Established in 2009, Quantum Special Effects has created bespoke effects for clients as diverse as the Rugby World Cup and Olympic Games (above) to global tours for Katy Perry, Take That and Muse.

CEO Shaun Barnett (right) gives us the lowdown on how special effects can be used to make all five senses come alive.shaun.Barnett1

“It can be easy to get lost in the visual side of things when it comes to planning a show’s special effects. That burst of flames or the multi-coloured wall of pyros. But the other four senses – sound, touch, smell and taste – are equally important and there are a load of effects out there that can add a whole new dimension to an event or show.”

“As a designer I try to give the maximum visual impact I can within the safety confines of the venue and the production. Use effects like our massive Harvey Wallbanger (huge balls of flame) to highlight a crescendo, a beat or an epic moment within the story. Pyrotechnics are my thing and perfect for giving that big visual moment. Mad colours, angles, and careful product selection, with the goal to make your audience go ‘holy sh*t!’”

“Special effects have been used for sound in live events for as long as they’ve existed. Think of the early days and the puff of smoke as a genie appeared out of a lamp at the local pantomime or the much “too loud” concussions at Kiss or Motorhead concerts in the 80s. From that grass roots level to the time at Bestival when we fired off 42 concussions in two seconds, it’s such an important element.”

“A lot of our best products are the result of clients coming to us who have these crazy ideas and need someone with the skills, resources – and the balls – to make them happen. Always push the boundaries and never think that something is unachievable. Just ask! An example of this is our new Multi-Sensory FX package, which lets thousands of people taste and smell the same flavour at once via haze, smoke-filled bubbles or even rain.”

“Personally I love nothing more than recreating the smell of napalm at a Metallica gig, but sometimes even the simplest effects can work well. I remember this time in the early days when a club wanted to create something different. We came up with the idea of black confetti streaming down, but with the lights off. It was a great way of integrating touch into an event and was a sensory overload for the clubbers, just feeling this stuff fluttering down. People went mad and it was a totally unique experience.”

“If there’s one bit of advice I’d give, it is to get your SFX team onboard early. There’s so much more to it than placing pyros on the DSE and with a dedicated engineering team there’s really no limits. Also, introduce your SFX team to the rest of production – particularly set, lights and lasers – as early as possible. The best gigs are the ones where everyone is on the same page creatively and it just works as one.”

This feature first appeared in the November issue of Access All Areas, which you can read here.