15 Successful Years of Bringing German Engineering and High-Quality Manufacturing to the U.S. Market
The funny thing about atmospheric products in the American market (Fog, Haze, Cryo) is that there exists a small number of companies that do it really well, and every]one raves about their products and reliability. Maybe most important of all, allowing their name to be associated with their product. You know, reviews and commentary that are overwhelmingly positive — when customers are saying things out loud like “we only had to run them at half to equal the competition,” “I use them on every tour I do,” and “essential tool for this production,” you know you have something special. This is what I have known about Look Solutions USA.
My first actual purchase of a hazer was one of the Look Solutions Unique 2 hazers, back in 2005 while at the University of Texas at Arlington. Anyone who knows me well knows that I sure like the haze when it comes to my lighting designs, and research into the matter of buying a hazer for the lighting department turned me on to the Unique 2. There have since been upgrades to that product, the Unique 2.1, but the unit I bought back in 2005 was several things: quiet, reliable, light on maintenance, and had massive output. Sure, you must maintain your gear and make sure that it’s kept in working order, but I was at a university; with that particular environment comes too many things that have to be done in too little time, and maintenance on your gear might not be performed as often as you intend.
Flat out, I found that regardless of how little I serviced that Unique hazer, it always ran smoothly, it always made great hanging haze that was consistent, and the one unit I could afford in my budget was never down or malfunctioning.
Downtime? Nein Danke
“Look Solutions USA brings products built with the German engineering ethic of high quality manufacturing and high grade components,” says Nathan Kahn, president of Look Solutions USA. “There’s a synergy of dedication, cost, and materials that Look Solutions products have maintained for more than 20 years of successful customer satisfaction and reputation.” That strategy has worked, because Look Solutions’ products are used in the gamut of entertainment genres, from television and film to theatrical, concert, and corporate production. Look Solutions products are also used in several military applications as well, providing simulation and training environments for the 21st century; in airflow applications for civil engineering and HVAC testing; and other departures from the entertainment industry.
“We’re always developing advancements to our products to exceed our customer demands,” says Kahn. “One thing that our particular customer base all have in common is that downtime is a killer, and we design our products to fit that model — no downtime. Downtime, for most of our customers, is more expensive than the cost of the machine, so we combine the best possible engineering with the most reliable materials and manufacturing to make sure that we provide that assurance for them.”
Nathan Kahn opened Look Solutions USA in 2004 dedicated to nothing but Look Solutions products and service. “I’m the former owner of Theatre Effects; we specialized in all products atmospheric and effect-based,” says Kahn. “With all of the various brands and competing products, I felt a little stagnant, and wanted to focus in on a winner. I happened to see the Look Solutions products at a PLASA show in 1998, and I was taken by the offerings. After some talking and negotiations, I decided to sell Theatre FX and open Look Solutions USA to focus solely on Look Solutions products in the American market.” Look Solutions has been in business for more than 20 years, and this is the 15th year for Look Solutions USA.
Tiny Fogger and Viper NT
Look Solutions products are industry-renowned for their energy efficiency, small size, high performance, and superior reliability, which in this game is paramount to successful atmospheric product lines. The developers of Look Solutions created a game-changing fogger called the Tiny Fogger, which is a very compact, handheld battery-operated fogger that has made huge inroads to the film and broadcast industries. “Fog machines consume a lot of heat and power, and that can limit where and how they are incorporated into film and broadcast sets alike,” states Kahn. “Most foggers have what boils down to a heater block that stores heat, and there is a heat up process that costs time and energy. As you operate the fogger, that heat is lost in the transfer, and the unit has to bring the heat back up, costing more time and energy,” Kahn explains. “Our Tiny Foggers give you a practically instantaneous warmup time and provide Fog On Demand for whatever application you need, using the least amount of fluid possible.” No one has been able to replicate this technology, which has led to major recognition for Look Solutions USA.
