Special Effects Equipment
Smoke and Pyrotechnics
Usually reserved for pantomimes, smoke and pyrotechnic effects must be used with care. All the equipment should have clear operating instructions. There are many different types of "smoke machines" available, but they all rely on converting a liquid into a mist using heat and a catalyst. This is a typical smoke machine it can produce a fine haze or a pea-souper fog.
To create instant effects like flashes of light and puffs of smoke pyrotechnic charges can
be used. Nowadays these have been refined to make them as safe as possible and easy to use.
The charge is contained in a small pod that plugs into a special holder. The charge is fired
by a low voltage remote control, with a key switch to avoid accidental operation.
There is no substitute for using common sense when working with electricity and pyrotechnics. Remember these items can be dangerous if not handled with proper care.
Solid carbon dioxide, often known by the generic trademark "dry ice", can be used to create a low-lying fog effect that is especially effective for pantomime fantasy effects. The fog is created by using a machine that heats the solid dry ice (usually with heated water) so that it sublimates in to gaseous carbon dioxide. A fan in the machine conveys the resultant "smoke" through a pipe to the stage.
Annoyingly dry ice literally disappears in to thin air, even whilst it is being transported or stored it will slowly naturally sublimate. The less dry ice you have the more quickly it will sublimate, so you need to order enough to create your effect and allow for natural wastage.
Dry ice can be a dangerous substance. It must be handled using protective insulated gloves; direct contact with the skin will freeze it in seconds, causing a burn-like injury. Dry ice must never be stored in a sealed container, its sublimation produces massive volumes of gaseous carbon dioxide. Dry ice should never be stored in a standard freezer or refrigerator. The dry ice is so cold that it can freeze and disable thermostat of the unit. Dry ice should never be left on brittle surfaces or in glass containers, the contraction caused by cooling can result in cracking.
copyright Leigh Graham 1997-2010.