even

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