About 12 months ago I (Scott) was chatting with Kat Bradshaw from Kat Bradshaw photography … She was talking about her smoke machine that a friend of hers wanted to borrow. As a joke I asked to borrow it, and like the wonderful person that she is she said yes, but lets be honest the postage from Nashville Tennessee to Karlsruhe Germany would be a killer.
Not that long ago we did “The walking dead” shoot , and I thought it would be a great chance to use a smoke machine in combination with a shooting. I asked m-arx organised a rental as he “Knows someone”. The machine was amazing but way to powerful for our studio, so I started to look at what eBay had to offer.
The best deal from a reputable dealer, was a NM040 - 400 Watt Smoke Machine with 5l of fog fluid.
Heating time: circa 7 minutes
Spray distance: circa 6 meters
Fluid capacity: 0.75l
Maximum spray time: 40-50 seconds
Dimensions: (WxLxH) 132 x 242 x 102 mm
Fog Capacity: 57m³/minute
Included in the delivery : 1x 400w Smoke machine, 1x 5M trigger cable, 1x 5 leter Smoke fluid
Price: €40.00 plus €6.50 postage
According to the manufacturer
The NM040 provides a cheap start into professional working with fog machines. In spite of the robust cabinet, the weight is very low. The bracket enables you to flight this device, too. Due to the analogue technology it is very easy to put the fog machine into operation. The inbuilt components were chosen because of their durability, also during heavy-duty.
At first I thought “OHHH NO what have I bought here”. It was tiny could to do the job? I set it up in the studio and tested it a but, and was sceptical (at this point all I was thinking is where the receipt so I can send it back). Before I send it back I did want to give it a real test run (so I had something to blog about). And I’m glad I did….
I contacted Sandra J.K and asked if she would model as a “Rocker Girl” so I can test the “Fog Machine” in a real shooting environment. I tested it with different spray times, and at different heights in the studio. After a few attempts I found what worked for me. I placed the NM040 on a 2.5m light stand and placed it up high right next to a 400w Bowens Gemini monoblock (fitted with a set of barn doors and a blue gel filter). I was using a red background and the resulting colour contrast was fantastic. At this point I really go into the shoot and had a fantastic time.
For the price it’s a great accessory for the studio but you have to know how to use it and its limitation. It needs to be placed high so the smoke can fall into the photo. Using colour gels that contrast to your background will defiantly add that wow affect.
Smoke machine basics
The most common type of smoke machine takes a glycol based fluid that is pumped into a heated chamber. The normal components used are a solenoid pump to push the liquid in, and a fibreglass lagged heater block based on a sandwich of aluminium plates, a heating element and a long piece of copper capillary tubing snaked around between the heater plates. In some units the heater is tubular with the capillary tubing wound round it, but the effect is the same.
At switch on the unit will not pump liquid until the heating block has come up to the correct temperature, whereupon the pump can run and squirt the fluid into the block. When it does, the fluid evaporates very quickly and the resultant increase in pressure not only causes it to form a dense superheated vapour, but forces it out of the front of the machine via the exit port, which can be as simple as the end of the capillary tubing being poked out, or in some cases a small pinhole orifice to make sure that the internal pressure is kept high.
The resultant dense vapour exits the front of the machine and upon contact with the cool air it forms a dense cloud that is a very close relation to real fog.