Low lying fog looks so cool, especially using it for theatrical purposes. It’s so mysterious and can add extra mood to a scene. But I always thought fog would be way too hard, and way to expensive. It turns out, it’s not hard and it doesn’t have to be too expensive. All it takes is a little imagination. Fog machines are expensive, hence I’ve looked into them but never actually used one. However, you can make your own fog. This is how I make my own fog machine, it’s not actually a machine but it works just as well!
What you need
- a plastic container
- dry ice
The plastic container needs to be big enough to hold the ice and water. The size will determine how much fog will be released. Ice chests work well just be careful not to shut the lid tight, or the expanding gas can pressurize. But really you can use anything. We used a mini water feature pond that was also part of our stage. It worked perfect because then the fog came flowing our of the little pond, very cool!
This water goes in the plastic container, when you put the dry ice in the water it immediately begins turning to gas, which is the fog. I would try different temperatures of water and practice to get the effect you want.
You absolutely have to have gloves when handling dry ice. Dry ice is so cold it will actually burn your skin. It hurts VERY bad! Why do I know? Because I’ve had the privilege of trying to quickly pick up a piece of dry ice. So make sure your stagehand that is preparing the dry ice has a pair of gloves on hand.
Dry ice is actually quite common these days, because stores us it to keep food cold while shipping. Keep in mind though that not all stores carry it. You may have to ask around the local grocery stores. It’s can get expensive if you are trying to do a lot of fog. But it might still be better than buying a fog machine. It is usually around $3 a pound. Give or take because every store is different.
What to do
Put chunks of dry ice in the water. DON’T FORGET GLOVES! It really is as simple as that!
It will begin making fog and start to boil. It isn’t hot, just really cold! Sometimes if you don’t have enough water it can actually get the water so cold that it freezes the water solid. It won’t make very much fog it freezes. If it does that I would just use smaller chunks or more water.
The more dry ice you put in the water the more fog it will make. Also, doing smaller chunks will make more fog too, but it won’t last as long. I would play around with it until you get the effect you want. Be careful when you break chunks off that you don’t drop some on the floor. It can really burn your feet if you happen to stand on them with bare feet.
Low lying fog
Dry ice is cold so when it turns to a gas it creates a low fog that creeps out from the source. It looks great for giving that misty jungle fog look. But it won’t go up in the air no matter how hard you try. It will always creep to the lowest place and stay there until it dissipates. The more fog you make it will slowly fill the room up higher and higher, but it’s not good to breathe so don’t’ fill the room too much.
If you are looking for a more hazy smoke look that can rise into the air, you will need a fog machine. This uses fog juice which is heated and produces a smokey fog, although it doesn’t smell like smoke. They have them on Amazon– (this link is an affiliate link, so if you do decide to buy a fog machine I will get a small commission, but it won’t make your price go up. Don’t feel obligated to buy one either, I just want to give you options.)
Dry ice is made of CO2 so it’s not actually poisonous. However, just like anything, if you use it wrongs it can have bad effects. One being that it sinks to the floor and essentially displaces the oxygen. So as your fog is creeping across the floor and filling up the room you don’t ever want it to get as high as the audience, because there will be no oxygen. It’s also a good idea to have some ventilation. Also, beware that small children and pets are shorter and fog that wouldn’t bother an adult might be high enough to harm children and pets.
When we did fog for our play we everyone thought it was so funny to try to breathe the fog as it came out. I don’t think doing it a few times is harmful, but the ones that breathed it very hard to got headaches. We had them stop just so they wouldn’t get a lack of oxygen.
Be aware that the lowest point is usually the audience. Make sure the room is well ventilated to be on the safe side.
How to store dry ice
When you pick up your dry ice they will usually put it in a paper bag. But if you just leave your dry ice in a bag, chances are it will be completely gone by the time you get home. You have to have a cooler to keep it in or the heat will cause it to dissipate very quickly.
I used to think that the best place to store dry ice would be a freezer, It makes sense, after all dry ice is cold, wouldn’t a freezer be best? It’s not, the reason is that dry ice is actually colder than a freezer is kept. Putting it in a freezer won’t keep it longer, it might even make it melt faster because the freezer is trying to maintain its temperature. Keep it in a good ice chest this will let the dry ice help maintain it’s own temperature.
No matter how well you insulate your dry ice it will immediately begin to dissipate. Always get your ice now to long before you are going to use it. Even waiting overnight can often cause you to lose over half of your ice. You will need a new batch of ice before each performance.
Dry ice isn’t great for only making fog. It makes the yummiest root beer! If you happen to have left overs after your last performance I highly recommend making root beer for your cast party! It’s very simple. You might even want to get a little extra dry ice special for it. You might even want to make it before your performance. It might help loosen everyone up a little and get rid of those pre performance jitters!
What you’ll need
- root beer extract (amazon)
- dry ice
In the ice chest follow the directions on the root beer extract box. Add the water, sugar and extract. Mix it well. Then add the dry ice. It will begin making fog and boiling but if you close the lid part way it seems to carbonate the root beer faster. Wait ten minutes and try a little, if it’s not fizzy enough let it sit a little longer.
Give it a try
Fog can add a lot of character to a scene and if you don’t want to invest into a fog machine. Making your own might be the best thing you could do. If you have any questions let me know in the comments. Does anyone have any special experiences with dry ice? Let me know in the comments below.