Artem, the award-winning physical special effects company has made further inroads into the theatre sector recently with a new effects’ challenge from the world of dance.

Artem, who also work in the events sector have credits including Harry Potter: The Cursed Child and Holiday on Ice.

The company were asked to design and build a piece of equipment capable of projecting a single giant smoke ring the shape of a doughnut – known in physics as a Torus – from the rear of a stage, out over an audience.

The ‘smoke vortex cannon’, as it came to be known, had to be large enough to make an impact in a sizeable performance venue, whilst being resilient and easily transportable on tour. In addition, the cannon needed to be DMX programmable, to enable control from the lighting gallery.

Artem’s client is the Birmingham and Barcelona-based dance company, Humanhood – a rapidly-rising star in the dance firmament.

Artistic Directors Rudi Cole and Júlia Robert Parés anchor their work in physics and astrophysics, as well as in their personal insight into Eastern mysticism. Their new production, Torus, is inspired by the creation of a geometrical shape by revolving a circle in a three-dimensional space around a coplanar axis, and by the existence of these shapes throughout the natural world. Artem’s smoke vortex cannon delivers a dramatic visual effect at a key moment during the performance.

Artem built a number of rigid-bodied cannon prototypes in various sizes, all of which featured a rear-mounted membrane pulled into extension by a series of bungees and secured by electromagnets. Once released, the membrane creates a sizeable single shockwave of air. Simultaneously, the cannon’s chamber is filled with a non-toxic, water-based smoke vapour which is forced out by the shockwave through the barrel of the cannon in the form of a large smoke vortex ring. The donut shape of the torus is formed by the air leaving the cannon at the centre of the hole, rolling outwardly to the edge and travelling faster than the air around this outside edge

Ritchie Beacham-Paterson, the SFX Supervisor who lead the project for Artem said, “Rudi and Júlia are used to collaborating with physicists and mathematicians, as well as creative performers, so they had a very clear vision of the effect they wanted and an understanding of the engineering challenges we faced. They kept saying “make it bigger, make it bigger,” and we were determined to push it to the limit.”

Cole and Parés were delighted with Artem’s ambition: “Working with Artem was fantastic from day one. There was never a “No”, only a drive to make our ideas materialise… an artist’s dream.”

Beacham-Paterson and his team created a cannon 2.5 metres long, with a diameter of 1.8 metres. This led to new challenges, as Humanhood needed to take the cannon on tour. “To overcome this we created a lightweight, flexible end product, replacing the original rigid, plywood and MDF shell with a collapsible concertina-style fabric body for ease of packing and transport. We reinforced this with steel rings and adjustable steel bars enabling the cannon to be extended and locked into the solid rigid form required to create the shockwave. This shockwave creates a donut-shaped vortex smoke ring or, mathematically, a ‘torus’.”

Torus has its UK premiere at DanceXchange, Birmingham on 15 February and then goes on tour to venues including the Lowry, in Salford and the Gulbenkian in Canterbury, finishing in Barcelona on 19 July.

This year, Artem will be sharing stand E44E at the Event Production Show 2019 with Table Art, a UK and Europe event supplier. Based in Leamington Spa, Table Art, have developed a range of interactive table centres, featuring radio-controlled colour changing LEDs that can create any mood and can be utilised in a myriad of configurations, and with specialised inserts and bespoke shapes. Table Art are industry leaders in inflatables, rotators and themed events for conventions, award ceremonies and other functions.

Artem staff will be on hand at this exciting stand to discuss the full range of event and exhibition needs with a focus on our ability to handle or create digital files and the freedom for development that this unlocks. We’ll have a couple of great examples of this type of work on the stand, including licenced costumes and special builds, machined items produced from 3D scans/digital files and prototypes of some shared ideas with Table Art.