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FROM a snow-covered winter wonderland to a sky exploding with fireworks, special effects continue to captivate guests thanks to seasoned professionals, who ensure eye-catching — and safe — effects.


Hands down, nothing is more important than lighting when it comes to special effects, says Francisco Guerra, president of Snowmasters Evaporative Snow Systems. “You can have the most amazing special effects for your event, but if it's in a room or theater with poor lighting, you may never even see the effect,” he says. The Anderson, Ala.-based company has professional installers on call to help with setup and lighting design of its products, such as the popular Faux Snow. The non-slippery, hypoallergenic, biodegradable product is ideal for winter wonderland themes and holiday events, Guerra says. The product begins as a powder and, when mixed with water, gives the illusion of real snow, but dries and vacuums up without a mess, he explains.

Similarly, Glendale, Calif.-based UVART depends on proper lighting to produce the desired effects on its hand-painted, ultraviolet-lit backgrounds. The company's most requested special effects are the day-to-night images and the dual-image look, says Kent Mathieu, art director and owner of UVART.

Lighting designers take the day-to-night images through sunset with traditional lighting, then turn on ultraviolet lighting to transform the image into a night scene. The company created the dual-image effect — when one image shows up under show lighting and a different image appears with the application of ultraviolet light — for the theater at the Atchafalaya Welcome Center in Butte LaRose, La., where moviegoers are surprised by the transformation of a sandstone wall into a panoramic swamp scene at sunset. “People are fascinated by it,” Mathieu says. “If people use it right, they get a ‘wow’ from the audience.”


Pulling fog, lights, lasers, fire, water, confetti, bubbles, snow and rain out of their toolbox and layering the effects is what WOW!Works does to create interesting and unexpected moments, says Bettina Buckley, chief effects orchestrator for the Clermont, Fla.-based company. The company recently produced the special effects for “A Tivoli Fairytale,” a show in Copenhagen, Denmark, celebrating the life of beloved author Hans Christian Andersen, which mixed puppetry with lights, bubbles, snow and fog to “add an unexpected dimension to the stories we are telling and the characters being portrayed,” Buckley says.


Whether its working with lighting, snow, fireworks or a variety of special effects, experts advise going to the professionals for safety and to make sure the desired effects are achieved. “Always use a professional and reputable company, someone that has 24-hour technical support and installation experts on call,” Guerra explains.

Utica, N.Y.-based American Fireworks Manufacturing Co., which produces fireworks displays for indoor events, makes sure its products are manufactured and tested to exceed stringent requirements of National Fire Protection Association regulations, president Vincent Speciale says. He recalls the Rhode Island nightclub fire of three years ago — caused by operators using outdoor pyro effects inside a confined area — and cautions against hiring novice operators. “Know what you're doing, hire a professional with years of experience,” Speciale advises. “Inexperienced operators are dangerous if not properly supervised.”


American Fireworks, 315/724-9487; Snowmasters Evaporative Snow Systems, 800/745-8599; UVART, 818/243-7145; WOW!Works, 352/243-2124

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