Nothin' But The FAQs
As regular readers of our weekly newsletter know, this section usually contains helpful and/or interesting tidbits of information about the product featured in our weekly special. This week, however, I'd like to take some time to answer a few of the more frequently asked questions that we in Customer Service field every day.
Q: What are the regulations governing pyrotechnics in my area? How do I get a pyro license?
A: The regulations governing pyro can vary greatly from state to state, sometimes even county to county! There are, however, some standard procedures you should follow if you want to avoid possible problems with your local authorities. Pick up a copy of NFPA #1126 (our product #BK11), the Standard for use of pyrotechnics with a proximate audience. After you' ve read that, contact your local Fire Marshall or fire safety inspector to discuss your plans. When speaking with fire safety officials, be careful not to refer to your effects as "fireworks" unless you're actually using outdoor fireworks in your show. The regulations governing outdoor fireworks displays are usually much more stringent, so remember - "indoor pyrotechnics".
Q: I'd like to set myself / part of myself /one of my actors on fire. How can I do this safely?
A: Body burn effects are one of the most dangerous special effects you can attempt. In my opinion, they should never be attempted by amateurs, as the risk of serious injury is very real. We do have a product (Stunt Gel #FR21) that can be used to reduce heat transfer during burn effects, but it does not eliminate all of the heat, nor does it prevent you from accidentally setting your theatre, house, or hair on fire.
If you decide to do a burn effect using the Stunt Gel, there's a few pointers that will help. Keep the Stunt Gel in the 'fridge until you're ready for it -- the colder it is, the better it works. Apply the Stunt Gel as thickly and evenly as possible. For the fuel, I would recommend Pyro Gel that has been thinned a bit with some Pyro Fluid and applied on top of the Stunt Gel using a syringe. The Pyro Gel is a substance that is relatively cool burning (800º F) and keeps the flame more or less in one spot. You'll want to use a syringe or similar applicator so as not to disturb the layer of Stunt Gel that you've applied. Again, remember that the Stunt Gel will not eliminate all of the heat created by the pyro gel. You will feel some pain, and may suffer injuries if the Pyro Gel is left burning for too long.
Please forgive me if I sound like an old blowhard on this subject but I would rather have you think I'm a blowhard -- and be safe, than think I'm super-cool and end up in the hospital. -)
Q: I need an effect that will create a flash of light and a puff of smoke when it's thrown onto the floor.
A: Aha...you've been watching those old ninja movies from the '80's again, haven't you? The device described above is commonly referred to as the "ninja smoke bomb" and was, indeed, made popular during the ninja craze of the 1980's. Here's the problem anything that is designed to explode upon impact would be, by its very nature, too dangerous to ship or to carry around in one's pocket. There used to be a commercial version of this effect available in the States but it has since been banned. If you're interested in the history of how these devices were made, I recommend checking out our book "Special Effects with Fire and Smoke" (#BK01). Please note that the information on the ninja smoke bomb contained therein is provided for educational purposes only.
Oh, and reread the "blowhard" section of my answer to the previous question. It applies here, as well.
Q: What's the deal with that little wizard guy? Is that you?
A: The little wizard guy is our mascot. He makes amazing special effects just for you. I look nothing like him. Seriously, now stop asking. (P.S. Legalese - the wizard is also our registered trademark and you're not allowed to "borrow" him without our permission.)
Finally, a fog-related tip for those of you planning dance recitals and wedding receptions. The Pea Souper dry ice fogger is a great product for creating clouds of low-hanging white fog on your dance floor. This effect is great for "dream ballets" and first dances at weddings. To get the most efficient output from the Pea Souper, try to purchase your dry ice in pellet form, as this will produce more fog. Also, you should refrain from immediately setting the adjustable dry ice basket at its lowest level. Remember that dry ice needs water that is almost boiling to produce fog. Dropping a full basket of dry ice into the water will create a lot of fog very quickly, but it will also chill the water in the Pea Souper within about 30 seconds. The result is a huge burst of fog, followed by about 10-20 minutes of nothing while the water heats back up. Also, if you were using pelletized dry ice, you will find that they have been converted into a large chunk of solid dry ice.
Here's how I'd recommend using the Pea Souper:
Fill the Pea Souper with hot water and let it heat up further, until it begins steaming (approx. twenty minutes). As close to the time of the effect as possible, load about twenty pounds of pelletized dry ice into the basket. Set the basket at the highest level you can while still getting the amount of fog that you want. As fog output decreases lower the basket further into the water. And remember when cleaning up to allow time for the water to cool back down.
I hope I've managed to answer some of your questions this week. Remember, you can always call or e-mail Customer Service with any other questions that come to mind. We love helping you get the best use out of our products, and the best effects for your shows.
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