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At the same time that they brighten a room, burst from cannons or blaze against the sky, the best effects bring event meaning and mood into focus.


With many event experts reporting an increase in smaller, more intimate events, it's not surprising that tabletop effects are among suppliers' most popular.

Kensington, Md.-based Digital Lightning, which provides lasers, lighting and fireworks among other high-impact effects, cites a steady flow of requests for its pyrotechnic centerpieces. Company vice president and licensed pyrotechnician Alysha DiGiorgio describes the product as a sparkler that is placed inside a floral centerpiece and attached to a remote controlled “pager.” At the desired instant, the pager is triggered to set off a 3- to 4-foot-high silver or gold sparkler from the centerpiece, producing “an effect that is breathtaking and illuminates the entire room.”

The unit itself uses a “cold spark” process, which “will not burn linens or flowers, and produces very minimal fallout, which usually goes unnoticed in the centerpiece,” DiGiorgio explains. Digital Lightning also avoids producing the effect in venues where low ceilings do not meet National Fire Protection Agency distance requirements — part of the company's commitment to securing full permitting for all its events, she says.

For Lexington, Ky.-based Star Light and Magic, centerpiece pin-spotting tops requests. According to general manager Remy Simpson, “A properly pin-spotted floral arrangement will cause the arrangement to appear to glow from the inside, and cause shadows from the branches and flowers to evenly spread across the table from the center.”

Simpson adds that one of the most important qualities of a special effects display is not how much money is spent, but how well effects enhance the event atmosphere. In the case of pin-spotted centerpiece arrangements, he says, “the overall effect is very subdued, giving the sense of a warm outdoor evening beneath a full moon.”


Subdued is far from the mood other effects experts aim to effect.

For Kevin Bilida, CEO of Los Angeles-based TLC Creative Special Effects, event effects are about giving guests “surprises [they] could never imagine or expect.” These days, his company has been filling that bill with new products that fill the air and deceive the eye. Among cool new items is “electric tape” — a 1- to 8-inch-wide strip that can be electrified to glow with a range of colors. TLC recently used the tape in combination with lasers at an event for client Boeing, creating a “very high-impact, 3-D look,” Bilida says. The effect, he adds, “was the decor, and it was spectacular.”

Also gaining popularity with TLC clients is the “CO2 blast.” The effect produces a steam-like substance that is cool to the touch, and can shoot up vertically or drift down from a ceiling toward a dance floor. Bilida says he is using the effect at a club-theme reopening event for the Pittsburgh Convention Center, “for the visual effect, and to cool [guests] down.”

Bellevue, Wash.-based LFI International reports that advances in laser technology have meant even budget-conscious clients can now incorporate the impressive effect. Today's air-cooled solid-state lasers can “just plug into a wall — a standard house current,” says the company's Floyd Rollefstad. “That opens up a lot of areas. It's more economical, and it's so much easier to do a very quick setup.” And while solid-state lasers have a limited color range for the time being — green beams are the most common — he says the technology has created “an ability to do large-venue beam projections pretty readily.”

Among clients of Lynnwood, Wash.-based CITC, the ShotMax confetti launcher is an event favorite. Vice president Stephany Crawford calls the unit “a simple, uncomplicated, plug-in-and-turn-on, lightweight launcher” that continuously throws confetti and streamers up to 50 feet high without the use of CO2. Clients with budget concerns can benefit from CITC's new Quick-Party confetti- and streamer-launcher, which invites audience participation, she notes. Whichever unit clients choose, Crawford says, they can benefit by giving guests “a few moments of childhood bliss and wonder — and then you've created a memory.”


While new effects continue to emerge, good old-fashioned fireworks are keeping up with the times.

James R. Souza, president of Pyro Spectaculars by Sousa, says a “safety is all-important” philosophy has gone into the development of its new Astro Gold product — a line of proximate fireworks designed for indoor and outdoor use. Souza adds that strict adherence to NFPA guidelines and membership in the American Pyrotechnic Association — “where we work in public relations, sending the message of education and safety,” he notes — has kept the company busy with such high-profile events as the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

Ted A. Walker, president of Miami Shores, Fla.-based Add Fire, says his company strives to “show up on time and produce what [we] promise.” These days, the company's most popular effect is its “fireworks graphics” — a system in which miniature flares, connected by a single fuse, are triggered to burn along an image outline on a wooden grid. The effect can be used to display corporate brand logos or images, he notes, but it is just one part of the bigger event picture: “Fireworks are the glue that holds the memory together.”


Add Fire, 305/895-2231; CITC, 425/776-4950; Digital Lightning, 866/4-LIGHTNING; LFI International, 425/644-2777; Pyro Spectaculars by Sousa, 877/477-PYRO; Star Light and Magic, 800/275-4800; TLC Creative Special Effects, 800/447-3585

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