by Jason Roland, Lighting Designer
For the last two years I’ve used many of the leading brands of haze and smoke products. When it came time to purchase something for my own business, I wanted to know if there might be a better product on the market to suit my needs. Initially, Nathan Kahn of Look Solutions USA Ltd (formerly of Theatre Effects) contacted me on the Light Network (www.lightnetwork.com – a great site to visit if you’re not already aware of it.) He had seen my posts about the concerns I’ve had with these units and offered to send a demo unit of the Unique for my review. He assured me I’d be quite happy with its quality. I can be as cynical as they come, so this was something I had to see for myself.
Why All the Fuss?
As any lighting professional knows, a good haze is rather important when it comes to creating the proper atmosphere. There are many brands out there, some big names and others not so well known inside the USA. Look Solutions falls into this category, primarily because their US office has been open a scant two years. The machines are manufactured in Germany and outside of North America they are a more recognizable name. They are sold in North America through the Waynesboro, PA-based distributor. As you’ll soon read, Look Solutions has come up with some innovative features. These features set their machine apart from others and I feel warrant a deeper look.
The machine runs on 120 volts and has a 1300-watt heating element. It has onboard DMX as well as analog and stand-alone control. A timer remote is sold separately. It offers a bright LED display. While other manufacturers seem to have an obsession with thumb click wheels or dip switches that are difficult to see in the dark, Look Solutions has made this system of control very easy to see and understand. Simply put, you can control the fan and pump in steps of 0-99 from the display. You can also set the DMX address and switch between modes. The machine will remember your settings when you turn it off. Another very cool feature is a warm-up time of less than 1 minute.
Let’s talk about that digital display. Why can’t every manufacturer do this? It’s simple and easy. You can easily turn on and off the machine and adjust its output. Trust me; you’ll need to adjust the output too. Do not even think of running the machine at its full setting. It’s more like a fog machine than a hazer at that point. In the large ballroom I was in, we ran the pump on a setting of 12 and the fan at full. Another interesting feature is that the tank is held in a bracket on the back of the machine and it features a quick-release coupler. This makes it ideal for changing tanks mid-show or for travel, as you can release the fill tube and cap the tank so there are no leaks.
Now for the truly good stuff. Did I say it takes less than one minute to warm up? Right in the middle of my gig, one of the banquet servers decided to take it upon himself to unplug the hazer. I did not realize it until, strangely enough, all of a sudden there was no haze in the room. It was right before one of our main acts was to go on. Had this been virtually any other haze machine, five or 10 minutes might have passed before I could get it up and running. I plugged it in and within a minute it was hazing the room again. That alone is worth the price of the machine.
Will it Clog?
To be a bit diplomatic, I’d like to point out nicely that I’ve seen my share of machines clog up. Okay, I fess up; I cursed at those machines and still do. No matter how much you clean them, they can clog. In some cases, it is the design of the machine that is to blame. I know of one company who claims that their machine only needs to be cleaned after using a specific amount of fluid. In my personal experience, the machine needs to be cleaned weekly in order to run correctly. Look Solutions spec sheet says that this machine never needs cleaning. I must admit, I did not run the machine long enough to test this. I have, however, talked with a few others who own a Unique; they have reported no clogging after heavy and repeated use. If you look at the heating tube of the Unique you’ll see that the coil is larger in diameter than most. You’ll also notice that more air is pumped thru the coil. When the machine is shut down, air continues to be fed thru the coil to purge it. It also has a cleaning cycle that it runs as it operates. My personal feeling is that the larger diameter tube and added air flow is what allows their claim to hold true.
Finally, I’d like to mention a note about support. No matter what product you buy, it’s only as good as the folks who stand behind it. I’ve had great e-mail support from Nathan and the guys at Look Solutions. They have answered every question I’ve come up with. I’ve known Nathan from his time at Theatre Effects and he has always gone above and beyond.
There you have it; the Unique Hazer puts out a tremendous amount of haze, it warms up very quickly and the LED display is easy to read and easy to operate. I’ve told it like it is and now I invite you to contact Look Solutions and get a demo unit for yourself. Try it side by side with whatever hazer or fogger you use now. I’d be willing to bet you’ll want one of your own after a few days. As a side note, when you do request your demo, you might want to demo the Unqiue2. They have already redesigned and updated the Unique to include a built in timer and several other upgrades.
All text and photos copyright Jason Roland. May not be reproduced without written permission
(This review was printed in the Road Test section of the July issue of PLSN magazine)