Lords Of The Smoke Rings

Look Solutions played a major role in providing atmosphere for the London production of Lord of the Rings, currently playing at London’s Drury Lane Theatre. Almost the entire range of Look Solutions smoke machine products are employed in a highly complex and closely controlled network of smoke production, from the 9000W Orka to the newly released Tiny F07 battery operated fogger.

Michael Walton, associate effects designer, explains, “The complexity of the set, which is divided into 17 elevator sections on the revolve alone, meant we needed something adaptable with very accurate control and the ability to perform very different functions. Effects designer Greg Meeh used Look Solutions smoke machines in several of his recent shows and knew they would be ideal for Lord of the Rings.”

The design is predominantly arranged around six Look Solutions Viper 2.6 smoke generators, paired with Le Maitre LSG MKII chiller units, evenly spaced around the substage and divided further into three or four outputs on each unit. These were then ducted out to eight floor pop-ups as well as ten actuators substage, augmented by in-line air movers. Using DMX controlled electronic regulators, the air movers could be controlled with precision, governing direction and quantity of smoke released according to the needs of the effect.

“This arrangement gave us beautiful coverage within seconds and we could control the height of the smoke from ankle to knee height,” continues Walton. “Non-chilled, we could use the Vipers to create lots of different looks like forming a rising fog around the lifts, softening the hard edges within the set or creating a swampy feel. It really did give us an incredible amount of control.”

Two free-standing Viper 2.6 units were located in the substage near the center stage lift for uses ranging from “fires” under the stage to dramatic actor entrances. “We try to be sensitive to the actors and installed fans to keep the worst of the smoke out of their faces. Similarly we placed a dozen fans along the pit rail to keep the majority of the smoke from engulfing the orchestra,” explains Walton. Look Solutions smoke fluids are glycol based so any health and safety issues are minimal. Onstage there are a total of two large Orka generators and eight Viper NTs, all of which are rigged on the lighting ladders and booms.

“The Orkas are furthest upstage, rigged about twelve feet in the air alongside two Real Effects RE3 fans, providing dense atmosphere and are great at filling the upper half of the stage rapidly to conceal scene changes. During the appearance of Balrog, the Orkas are set to full, along with two Viper NTs rigged at shin height on the downstage left and right booms. The smoke, along with black confetti, is blown into two 20hp fans and the whole auditorium is filled in approximately ten seconds. It’s a great mess, Walton notes.

The remaining six Viper NTs are used throughout the show on varying levels to create general atmosphere or to provide “burst cues,” small to very large puffs of smoke center stage to create the effect of a cloud floating by or interesting swirl effects.

The show also marks the first ever use of the new battery operated Tiny F07,concealed in a thurible at the Council of Elronde to provide the effect of burning incense. “The Tiny Fogger is operated by the actor who swings it, concealed in a wicker ball on a rope. We were concerned that this motion might create air bubbles in the fluid line and cause problems with the smoke production. However, this was definitely not the case and the Tiny F07 has proved very reliable and consistent,” explains Walton.

All the smoke effects were programmed by Walton using a grandMA Ultralight, making full use of the onboard DMX control within the Look Solutions range.

“We were constantly impressed by the accuracy of the Look Solutions machines,” states Walton. “From the smallest most subtle effect, to the largest and most dramatic, they were completely reliable and easy to use.”

All Look Solutions equipment was provided in the UK by White Light Ltd.

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