It's officially the holiday season here in Maryland. Local theatres are running productions of A Christmas Carol, The Nutcracker and other Christmas favorites. On local front lawns, spooky graveyard displays have given way to jolly North Pole scenes; and in the office, our thoughts turn to ways to make all of your holiday productions more spectacular.
Probably the most frequently requested effect around this time of year is artificial snow. Let's face it, whether you're doing the annual Christmas pageant, a choir recital, or a production of Dickens' classic holiday play, the one effect that means "winter" to everyone is that of gently falling snow.
There are, of course, many ways to create a falling snow effect on stage. One of the simplest (in theory, at least) is the snow cradle. A snow cradle is simply a piece of fabric suspended between two horizontal support poles, or battens. Slits are cut into the bottom of the cradle, and artificial snow is loaded into it. When one of the battens is moved, the slits are pulled open allowing some of the snow to fall to the stage. This system has the advantage of being relatively inexpensive to construct and easy to operate, the main disadvantage being a need for someone to rig the system and operate the cradle during every performance. Also, snow cradles are not practical in a venue that lacks existing battens above the performance area.
In recent years, snow machines have become popular as an alternative means of creating snow on stage. These machines use snow liquid to produce very realistic snowflakes that disappear within seconds of reaching the stage floor. Snow machines have the advantages of being very easy to use, as well as allowing for remote control of the effect. Unfortunately, snow machines are still a noisy effect - the average machine sounds about as loud as a vacuum cleaner. While this can be covered by music cues, or by positioning the machine behind draperies, there are still venues in which a snow machine will be just too loud.
So, what do you do when you need to create a snow effect on stage that's easy to operate, can be controlled remotely and is dead silent? Why, you use a Confetti Spreader of course! The Confetti Spreader is a motorized confetti effect that will disperse confetti (or snow) over a circular area up to twenty feet in diameter. In most cases, the hopper on the Confetti Spreader will hold several shows worth of artificial snow. All this and it still costs less than most snow machines!
Some tips on using the Confetti Spreader
The Confetti Spreader is a gravity-fed effect. That is, the device must be hung so that the hopper is situated above the spreader unit. Don't expect much of an effect if it's hung upside-down or at a forty-five degree angle to the floor.
Because of the size of the openings on the Confetti Spreader, it works best with traditional-sized confetti and snow (1/4" flakes). Larger sizes of confetti may clog the hopper and stop the effect.
Bear in mind that the confetti will disperse more the further it falls. For a greater area of coverage, hang the confetti spreader as high as possible. However, hanging the spreader lower will result in a denser cloud of confetti over a smaller area. Experiment to find the optimal hanging height for the look you wish to achieve.
We've had inquiries about using a dimmer to control the motor on the confetti spreader. Our recommendation is, if you're going to control the Confetti Spreader with a dimmer, you should either use a relay pack, set the dimmer to "non-dim" mode, or run the control fader from 0-100% quickly. You should never try to vary the motor speed of the confetti spreader with a dimmer as this may result in damage to the motor and, possibly, the dimmer itself.
Following these tips, and the manufacturer's instructions, you should be making snow in no time. And, once the Christmas pageant is over, you can load the Confetti Spreader with multicolor confetti and celebrate the New Year in style!
Theatre Effects Customer Service Department
Theatre Effects, 1810 Airport Exchange Blvd. #400, Erlanger, KY 41018
Phone: 1-800-791-7646 or 513-772-7646 Fax: 513-772-3579