Being Strategic with Rental Stage Lighting and Effects
Do You Know Which Stage Design Tool Is Best For Each Job?
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Stage effects are one of the hallmarks of a “professional show”. They are usually over the top ways to emphasize dramatic moments, punctuate music, or just add an extra element of excitement during a performance.
Rental stage effects are one of those tools that designers use to set their work apart from some of the more amateur efforts you see. Because stage effects tend to come with their own sets of caveats, they are more often than not relegated to larger and more in-your-face performances. That doesn’t have to be the case though- as is the case with so many other things, knowing what you are doing makes the difference, and some effects are much more approachable than you may think.
We’ll look at the three most common categories of rental stage effects today and get an idea for what they are, what they AREN’T, and what you need to know when you dive into the world of stage effects!
Fire! Boom! Sound! Flash! Lights! Sometimes smoke! Fireworks, flames and fountains of sparks- pyrotechnics are the effects that kick the door down and scream “ARGH! Stop what you are doing and look at me!”. When you think of the classic rock shows of the 70’s and 80’s, chances are you are thinking of the wailing guitars and crashing rhythms set against a backdrops of huge pyrotechnics!
Unfortunately, due to a few tragic incidents in the earlier years of the 2000’s, pyrotechnics began to fall out of favor as people realized that they aren’t always safe…especially when they are used in small/enclosed spaces.
“Pyro’s” are still popular in the arena world and with outdoor productions, but their days of club use have all but disappeared. Not allowed in every venue so you need to check with the venue first before adding it into your show. Once you know it is allowed you then need to get the proper permitting for your show. The venue will be able to direct you on who to contact.
Pros: Cool effects, will grab your audience’s attention. If you want to make a statement, pyro’s will certainly do that.
Cons: Can be expensive and if not done properly can potentially be dangerous. Not allowed in every venue so you need to check with the venue first before adding it into your show. Once you know if they are allowed, you’ll still need to get the proper permitting for your show. The venue will be able to direct you on who to contact.
NOTE: It is always wise to hire a professional pyrotechnician when using Pyro. Do not attempt to do it yourself- especially if you are not 100% familiar.
“BOOOF!”…thousands of shiny colorful bits suddenly fill the air and the crowd goes insane, dancing in the shower and collecting the small mementos of an awesome show.
Confetti Cannons are a great way to bring the audience into the performance in a (fairly) safe way. Potentially as noticeable as pyro (at least when done correctly) but with far fewer safety concerns, confetti canons are on a more an intermediate level of rental stage effects. There are generally no government regulations tied to the use of the cannons (though it’s always good to check with the venue to make sure there are no local rules governing them), but when using these but you have to keep in mind that there are some safety protocols you need to follow. Even a strip of foil or a tidbit of paper can hurt when blasted into someone’s face!
Pros: Much like pyrotechnics, confetti cannons will grab your audience’s attention and they can add another dimension to the overall event. Because they don’t produce live flames, they are generally safer in most instances and can be used without the extensive training pyro’s requite.
Cons: Flammable! They might not produce flame, but most of the confetti people use in the cannons is still a fire hazard when exposed to flames (like lighters and cigarettes). Can be expensive (the confetti is sold separately and each blast has a dollar amount associated with it). There tends to be lots of cleanup after the event.
Cryo Cannons are a more recent addition to the arsenal of the modern designer. Generally easier, cleaner, and safer than there more over the top rental stage effects counterparts, these Co2 firing cannons release a quick blast “smoke” that quickly dissipates without a trace. Far more precise and powerful than a smoke machine or hazer, a Cryo-cannon is a great option for making entrances or exits from the stage, they mix well with other effects, and moments after the blast, the stage is “reset” with no trace of their payload. Keep in mind that while they are generally considered to be “safe”, there are still safety measures that need to be taken into consideration and you generally don’t want to blast people directly in the face at close range…though that’s a good tip for life in general, right?
Pros: No Mess. Once it fires, it’s gone.
Cons: Loud, if not done properly could take away from the main idea. They aren’t necessarily as impressive as other rental stage effects on their own, so you’ll want to mix them with other lighting effects and stage effects.
With all of these options you need to keep in mind that the safety of everyone at your event is the most important thing. All of your effects need to be cleared by the venue and usually local authority before you can begin.