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What are techniques that people have used to create a fire effect on stage.
I am doing a show soon that is about the effect of bushfire on bush animals, its for kids awareness etc. but i thought about making the cyc look like it is burning by geling them a few different red's and making a slow chase.

But I want to create a fire effect on stage too, with maybe some par cans, or fresnels...
let me know your ideas!
ship, you had a post somewhere on how to use flourescent lights to create a neat looking flame-like flicker...

we had a fire that was "hidden" from the audiences view. We used parcans gelled red, deep orange, light orange, and yellow. Since the light only inplied a fire, I had the red pulsing from about 100% down to 75% slowly (to simulate the glowing embers) and with the oranges pulsing half again as fast, and the yellows were pulsing pretty fast. I randomized something with them, but i don't remember what.. it was either the pulse interval or the percentage the light went down. I used heavy diffusion on the red and the deep orange, and light diffusion on the light orage and yellows.

I dunno what your set limitations are, but that's how I was able to achieve the effect!

good luck!!
cruiser said:
What are techniques that people have used to create a fire effect on stage.
I am doing a show soon that is about the effect of bushfire on bush animals, its for kids awareness etc. but i thought about making the cyc look like it is burning by geling them a few different red's and making a slow chase.

But I want to create a fire effect on stage too, with maybe some par cans, or fresnels...
let me know your ideas!

Hiya Jeremy,
Fire effects on stage can vary from a few flickering gelled lights to gobo projections to the use of physical materials (silk usually) in strips with fans and lighting to moving light effects. Depending on the size and the type of effect you want to accomplish will depend on the method you use. You should look at your effect and consider a few points--how BIG do you want this effect, will it emcompass the whole stage, a section with props or actors in it, a set piece on "fire", or just be a cyc effect? Do you want any physicality to the flames for the audience to see, or just the image and glow of colors and lights to be the communicative image to coveny FIRE?
When you can answer those questions--you can then proceed to figure out, given your inventory of resources, fixtures or budget for a rental item, how you will accomplish this.

Fire using LIGHTS: two to three gels using orange, yellows, reds or a split-color gel, or heatshield with strips of colors added to it or frost added here and there on these lights can create great small fire effects for "reflection"--IOW it would be good for localized fireplace scenes or campfires and so forth. Depending on the size and flicker--you can use stuff as small as inky's to as large as 6" or 8" fresnels to get this effect.

For gobo effects that would cover set pieces with flames, you can use gobo-rotator units or fixed gobo's in multiple units to chase or just project the image--and then follow up the "flickers" on areas with the above techniques. For cyc effects--you can use large degree leko's to cover a cyc with the gobo image, or Fresnels on soft chases to give that flicker. Cyc units tend to spread the flicker out and would look more artificial flashy then a fresnel would IMO..but you can play around with it and find out how you like that effect.

Moving lights have gobo rotations, zoom and FX wheels today build in and can do excellent fire effects on cycs or areas. They truely animate a fire effect in most cases--especially the MAC 2000 units with the FX wheel is awesome for a good flame effect. More can be discussed about this but if you do not have movers or cannot afford them, you can choose the above effects with good results.

Finally the addition of physical elements can also be quite convincing and a good effect. LeMaitre has their "caldreon" units they sell now that are a perfect example of how the use of a few fans, a few focused lights in one or two colors, and the use of strips of silk being blown around can give a GREAT effect of actual flames in an area. PC fans do a great silent job--and I have seen an entire floor row border given these fans, strips of silk, orange and blue and red zip strips on the floor and when turned on give the effect that the whoe stage is on fire.

Some things to consider...hope this helps.

Look into some of the programmable flicker boxes. They can be used to control the lighting to simulate a fire or the the light from a television screen. I don't have any particular one I would recommend, perhaps some of the other CB members have more experience with a specific manufacturer and model.
Really pretty inexpensive, both Chauvet and American DJ have inexpensive (under $50 street-price) flame effects that put a computer fan and a few small orange and blue spots in a metal box with a piece of silk on top. The fan makes the silk flap around in the light, looking, from a distance, like real flame. I put one on top of the stacks of speakers on either side of the stage for my local-band concerts. A consideration is to position them so the audience just sees the silk, but doesn't see the spots that make it glow.

The reason I have not replied is because I expect this is a full stage effect that's huge in comparison to anything a LeFlame or anything else might produce into projection much less effect. Those fireplace flame effects are what I have most practical experience with. Stuff such as the flame pots used on the last Sting tour, much less my own Fluorescent Starter effect on halogen lamp flicker effect in a fire place or refrigerator as needed. Your wall of flame seems quite the challenge to surmount. Quite the challenge indeed, and one if done well enough, is right on the scale with the Black and White debate to do properly if I understand it right. That is if this is to be done on a huge scale.

