Aerotechnics™ & You
I have to admit that I love this time of the year. It seems, right now, like simply everyone is planning a celebration. Politicos are preparing for victory celebrations, companies are planning their end-of-year bashes and theatre groups and schools around the country are rehearsing all sorts of holiday spectacles. And they're all asking the same question, "What can we do this year that will be different, bigger and better than last time?"
You've probably guessed my answer already from the title of this article. So what are Aerotechnics™ anyway and how can they enhance a show or party? Aerotechnics™ is a system of confetti and streamer launchers powered by air or Carbon Dioxide (CO2). Invented by Ed Bartek, special effects engineer extraordinaire. Aerotechnics™ is the most comprehensive line available, featuring the largest variety of launchers, the most efficient launchers, and the largest variety of accessories.
Aerotechnics™ is so named because it was originally conceived as a safe and regulation-free alternative to pyrotechnic special effects. You truly can use Aerotechnics™ to create spectacular indoor simulated fireworks displays, launching showers of streamers and confetti that seen to burst in mid-air. But Aerotechnics™ doesn't stop there. Use Aerotechnics (tm) to launch T-Shirts, puffs of simulated smoke, water, ping pong balls, business cards and more. Fill the air with huge pieces of fluttering brightly colored tissue. Amaze your audience by shooting streamers from an apparently empty hand.
Most of our Aerotechnic™ devices use CO2 cartridges that screw into a valve near the base of the device. When a lever is pulled, a pin punctures the end of the cartridge, releasing all of the CO2 into the barrel of the device and propelling the load (confetti, streamers, etc.) into the air. A very simple principle that can produce amazing results.
While the principle of Aerotechnics™ is simple, the challenge in using them comes in deciding how they should be loaded. Even our smallest device, when loaded properly, can produce a huge-looking effect. Following are some tips for getting the most out of every shot.
First, always use Backpressure Caps. A Backpressure Cap is a cardboard cap that fits over the end of the cannon's barrel and is secured in place using masking tape. We sell black masking tape for just this purpose but standard masking tape may work just as well. When the Backpressure Cap is sealed in place it allows the pressure from the CO2 to build up in the barrel until the cap is finally blown off, lifting the payload high into the air. Without a Backpressure Cap you may notice that your shots do not travel as far or generally appear to "fall flat."
Next, when shooting confetti always use a Lifting Cup. The Lifting Cup is designed to be inserted into the barrel first and pushed all the way to the bottom. It is slightly smaller than the inside of the barrel has a beveled edge that produces an airtight seal. This allows the CO2 to press on the bottom of the Lifting Cup, which in turn presses on the payload, instead of the gas escaping around the sides. A Lifting Cup will add height to any effect, but is especially useful with confetti loads as the CO2 seems to have a hard time propelling them any distance without one.
A quick note on both Lifting Cups and Backpressure Caps; when shooting out towards an audience, be aware that people may be startled when a small cardboard piece comes out of the air at them. Both Lifting Cups and Backpressure Caps are small and light enough that they shouldn't cause any harm whatsoever to anyone they may land on. In today's litigious climate, however, one should always be cautious.
Finally -- the fun part -- the payload! What you load into an Aerotechnics™ device depends on what effect you're looking to achieve. Experimenting with the supplies you receive with your device is a good way to get ideas, but allow me to make a few suggestions. The following descriptions are for loading the Pocket Cannon™, but will work in all of our Aerotechnics™ devices. Be aware that larger devices will require more payload material.
Turbofetti™ is tissue confetti cut into 5/8" x 2" rectangles. Usually packed in stacks of 480 pieces, it creates a cloud of confetti that flutters and spins gently to the ground over a period of several seconds. For a "traditional" confetti look, this works great! The supplies for a "traditional" shot would be: 1 - 1" Lifting Cup, 2 – stacks Turbofetti™, 1 - 1" Backpressure Cap and 1 - 8g CO2 cylinder.
Aerostreamers™ are streamers that shoot into the air and unroll as the fall to ground. They create a wonderful "bon voyage" look that would work for many shows. No production of "Anything Goes," should go on without at least one streamer cannon. One thing that makes streamers appealing to many people is that they create a large-looking effect like a confetti shot without as much mess. Streamers are simply easier to clean up than confetti, which may explain why streamer shots are so popular at trade shows and conventions where many shots happen of the course of a day.
We have many sizes of Aerostreamers™ available, from 1/4" x 18' Standard Streamers to monstrous 1/2" x 50' streamers. The 18' streamers work wonderfully indoors as they can unroll completely before hitting the ground. Here's my favorite way to use these, developed over several years' show-floor experience: 15 - 18' Aerostreamers™, 1 - 1" Backpressure Cap and 1 - 8g CO2 cylinder.
An interesting look may also be achieved by mixing Turbofetti™ and Aerostreamers™ in the same shot. The effect is a burst of streamers emerging from a cloud of confetti and would make a great finale for an event that uses other confetti or streamer shots. The supplies to create this look are: 1 - 1" Lifting Cup, 10 - 18" Aerostreamers™, 1 – stack Turbofetti™, 1 - 1" Backpressure Cap, 1 - 8g CO2 cylinder. The key to preparing the payload is to load the streamers, but keep one out. Take the free end of this streamer and wrap it several times around the Turbofetti (tm). This will hold the Turbofetti™ together until the streamer has started to unroll, delaying the confetti burst.
As I've already stated, the Pocket Cannon™ comes equipped with enough supplies for three shots. However, if you get only one thing from this week's article, let it be this:
BUY MORE SUPPLIES WHEN YOU ORDER ANY AEROTECHNIC™ CANNONS!
I know that sounds like a sales pitch but, trust me, you'll want more than three shots worth of stuff. The first three shots are good for getting used to the device and what it can do. The catch is, once you know what you can do you're out of supplies! Additional loads, CO2 cartridges and other supplies are not that expensive and the benefit of getting exactly the look you want is worth the added expense.
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