Hazardous FX

The persistance of grime (in visual effects)

Fog, haze, confetti, sparks and bubbles have all been popular visual effects at multifarious events, but have they had their time? They certainly produce the grime.

Fog and haze machines use water-, glycol- or oil-based fluid to produce tiny droplets which are dispersed by a fan. Different fluids produce different particle sizes. These will land somewhere and will affect the surfaces they reach.

Confetti are made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and/or other plastics, metallic material and paper. The pieces are actually rather invasive, and the use of a cannon or fan propels material into all manner of tiny spaces. Once wet, it is a clogging agent, detrimental to the environment. This is also true of small flakes of many substances.

Some, perhaps all, cold spark machines create a fine residue powder whilst operating, and "cold" is a relative term, as the output temperature is around 40 degrees Celcius. Spark machines need to be at least ten feet away from operators and audience.

Bubbles are formed by blowing air through a wet soap or glycerine film. When they burst, the surface they land on will acquire the film. The more the bubbles, the more slippery it gets.

With all of these, a few moments of joy can become a challenging clean-up. Used inside, their effects can be very time-consuming to deal with. It is unsurprising that they are classed by some as hazardous, or pollution, or both.

The good news is that alternatives are available, in the form of LED lighting, silk flame machines, streamer curtains, and other re-useable effects.