Ice Fountains: Really Cool Sparks
One of the more spectacular pyrotechnic effects available to today's director is the gerb. Seen on television and in such movies as "My Best Friend's Wedding," these devices produce huge fountains of sparks (think of a Fourth of July sparkler on steroids). As the popularity of gerbs increased, people began asking for a similar device that was small enough to be safely used in close proximity to people. That device, I'm happy to say, is here, and it's called the Ice Fountain.
Basically, the Ice Fountain is a small (5/8"dia. x 4-3/4"), single-use device that creates a fountain of silver sparks that lasts for about 45 seconds. The device can be lit with a regular kitchen match or fired remotely using the included electric match (more on those later). As the Ice Fountain is still a relatively new effect, I thought I'd take a moment to answer some of the questions often asked by our customers.
One of the most frequently asked questions from customers who purchase this device is, "Which end do I light?" As you look at the Ice Fountain, you'll notice that on one end, it's filled all the way to the top, while the other has a space of about 1/2". The end that is filled to the top is the end that you want to light. Again, this can be done by applying a flame directly to the powder, or by attaching the electric match so that it rests on top of the powder.
And the electric match is our second topic. If you've never seen or worked with an electric match, a little explanation is in order. An electric match is a single-use pyrotechnic igniter that fires when 1 Amp of power is applied to it. The match itself looks like two thin six-inch long wires that end in a small, black ball.
"How do I fire the electric match?" we are often asked, "Do I need a special controller?" Again, the electric match requires at least 1 Amp of electrical current to fire. Unless you already own a low-voltage pyrotechnic controller, or are comfortable with constructing such a device, you will have to purchase a controller to remotely fire the electric match. A small, hand-held device such as our Low V Hand Blaster (#LVF1) would work perfectly for this situation. Please be aware that we cannot guarantee that our electric matches will fire correctly with any devices not purchased from us.
And, the important questions "Can we use this in a hand prop?", and, "Can my actors hold the Ice Fountain in their hands?" Yes, the Ice Fountain can be safely used in a hand prop. You may note that we recommend the Red Ice Fountain for Mr. Depina's "red fire," in "You Can't Take It With You." Because the effect is relatively small (a 6-12" fountain spray of sparks) and because any fallout from the effect is cold, Ice Fountains can be used in close proximity to your actors without fear of injury.
Some directors have expressed an interest in having an actor actually carry the device in their hand. While this is technically possible, we do not recommend it as the cardboard tube holding the pyrotechnic powder does get fairly hot, especially near the middle and top of the tube. If you must have an actor carry the device, I would recommend finding a way to insert it into some sort of holder or, at the very least, supply the actor with some heat-resistant gloves.
Finally, remember that the Ice Fountain is producing a live flame and should be treated with all the caution that entails. A bucket of sand or water should be available both stage left and stage right for immediate extinguishing of the effect when it comes off stage. Also, fire extinguishers should be present backstage and the stage crew should be familiar with how to operate them. These basic precautions should be taken any time a live flame, no matter how small, is used on stage.
Whether you're looking to add some sparkle to a school play, holiday concert or even your favorite pyrotechnician's birthday party (are you reading, mom?) the Ice Fountain now provides a smaller, safer way to produce the "sparkle fountain" effect. And with the current special pricing, you can do so without blowing up your show's budget!
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