Zenaide is back with another entry in Cosplay of the Multiverse. This week, she chats with an expert in fog machines and cosplay wizardry.

A fantasy game like Magic: the Gathering presents cosplayers with a cornucopia of options to incorporate magic into their interpretation of costumes and props. Take a leading planeswalker like Chandra: flaming hair, chainmail suit, fireballs igniting from her hands and armor with industrial piping. Which elements can be realistically portrayed? Can elements be comfortably wearable while inside a secure convention building? What special effects can be included to match the aesthetic? These are the everyday questions many cosplayers tackle in their own unique ways.

I am introducing someone who’s show-stopping effects bring characters like Chandra and Elspeth to life. We will go in depth with some of her cosplays featuring self-built fog machines to give you a clear view into this aspect of the cosplay world. Introducing Arielle, from Air Bubbles Cosplay!

Photography by Soul Studios, @gfxsoulstudios on Instagram.

A Courtship with Chandra

You most likely recognize Arielle as some version of Chandra. With a background in theatre and costume design, Chandra was Air Bubble’s first Magic character to cosplay back in 2014, and has become a cognate character in her cosplay repertoire. Arielle has made six different Chandra builds thus far, five for herself and one designed for Japanese professional shogi player Manao Kagawa. She’s had the opportunity to wear Chandra at San Diego Comic Con with Wizards of the Coast in 2019 and also appears as a pyromaster at Magic Fests with Channel Fireball. Her completed iterations include Chandra Pyromaster, pre-spark Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh, Amonkhet Chandra and Chandra, Torch of Defiance.

Chandra, Torch of Defiance by Magali Villeneuve

Even though Chandra’s costume within each card art has changed and evolved over time from artist to artist, Arielle’s favorite is Chandra, Torch of Defiance by Magali Villeneuve, soon to be reprinted in the newly announced Chandra Spellbook: “The aesthetic matches her hometown, it’s very beautiful and she still looks like a badass. I also like that she is wearing pants!” The plane of Kaladesh is covered with opulent accents of gold filligree; the same can be found on Chandra’s pauldrons (shoulder armor) and faulds (hip plates).

Photography by AntTree Studio.

As her costume has evolved with the art from wearing a chainmail turtleneck to a scalemail body suit, so to did her special effects—Arielle’s setup now includes fog machines integrated into a couple of constructed builds.

Smoke & Mirrors

Arielle is very proud of her first fog machine, as she made it removable to be able to place in different cosplays and has used it in multiple Chandras and a Destiny cosplay. It uses a wireless remote, which she says requires a lot of math. She admits she also complicated it by putting two machines on one circuit, requiring additional converters. However, the machine uses a huge battery to support it and allows her to run it constantly at events—children love seeing the smoke effect! She now has made more compact versions and has enjoyed perfecting them.

Photography by Journeys In Color.

The components used to make a fog machine need to be small enough to wear, wire-in and work seamlessly with the cosplay. You can buy pre-made fog machines finished with a fancy casing at a cost, but Arielle prefers to make her own from scratch.

The materials come from some odd but everyday materials:

  • Soldering Iron and Solder
  • Cartomizer (part of a vaporizer)
  • Air Pump for Fish Tank
  • Battery
  • Small Board
  • Switch
  • Small Plastic Tubing
  • Fog Liuid

Understanding math and physics will greatly aid you in most electrical work. Here’s a quick breakdown in the most simplistic terms of how to make a fog machine size-worthy and powerful enough to last all day at an event:

First power is needed to generate energy to the cartomizer, which heats the liquid into the fog. You do this by running a positive charge to the center chamber of the cartomizer and negative charge through a small drilled hole on the outside, followed by soldering them together. The cartomizer is very smooth and sometimes needs to be roughed up in order to get the soldering to stick. Most tutorials say this “sticking” step is the hardest part of making the fog machine.

Second, connect the air pump to the cartomizer with the small plastic tubing, ensuring the seal is airtight. Most will use hot glue or thermoplastics to achieve this air seal. Third, complete the electrical circuit by running the wires to the battery and switch for power. Following completion of the circuit, fill your chamber with fog liquid before use.

Fog Machine Tips:

  • Installing a switch gives you the ability to control the direction of flow.
  • Wait for 15 minutes after filling for the coils to be properly soaked with fluid.
  • Align your coils in accordance with the gravity positioning of your fog machine for optimal length of use. (Yes, more common sense physics here.)

In this day and age, the internet makes a lot of things accessible for building cosplay contraptions such as fog machines. Arielle recommends checking out batteries and JST connectors from adafruit.com; she uses a rechargeable battery to fully recharge in between events. She hasn’t had her battery go out during an event because she has taken the necessary battery millampage into account when building the device.

Note: Many venues and events have laws or rules regarding use of vaporizers indoors. Generating fog effects can be affected by those laws, so it’s important to know the rules of the venue or event you are attending.

The fog machine described above is the same type used for Elspeth’s Shadowspear shown below! Arielle escaped the underworld as Elspeth, first premiered at a Wizards of the Coast promotional event at Zippy’s Giant Burger, and next at her own booth at Wizard World 2020.

Photography by Candie’s Camera LLC

For a detailed how-to write-up, check out Air Bubble’s Patreon, which includes links for the specific components listed above that she prefers using.

If you enjoyed learning about fog machines in cosplay and are interested in discovering more, you can find Air Bubbles Cosplay doing a wide variety of informative panels at conventions. She has panels ranging on all sorts of topics; Worbla, LEDs and electronics, travelling with large items, cosplay 101, cosplaying with kids and cosplay for your space. With the COVID-19 pandemic, her next event Emerald City Comic Con has been postponed, and future events seem unlikely for a while. She plans to attend ECCC 2020 if it is able to be rescheduled. Keep up with her schedule and in touch with her on Twitter.

Do the secrets of fog feel less like smoke and mirrors now? The insight and clarity into the complex creativity that brings MTG characters to life continues to amaze me. Next time we will focus on a cosplayer who isn’t afraid to tackle some time-consuming and complex projects, focusing on the use of EVA foam and other cosplay basics.

Zenaide “ZBexx” Beckham is an Oregon-based cosplayer, gamer, and MTG judge. Her favorite format is Legacy, because just like performing in dance or cosplay she gets to Show and Tell.

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