Figure so far we have a full stage cyc with a scrim downstage of it to mask the effect and ground row so far. Effects are placed on the cyc and scrim to make it flash, patterns swatch between themselves as if leeping flames etc. Ok, that's all normal but listen to the requested design.

"about the effect of bushfire on bush animals", "for kids awareness etc", and "I want to create a fire effect on stage too"

In other words, it's presumed that some action will be going on down stage of the effect so the effect needs to be whole stage. It's also given that the effect is about the effects of fire on the animals - presumibly from the animals perspective given that it's during the fire. And it's for the kids so it needs to be larger than life such as the first time any of us saw "Bambie." That movie drew us in, it made friends with us and wowed us, than the fire came. Things changed. Not immediately, they just became frighteningly different from the prestine norm. Than all of a sudden, htll broke loose and that was it. Horror took over and what remained was ash and sorrow.

Somehow Jeremy needs to project the green of the countryside and the animals in say a Bambie like pretine meadow. When suddenly the wind starts blowing, the animals catch wind of it and start running. The sky turns ominus and the flames leap to the ceiling. I presume all of this is larger than life also such as from the ground hog's perspective.

Anyone ever see African Puppet theater? Just a sort of rear projection screen really with bright lights or light shining on it. Than the puppet masters and they were did their thing with shadow play. Excellent to watch from the rear, and even better from the front. I would advise looking into this type of production to see how it's done. This could be a really good alternative means and one that will be spectacular.

My opinion. This all depends upon budget and exactually what needs to be going on down stage of the proposed cyc of course, but what if you could do this effect, the action on stage in a shadowplay or if nothing else, entirely from behind the scrim as the first goal so you have control over how much effect people are able to see verses what's masked or faded out of being seen? That way, not only is your fire taking place in the upstage/mainstage but it's also giving you the downstage part of the cyc and apron presumibly to create this effect with.

Verious groundrows in colors for the scenery, perhaps even on lever arms so they can sway with the stage hand activated brush in the wind. When lit by the down stage (given the scrim is in the way of house lights), such colors can pop out especially if UV paint and black lights highlight parts of it. Say clear or translucent white UV paint. Perhaps even some wing and drop type folliage pulled in on two or three linesets. A fan on stage in a gentile breeze to stur them up slightly.

Lighting as if from a sunny spring day provided by cyc and boarder lights, and wing boom base side lighting bars. Every thing bright, nice and warm. From the front of house and two to three sets of folliage patterns, comes some folliage that's set to be close to but not exactually at the same postion so they can slow fade between patterns and make the image on the scrim have some movement. Say a nice lime green gel but only on 30% so the bright lights and talent upstage still pop thru the scrim. But with a sort of mist between them and the audience caused by the scrim being partially lit. Something that might also be of use is some vertically mounted cyc lights just before the precinium which will taper the image shown thru the scrim some from the edges, and perhaps some box boom mounted or 1st house electric mounted lekos with similar lighting and a soft focus to narrow it down some without drape. Colors such as a warm amber light from the sides as if the sun will not let the dew - scrim allow too much of the stage area to be seen. This will sort of taper what is allowed to be seen upstage, and what a picture it will be all brightly lit and fancy and all. The trees, the Brush, Characters moving about etc. Perhaps a bit of haze in the air also, plus a wee touch of fog to take care of the edges of the scenery that hit the stage deck. As it comes wallowing down thru the scrim, it will be a good effect.

Than dim the fans up and have the scenery start to act is if a flag in the wind. Do the groundrow movement thing and boost the sunlight intensity by at least 15% on a fadeup timed with the action of the animals catching the wind. Than the beautifully done soft clouds in the blue sky goes grey and dark. Than that greyness adds a bit of hot amber, orange and red at a low level and one that’s flickering across some cloud patterns. Not the whole scrim yet, but more like lightning reflected from below the clouds. Pulsing slowly and building. Stage lights from one side of the stage to another follow along with the haze. Sun still pokes thru at this point for moments of amber and greenery, but the building smoke is also seen. From the opposing side of the stage, the blues start to pulse and build at opposing levels. They stay on slightly longer.

