Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois is presenting the play The Women of Lockerbie, Deborah Brevoort's modern tragedy, set seven years after the crash of Pan Am flight 103 in Scotland, featuring atmospheric effects created by its new DMX Viper NT fog generator from Look Solutions.
The compact yet powerful Viper NT is used in a very unique way in the Philip Lynch Theatre, an intimate thrust stage space where the audience is in close proximity to the action.
“There was a lot of discussion early on regarding the subtlety of the fog effects that were going to be used for much of the show,” notes lighting and special effects designer Jason Reberski of Reberski Lighting Design who recommended the Viper based on his previous experience with the device.
“The scenic design was done by Harold McCay who is the technical director of the theatre. His abstract, expressionistic set is an amalgamation of Scottish hills and the ruins of Greek theatres.
“There were many opportunities for introducing fog on stage with this set,” Reberski continues. “I originally intended to use modified floor drains as fog vents, but they were far too visible in this space. Harold decided to use a very porous burlap fabric, which he painted and textured, for the fascia of the platforms that comprised the set. As the set was being constructed, I realized that the burlap was so porous that air could actually be moved through it. A light bulb went on in my head instantly. What if the fog was introduced under the set through various manifolds, splitting the output of the tubing in six different directions and finally emerging through the burlap? The fog would empty out of the tubing in these six different locations under the set just behind the burlap fascia thus allowing the burlap to diffuse the fog.”
So Reberski devised a system in which the fog is drawn from the Viper into a large accumulator ‘stuffer’ box by a 134 CFM centrifugal blower. The box acts as a plenum for the fog and air, giving the fog time to expand. After the blower pressurizes the smoke, it sends it into a manifold and through over 50 feet of four-inch ducting under the stage. After passing through several more manifolds, it exits through porous burlap fascia on the front of every raked platform.
“The introduction of the effect is very subtle and even with no ‘point sources.’ I like to think of it as a ‘scrim’ for fog effects,” Reberski observes. “We’re using Look Solutions Quick-Fog fluid because the effect had to dissipate immediately, and it works wonderfully.”
Other key aspects of the Viper NT are its quiet operation and control. “The Viper uses no formal constricting orifice nozzle and relies on the pressure of the pump instead, so the ‘hiss’ sound is greatly diminished,” says Reberski. “I knew that the Viper NT was not only extremely powerful, but also very controllable in the lower-output percentage range. As a matter of fact, most of the control is in the lower end of the range where it’s needed most: Very rarely do designers use fog effects at or even near their maximum output. My previous experience with the Viper NT told me that it was the obvious choice for this production requiring fine-output control.”
Reberski and his team were waiting for the university’s new Viper NT to be delivered when it just happened to arrive 20 minutes before a rehearsal. “I gave it DMX, Quick- Fog fluid, and power, and within 10 minutes we had updated the cues and were using the machine for the show,” he recalls.
According to Reberski, “The Viper NT was the perfect machine for this application. Its incredible controllability, low-noise level, choice of fluids, and onboard DMX made it the obvious choice for the production.”