Le Maitre Special Effects, Inc., long known for innovative special effects including fog, haze, and pyrotechnics, has recently added the Radiance Haze Machine to its product line. The water-based Radiance raises the bar for hazers and is worth a closer look, especially if your service techs are fed up with cleaning oil haze residue out of equipment. The Radiance Hazer was awarded the LDI 2005 Product of the Year for Scenic and Special Effects.

What It Does

The Radiance is the next logical step in Le Maitre's line of water-based hazers that most recently featured the Neutron XS Haze Machine. It is a high-output haze unit with built-in DMX that controls both the output as well as the high-velocity internal fan. There are variable stand-alone controls on board, as well as an optional remote control unit. The combination of control offers greater haze control as well as even dispersion. The Radiance uses Le Maitre's Neutron Haze Fluid and can take either a two-liter or four-liter fluid container. End-users have commented that the unit has a surprisingly low consumption of fluid along with great hang time. It also features Le Maitre's new 4-Port Rapid Clean Vaporizer. An end-user can open up the vaporizer to clean it out and be back in service in less than 15 minutes. The hazer measures 16.125"×7"×10" (41cm × 18cm × 25cm), weighs 28lbs (12.7kg), and is rated at 110VAC 60Hz 5A.

How It Came To Be

The Radiance Hazer was designed to fulfill the needs of end-users. “We have been getting feedback and requests from customers that the Neutron was not big enough; they needed more output,” says Adrian Segeren, president of Le Maitre. “Preston Bircher, entertainment technical manager for Carnival Cruise Lines, came to me at LDI 2004, and we talked for about an hour and a half, and he was hammering me pretty good. I guaranteed him that we would have something for him in March 2005. We did. We met, and he had some more suggestions and changes, and he put more pressure on us, saying that he needed 10 units in Italy 30 days later. We met the demand; we got them to Italy on time. We had a few technical issues, and we flew somebody over to sort them out. Once they saw how they operated, they decided to change the whole fleet over.”

Another issue was that the Neutron wasn't standing up to heavy usage. “They were probably more disappointed with the actual technical performance. It just wasn't standing up to the rigors of constant use on the ships,” says Segeren. “They were happy with them; they just wanted to have more reliability.”

Another reason for going with a water-based hazer is the reaction to the backlash from oil-based hazers. “Oil has gotten a pretty bad reputation in the market and with more and more of the companies, particularly the big companies that do a lot of touring, like Feld Entertainment,” says Segeren. “The Feld maintenance department finally just said that they had to stop using oil.” Le Maitre's Neutron Haze Fluid is listed as a water-based fluid. “There is no glycol in the fluid,” continues Segeren. “We add a product called glycerol; it is a pretty safe water-based fluid. Mamma Mia was one of the first Broadway shows to put the Neutron on it, and they really love the fact that it is not oil. That was their whole reason for doing it. It got the thumbs up from Actors Equity, and everyone was very happy about it.”

Le Maitre had been working on the next generation hazer when they got to LDI two years ago. Segeren speaks about the fast track of development. “We had the idea and had been doing some testing,” he says, “but when we said go, we started December 2004, and we started shipping units August 15 of 2005. It was about eight months. That's pretty damn quick for a product. We had a lot of the building blocks in place to be able to do that. We had an electronics package that is pretty consistent. We are able to rewrite the code to control everything. The vaporizer was the most challenging, and that was what we really had to get right to make it as reliable as possible. That is where most of the time was spent. We developed the Rapid Clean technology for the Radiance. It has proven to be pretty darn good. It is easy to do on the fly — not at all complicated.”

Le Maitre recently introduced a touring package version of the Radiance. “We have come up with a touring model that has got a Versa Fan built into the road case,” says Segeren. “It is a nice, neat little package for touring. It is so simple to work with and sets up quickly. We showed this at LDI, and the customers and dealers went crazy over it.”

What's Next

There are not a lot of changes planned for the Radiance outside of some small tweaks here and there. Segeren describes the plans. “We are planning to redesign the chassis slightly, more from an assembly point of view. It hasn't got anything to do with the operations of the machine. As an assembly, we want to be able to make it a little bit simpler to put together and a little bit more service-friendly. Not that it is difficult to do right now, but we are just enhancing a couple of things.”

The Radiance is also going to be modified to integrate the Versa Fan control into the machine. “Currently, the Versa Fan has to operate separately from the Radiance,” comments Segeren. “We are going to put some internal electronics so that you can plug the Versa Fan directly into the Radiance and be able to control the fan speed of both the internal fan and the external Versa Fan at the same time.”

The base model Radiance has a list price lower that the Neutron, but Segeren doesn't see the Neutron going away anytime soon. “The Neutron will still be around for awhile. There are people that still want the Neutron technology. I think that, over time, it will phase itself out. The Radiance will override the Neutron. The best way to combat competition is to keep outdoing yourself. If you keep pushing the bar up on your own rather than waiting for the competition to do it to you, you will probably be a little further ahead.”

What End-Users Have To Say

“We have been using Le Maitre systems for several years, and the company continually exceeded our expectations in terms of the quality of products, particularly the Radiance Hazer,” says Bruce James Bandy, entertainment technical supervisor for Carnival Cruise Lines. “Carnival worked closely with Le Maitre on the design and implementation of the Radiance, field-testing the product on numerous occasions in the demanding cruise environment. Carnival stayed in constant contact with Le Maitre, advising them of the pros and cons of the product, and they made modifications accordingly to meet our specific needs. As a result of Le Maitre's willingness to work with us in developing and testing products in real-time situations, the cruise line purchased 80 units that are currently being utilized throughout the fleet.”

For additional information, visit www.lemaitrefx.com.