This all reverses it’s rate and duration between the bright flashes of amber sunlight growing less and less, with the corresponding night time blues building, and the ambers and flames pulsing and taking more and more of the stage and cyc. During this time, the lighting just upstage of the scrim starts a fad out in lighting the scenery from the front. Since the flame effects are assumed upstage of the scenery, such scenery is now black with fire just upstage of it creating shadows that pulse. The lighting on the scrim also fades down to out, except that of the cyc and surround lights that switch to red and pulse yellow and red very sedately but dispersed. Flame lights become supplemented by yellow, orange and red strobes (go light on the red) that go off in bursts of flashes than die away. Perhaps two or three flashes, than a few more that are dimmed in intensity as the effect dies away. Such flashing alternates as to location on the stage in starting at the side the fire comes from, than with time the whole stage becomes one burst that stays for a moment that’s matched by all upstage fire lights even sun lights at full. A moment later, the scrim gets this burst of flame sun and anything bright and blots out the upstage that’s in a fade down to black. All hanging scenery at this point is quickly pulled. All lights upstage, downstage and FOH dies. Perhaps just a bit of a few shin busters in white and blue alternating and at a very low level from the FOH and stage to light the fog at a very low level and by it also the haze in the air.

This stands for a few moments, 4.... 5.... 6.. . even 7 moments in giving the effect two more moments than is comfortable. Than the normal sunlight starts a morningish up fade. Slow and to the rear of all scenery so it stays black. High and center at first with the oranges and fire yellows helping it punch thru the haze - but only lightly. The main effect is the sun, and the blackness of the scenery. Nothing from FOH. This needs to be a completely different look and without being washed out by the scrim. High up, tight and dark the scenery.

If time for a conclusion, low blues that have become gone when the sun comes out can come up on a slow upfade followed by the greens and yellows lighting the shrub on stage all on a slow upfade to simulate the grasses and perhaps the trees growing again.

Anyway, that’s my design statement. It of course would necessitate sound effects, perhaps even music such as in Bambie for this effect that I would endever to do given the rather broad description.

I would make use of black lights and similar things to make things pop more, and a lot of lighting positions to create mood with.

You can see it’s all just a synopsis of intent, without many specifics. That’s the art of it. Hopefully it’s an idea of concepts that’s more important than the gear available where art is concerned.
Cueing, control and equipment will play the main role in all of this once built but is the easy part. First comes concept, than implementation of it. Any successful fire will be a combination of sound, stage, talent, costume and stage and lighting or no one part of it will work, and it’s going to take a high level of coordination should you attempt any ideas I state. Once you get your major ideas and concepts for what you would like to do, to what extent you are able to do it, than figuring out how to pull them off will determine how successful and over the top the effect will be. It’s all going to take careful coordination however between all elements of the design crew, and a very smart TD to help figure out how to engineer the scenery and effects you would be lighting. This is all given any ideas I post are of use or would be sufficient to the extent needed. What actual locations and specific lights are involved would be an important part of the design but could not be layed out in more than general purposes until the set is designed.

Again, an alternative possibility would be to study the rear projection used by African puppet troops. In that way, you can light and shadow play on a translucent projection screen and easily create effects without so much other work. Given careful study of the effects and techniques used.

More random thoughts on the flames on stage idea.

Ever see the versions of Brady Bunch where they did either the haunted attic or living room? How the better ghosts used a kind of cellophane plastic to catch the light when crinkled up and moved? Should you be able to find a flame resistant type of cellophane and use it between, as part of or around the ground row brush, when moved it might catch the light just so. What type of effect it has, depends upon what color of light is hitting it, and from which direction. If say sunlight colored, blue and green, it might just seem as if the sun hitting the morning dew. If you hit it with reds, oranges and yellows in an other than soft way and from the low sides and rear, it might just pull off some fire effect.
Clear and metallic mylar might just have the same effect both as strips attached to the foliage and various cut ups, and sections of it if clear. Another option would be shrink wrap if flame retardant and stretched or balled up and fastened to the scenery. The challenge of using such effects would be that in the end scene if the intent is to remain a blackened out shadow of foliage and bushes, such light capturing equipment would need to be either lived with and properly lighted so it did not catch the light and glimmer in it, or pulled off stage.

A further option would be to make a box frame out of say ½" Sch.80 pipe for the lower, 1.1/2" for the down parts and a flown batten for the top. Should be simple enough with cheeseboroughs to do a ridged enough vertical section with the ½" part attached to it with plumbing parts and a universal joint near one end to act as a spreader rail and further support the vertical pipes. Than the plastic can stretched almost invisibly between pipes in either sections of plastic at ground mid and upper height, or as one large scrimlike wall of plastic. Given careful placement of the light, and fan effecting the plastic to make it shimmer, a flood of light effect can be made on it from both sides of it. The plastic would need a mid to upstage location. It would need to be far enough downstage from the scrim and cyc so bounce off it does not overly effect it. This would form a third plane to light adding depth - scrim, plastic wall and cyc, in addition to ground rows and acting areas perhaps both up and downstage of it. Hitting the vertical pipes from the wings should also be able to help the shimmer effect. A possible substitute for this would be to use a stretched scrim in this location. Two scrims very effectively will reveal as much of the stage as desired and add a lot of depth in it but limit the amount of light which can be placed in the mid stage acting area.

