Diy stage effects

Written by jeff o'kelley
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Diy stage effects
Musical concert lighting (concert image by BlueMiniu from Fotolia.com)

The addition of stage effects to theatre performances, musical concerts or professional presentations can improve the audience experience and add another dimension to nearly any performance. Stage effects can range from simple lighting effects to elaborate special effects which utilise elements such as fog, sound, light and even fire. While some stage effects, such as fire or explosions, should be left to professionals, there are a multitude of do-it-yourself stage effects from which to choose.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Dry ice
  • Styrofoam cooler
  • Christmas lights
  • Electric fan
  • Digital recorder
  • Blacklights
  • Blacklight markers or tape
  • Scissors or knife

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Put chunks of dry ice into a large, styrofoam cooler and place to the side or rear of your stage. Add hot water to the cooler to generate a fog or smoke effect. To distribute the smoke around the stage, use a small electric fan to move the smoke in the desired direction. As the water cools, add more hot water to generate additional smoke.

  2. 2

    Use inexpensive Christmas lights to add a unique look to your stage. Mixing flashing and non-flashing lights of different colours adds an eclectic look to your stage show, where using numerous strings of white, flashing lights can produce a sparkle effect.

    Diy stage effects
    Christmas lights (Christmas lights image by Cindy Haggerty from Fotolia.com)
  3. 3

    Put together a slideshow of images that fit with the band's music and project on the rear wall of the stage, curtain or sheet hung from the rigging. This can be as simple as utilising a slide projector or creating a slideshow on a laptop computer, then connecting it to a portable projector. The result is a simple effect that can be tailored to the band or changed on a regular basis.

    Diy stage effects
    Slide projector (videoprojecteur image by mattmatt73 from Fotolia.com)
  4. 4

    Use strobe lights in conjunction with other stage lighting to create a simple, fast-paced stage effect. Add coloured gels to the strobe lights for a more dramatic effect.

  5. 5

    Create a unique effect by using blacklight markers or blacklight reactive tape to write messages or draw pictures on amps, drums, microphone stands or other stage gear. The effect will be invisible until lit by blacklights, which can be turned on at various times to reveal the hidden text and artwork.

  6. 6

    Use a knife or scissors to make small holes in a large, black curtain or sheet. When hung from the ceiling or rigging, and lit from behind, the illusion of stars in the night sky or the view of city lights in the distance can be easily achieved.

    Diy stage effects
    Night sky (night sky image by Sergey Galushko from Fotolia.com)
  7. 7

    Record various sounds with a digital recording and incorporate into your performance via the venue sound system or an onstage CD player or digital music player.

    Diy stage effects
    Microphone for digital recorder (microphone image by Sid Viswakumar from Fotolia.com)

Tips and warnings

  • When using strobe lights, be sure that the venue posts a warning for people sensitive to strobe effects.
  • Combine lights and fog to create various effects and moods.
  • Digitally recorded sounds can be easily manipulated with audio software to create unique effects or sounds.
  • Wear protective gloves when handling dry ice to prevent frost burn.
  • To avoid a fire hazard, never connect strings of Christmas lights in excess of the manufacturer recommendations.

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