The Look Solutions team and the two Tiny Fogger inventors, Jörg Pöhler and Rüdiger Kleinke, were awarded a Technical Achievement Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2008. The Technical Achievement Award is granted to a very small number of scientific and technical advancements that demonstrated a proven record of contributing significant value to the process of making motion pictures. Their work was one of 10 scientific and technical achievements honored by the Academy in 2008. Twenty-five submissions for awards were made to the committee that year, and if you view the list of nominations, the scientific, technical, and just downright innovative offerings are major advancements each in their own right. “We were delighted to be given such an honor,” beams Kahn. “Providing the industry with a product that is recognized for offering the industry with convenience, value, and authentic fog and smoke effects is something we take pride in and pushes us to develop. Our mission is innovating all aspects of atmospheric products and making ours the best way they can possibly be made.”
Look USA has a bevy of very popular products in their line, and with that popularity comes an interesting challenge: to make products that not only last, but that can be improved upon — which can be a challenge in the best way. “One of our most popular items is the Viper NT fog machine,” states Kahn. “That product has had very little development in about 15 years because, when it was made, it was created to the absolute highest possible standards we could achieve, and the product has performed and continues to perform admirably.” To date, Look Solutions atmospheric products don’t require any kind of real regular cleaning or maintenance routine like a lot of their competition, and they’re designed so that the vaporizer will not clog as long as the proper fluid is pushed through it.
The team at Look Solutions continues to make innovations to their products that revolutionize the industry. Each Look product at its core is controlled by a programmable microprocessor. Many of the products have firmware that can be updated and upgraded as changes are made and technological improvements are created. The company has also kept up with protocol integration — several products have Art-Net capabilities and Remote Device Management (RDM) control for maximum production control and utilization.
One of my favorite products from Look is the Cobra 1.8 Fog Generator — touchscreen interface, RDM and Art-Net capable, and is fitted with what Look Solutions calls a sound reducer, taking the level of generated noise to 82.5 dBA when at full volume of fog. Compare that to 100.5 dBA from its 2600W product at full volume, and you’re comparing the sound of a dishwasher with the sound of a jet engine. This is just another innovation made by the company to revolutionize the products and the way they’re made to best suit the customer. The Cobra 1.8 is also controlled by two pumps, a feature I found interesting due to its usage; the two pumps used on the Cobra 1.8 allow for a constant, consistent fog volume at any percentage because the two pumps split the work. The first pump controls volume from 0 to 30 percent, and a more powerful pump takes over at 31 to 100 percent to keep that consistent flow going at any level. This design also allows for less wear and tear on the pumps themselves, using the right configuration of engineering, components, and manufacturing — this is the Look Solutions way.
The company has roots in Maryland, where the original Look Solutions USA office was opened. Today, there is a main distribution center in Wilmington, NC, and a service center in Littlestown, PA. The New Jersey office, in Marlboro, NJ, conducts the main business for the company. “One of the reasons that we’re spread across the East Coast is that I like to keep my employees happy,” says Kahn. “We’ve got employees who love being in North Carolina, who hate the cold, and then we’ve got the Pennsylvanian and New Jersey employees who love living there. I like to take care of my people — and happy employees are all part of the Look Solutions strategy.”
I had to go back and look at the upgrades to my favored Unique 2.0 hazer, found in the Unique 2.1 product — the one upgrade to the product since the mid 2000’s — just to see the innovations that were implemented since buying my first Unique unit. Keep in mind that this Unique 2 in my inventory was a workhorse, and I can be admittedly heavy handed with haze concentration. Right at the top of the list is a 60-second warmup time, so by the time you’ve made your way back to the console, the thing is ready. There’s also a more efficient fan and an upgrade called the Haze Density Control System, or HDCS, which gives you control over consistent output dependent on your room size, and you can program a profile into the unit. Look Solutions also says that one two-liter container of Unique fluid gives you 50 hours of continuous output.
I’d recommend checking out the Unique 2.1, the Viper NT, and the whole range of battery-powered on-demand Tiny foggers (one second warm-up time!). There are foggers and hazers for every size of venue and application on the Look Solutions website at www.lookfog2.com. I highly recommend giving Look Solutions USA a look, no pun intended.