Silk as per a normal fan operating flame effect will not work well in this setting because they would probably be best if they were either orientated vertically or diagonally in a upstage/downstage way with the upper part of the strip down stage. Given the location, it would be very hard to mount a fan on such flames required to cover a stage, much less to have silk flames long enough to be effective as part of a full stage and as extensive of a fire. That is unless they were supported by very thin metal rods and perhaps if white were part of the ground row I describe. Say a lower section of metal for a hinge plate on a bunch of bushes, and a lever opperated upper plate moving on and off stage/across stage that makes the rods supporting silk and mylar strips move. These silk, mylar and cellophane strips than also could blow individually as they catch any wind generated by fans in the stage wings. The supports for the mylar could either be thin enough to disappear or thick enough to act as if it’s own scenic part of the ground row - especialy if bent and bowed so as to create a natural instead of corn stalk effect. The mylar and silk strips would need to be other than straight strips probably, shapes such as a long tear drop, or thin at the base and wheat like at top with a lot of variation. Such foliage would need to be held fairly stiff and might be best installed with fish line to the support. Since the intent would be larger than life, or small animal perspective, such supports and strips might need to be at least 36" long and two to three rows of them, with multitudes of them per row across the stage to be effective. Gets complex and hard to do, but if this can be figured out how to construct, it would probably be spectacular. Another option would be to suspend thin short strips and streamers of the mylor from above only or with fish line to it’s below. Probably a combination of the two types full length and partials of it would work best as well as a pre-tested combination of light reflecting and gathering materials.

Other options might be to play into the UV effect. Performers during the beginning of the fire and while it is going on when dressed up in UV flame costumes can acrobatically dive onto the stage from the wings than go flat and be masked by any ground rows and fog on stage as they land and crawl back off stage. That is up until a point that they stay on and across the stage. At that point, they might be able to pull off a flames rising from the brush type of effect. Performance Art might be something good to include in the show. As mentioned earlier, White and clear UV paint could be used in splotches and stripes along the in this case supports for the silk.

“A Method of Lighting the Stage” mentions use of piping along ground rows filled with steam that when I would assume valved properly off stage, can with proper lighting, create a effect of flames shooting up from the scenery. Given most theaters are no longer fortunate enough to be heated by steam that can be tapped for such an effect, still piping can be placed along the ground rows and valved so as to distribute smoke from smoke machines or fog machines across the stage when supplemented by other fog and smoke coming from the direction of the stage that the fire is spreading from. Using a scene shop air compressor with drilled pipe to distribute the air and blow scenery would be another option, but it might force too much haze and fog off stage. Such would also be the problem with fans used to blow the scenery. This will have to be carefully worked out. Perhaps a combination of air pipes to move scenery and fog/haze pipes across the stage will be sufficient, or enough pressure on the smoke can be made to give the foliage sufficient movement.

There lies a good challenge to work out amongst many others. But there is my concept that I might attempt for this given the budget and time. Hope there were some good ideas in it.

Perhaps even a mylar glimmer curtain can be flown in during the fire when the cyc is faded out to help in the effect.
there are cutouts for lights that you could put gels in front of to look like flames
or two freshmen laying on stage with propane torches
wowa, i finished that show about.... 2months ago!! nice too see its still kicking along lol
if you go to rocos web site... sorry i cant remember the url. look at glass gobos. they have these color wave gobos. and they are reallycool. they are ll colored differently, and some sort of look like flames. maybe u could do something with that
as i just said in the previous post, i finished that show about two months ago!

thanks for the suggestions though
fire never stops being fun!!!!!!!!!!
and other people may have the same question
i would have too agree that fire never stops been fun lol

anyone played flaming golf?
Fire on stage is always a fun thing, it all depends on what kind of fire effect you want. I have made torches for a fire effect before, just put 3 lights gelled different colors in a torch looking object. we put them on a dimmer and controlled them from the booth. We have acctually done real fire on stage before. Other than that there a other ways to do it.
At my school we had to have a small fire to be put under a pot. We had one of those halloween torch things, with the cloth and the fans and the amber lights. We took it off the stand it came on and rewired in and placed it inside the stove we needed it for. In my opinion it looked really realistic from far away.

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