Smoke or Haze? What's right for you.

We are often asked what the difference is between Haze, Smoke and Low fog, machines are. So, we we've made this guide to explain what the key differences are & which machine you should use to create the effect you want for your arena. 
001 smoke machine
So, what even is the difference?
Smoke Effect:

You’ve likely seen it in plays or musicals, clubs and shows. It looks like thick white smoke and can be hard to see through. It billows, and expands outwards overtime, in a similar fashion to natural smoke. Smoke effects are ideal, for spooky effects, impacting events and to add flair!

Low Fog Effect:

These produce a thick, opaque fog that remains close to the ground to create a 'walking on air' effect. A low fog machine usually creates an intense burst of fog rather than a subtler diffusion, like a hazer. Generally, the effect of a low fog is similar to that of a smoke machine, ideal for creating a mood/impact

Haze Effect:

Is less commonly used and most people do not know it is available as an option. Unlike the smoke effect, Haze is virtually see-through in normal situations. It is mainly used to illuminate light beams and laser beams as they pass through the Haze, which greatly enhances their effect. Haze, can be water or oil-based.

Before we delve into the nuts and bolts, let's look at the terminology, Fog Effect is the generic term that describes the equipment that puts tiny moisture droplets into the air, these droplets reflect the light in Laser beams, and sometypes of other lighting allowing the beams to become visible. So Fog effects, encompasses all of the above types of machines!

Without one of these types of machines, the players will only see the endpoint of the laser where it makes contact with an object. Same goes for your effect lighting, a lot of the wow factor will be lost without those reflections. For your guests, the excitement of seeing a laser beam whiz by while they are playing, certainly adds a different dimension to the game, especially for the younger players. 

Smoke effects:

The Smoke machine emits a thick white (or coloured if desired) smoke that is hard to see through. Smoke "juice" is made up of a mixture of pharmaceutical-grade propylene glycol, triethylene glycol, and distilled water. There are variations between fluids of heavier/lighter juices, and even flavoured ones!

Now before you ask, these products have been proven safe at normal levels, but they do come with some disadvantages.
Let's go through these now:

  1. Residue: Smoke machines tend to leave an oily residue on your props, walls, and cause the carpet to become slippery. The use of glycol-based fog fluid will require regular cleaning of the arena.
  2. Heavier than air: Smoke mist is heavier than air so it tends to settle towards the bottom of the arena. Additional electric fans will need to be installed to ensure proper circulation. As well as to keep the smoke in useful areas to highlight beams
  3. Reactions: More guests tend to complain over large scale use of smoke due to them assuming health concerns
  4. Poor Visibility: As with normal fog at night, smoke machines can impair a player’s ability to see other guests  arena obstacles causing the potential for injury.
  5. Cost: smoke mist will dissipate relatively quickly so the use of its consumable fluid will be costly.
  6. Machines: Smoke machines tend to burn out faster than water-based haze machines, due to the oil (gycol) in the mix.

The thick smoke creates an incredible effect, to enhance props, immersing a player who has attacked a base. So we believe 
smoke can be used very effectively within Laser Tag arenas, but more as an irregular short term effect/highlight. The smoke machine should be triggered by special game events via automation within your Laser Tag software, and used sparingly.

Low Fog Effects:

A low fog machine (similar to dry ice machines) produces a thick, opaque fog that remains close to the ground to create a ‘walking on air’ effect. Low Fog machines create this effect by cooling fluid to liquid particles. A low fog machine usually creates an intense burst of fog rather than a subtler diffusion, like a hazer.

The effect of a low fogger is similar to that of a smoke machine– they are both designed to create a visual effect / impact, whereas a haze machine is designed to emphasize other effects such as lighting beams or lasers.

There are two main types of low fog machines,

  1. Dry Ice machines - this uses solid dry ice and water. It is a simpler method but does not have the length of run time as the cryogenic machine.
  2. A cryogenic machine – this uses a liquid such as liquid CO2 gas and has a longer-lasting effect.

Both of these machines, create a low billowing mist along the ground, completely obscuring the ground. Now because of this, these machine aren't ideal for Laser Tag, as Laser beams are generally fired from waste height, and effect lights from the roof. Obscuring the ground is of course a safety risk for players.

So unless you're using them to highlight a particular prop we would suggest you avoid these machines.

Haze effects:

Haze machines are similar to smoke machines in that they use a solution to disperse moisture droplets into the arena. However, they use different fluid solutions and different mechanical methods to create the Haze effect. They also have the ability to use water based juice as well as oil based fluids. These variations allow haze machines to produce a smaller droplet size, in which the main purpose is to illuminate laser and light beams.

The side effect of these smaller droplets is the haze isn't very visible to the eye. Most operators will disperse haze into the arena for a large proportion of each game, if not the entire game.

Here are the main characteristics of the Haze Effect:

  1. Visibility: The haze created generates transparent droplets that do not impact the player’s ability to see other guests thereby reducing the risk of injury, while still giving the desired effect.
  2. Cost: Haze has a similar density to the surrounding air which allows it to circulate easier and not dissipate as quickly. This density also means you don't need to put as much thought into fans/circulation to keep the Haze in the right place. 
  3. Guest Experience: Most guests enjoy a game experience with a haze over the thick smoke effect for the general arena.
  4. Cost: Haze is a more cost-effective solution for the arena, with the fluid being considerably less expensive.

Both Haze, and Smoke Machines have a good application in a traditional laser tag arena. Low fog however, should be avoided.
If you stick to using smoke machines for your theatrical effects, for example when bases are attacked, or prop actions and haze to make the laser and light beams visible, you will enhance the game experience without overwhelming the guests or your staff.

If you wish to implement only one type of machine, the Haze machine will likely be appreciated the most by your guests. This will also be the most cost-effective option.

While we are discussing costs, it is worth mentioning that not all fog machines are created equal. There is a big difference between the cheaper versions and the professional-grade machines. If you want a quality and reliable performance, make sure you go for the latter. This does not necessarily mean that you need to pay more, but you will definitely get better value for money. Professional-grade machines usually have a continual automatic cycle, meaning that they can operate continually, without needing to stop.

These are also not set and forget devices. They need regular cleaning, to keep them functioning. In reality, you should almost consider these devices as expendable goods with a life time of 1-2 Years, as no matter how many times you ask your staff to give it a full clean sometimes it will get missed!

Hopefully this guide assists you in your choice. If you've got more questions reach out and one of our team can discuss the right machine for you, what in house solutions we have, and how they can be automated within our system.