Pre-Made Effects -- All About Reproduction
I see we're running Pyroflash cartridges on special this week, which reminds me that I haven't really talked about how they work and what makes them so cool. Pyroflash cartridges (as well as all of our other pre-made pyro effects) are a relatively recent development in theatrical pyrotechnics. They allow the pyrotechnician to create the same effect night after night.
Prior to the introduction of pre-made effects, pyrotechnics were fired from flash pots that had to be loaded with fresh powder every night. This method worked, but it was fairly imprecise because the amount of powder in any given flash pot could vary from night to night depending upon the person measuring the powder, whether or not he was in a rush, and many other factors. Because of this, a pyrotechnician was never sure what the effect would actually do until he fired it during the show.
The powder in pre-made pyrotechnic effects cartridges has been measured at the factory, and all of the cartridges for an effect will contain the same amount of powder. Since there's no measuring required, the pyrotechnician doesn't have to wonder whether the flash pot in act one will singe the lead actor. Additionally, he can choose a Medium Theatrical Flash (#LM1200) for one event and know that it will produce the same effect it did in a previous show months earlier.
In addition to allowing the accurate reproduction of an effect from show to show, using a pre-made flash effect allows the pyrotechnician to predict what an effect will do even before he fires his first cartridge. Since the cartridges are all basically identical, each effect has been test-fired under show conditions, and the results recorded in a booklet that ships with every box of cartridges. So, he can look up a Theatrical Flash with Loud Report (#LM1200C) and find that it has a recommended safe working height of ten feet, and produces a report of about 149 decibels. This information is invaluable in deciding if an effect will work in a given space, and it saves time and money that would have otherwise have been spent doing test shots.
The pre-made effects that we sell all contain the same basic components. There's some sort of holder, usually a plastic cartridge or cardboard tube, that contains the pyrotechnic powder. The powder is ignited by an electric match, which is usually pre-installed. An electric match consists of two insulated wires that are joined at one end by a much thinner wire, called the bridge wire, that's encased in a glob of pyrotechnic material. When an electrical current is sent through the wire, the thin bridge wire resists it and heats up. This heat is enough to ignite the pyro compound which, in turn, ignites the flash powder.
Electric matches are great igniters because they can be fired with a low-voltage power supply. This means that you can fire your effects without drawing power directly from your theatre's electrical system, which makes fire marshals very happy. Additionally, it means you're able to use small, battery-powered ignition systems that are more portable and versatile than systems that require a 110-volt power supply.
With their ability to recreate the same effect night after night safely and predictably, pre-made flash effects are a natural choice for pyrotechnicians for whom safety is a top priority. This year, more effects than ever are available as pre-made cartridges, and more are sure to come in the years ahead. Anyone who has wanted to use pyrotechnic effects, but held off out of fear of an overloaded flash pot causing an accident, should browse the selection of cartridges at our site. I'm sure you'll find a great effect for your next event!
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