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Basics - A Beginner's Guide to Special Effects

This title introduces newcomers to the world of special effects. It describes all types of special effects including pyrotechnic, smoke and lighting effects, projections, noise machines, etc. It places emphasis on the safe storage, handling and use of pyrotechnics

Author: Peter Coleman
Publication Date: 8th September 2005
Book Format: Paperback
Kindle Version: Click here to buy from Amazon
Price: £9.95


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By the nature if its title the reader will realise that this book, the third in Peter Coleman's "Basic"

series (following A Beginner's Guide to Stage Lighting and A Beginner's Guide to Stage Sound), is aimed at the beginner in the field and the amateur. However it may also provide a useful reminder of, may I say, "the basics". The author, a theatre practitioner of long experience, first considers the implication of the Health and Safety at Work Act and the application of RiskAssessment. Then follow chapters on Pyrotechnics, Dry Ice and Smoke Effects, The Projected Image, The Dynamic Effect including the use of snow bags and flicker sticks and finally, in "What's Left", comes mention of strobe and UV lighting, bubbles, silk flame effects and the old stand-bys, the wind and rain machines, the door slam and the gun shot. Recorded sound effects are mentioned in passing.

In his conclusion, whilst recognising that due regard should be paid to health and safety and the fact that an increasingly litigious attitude is creeping in from abroad, the author sadly reflects that the prospect of making a risk assessment for such a practice as the use of bubbles is a seemingly ridiculous

situation "sending us all into a self perpetuating downward spiral to nowhere in particular, except to stop, or at least question, the things which previously we would have given little or no thought to ... but since the legis­lation is in place, like it or loathe it, we've all got to work with it."


Cueline magazine




There are few books available today that give guidance on special effects for the theatre, and fewer dealing with the very basics. Coleman’s short book goes some way to addressing this, but is more an appraisal of existing products on the market, notably lighting and pyrotechnic effect units. There is a chapter on DIY effects, but this is limited and quite outdated. Probably only of value to the complete beginner.


Lighting + Sound International