Special Effects Equipment

Simple Fire Effect

To make a simple device to produce a flickering effect, similar to an open fire in a grate; all you need is a starter from a fluorescent tube. Wire it in series with a 60 to 100 watt fire glow lamp or red reflector spotlight and the light will flicker in a fairly random manner. Use a fire glow lamp if you just want the fire grate to have a flickering embers effect, or use a reflector spotlight if you want to illuminate the cast or the scenery.

Circuit diagram

simple fire effect
Flicker effect lamps

Flicker effect lamps

Obviously this is not a very bright effect, but it is only intended to give the effect of a fireplace and not an inferno. This effect is likely to cause a little local electrical interference so keep the sound equipment and its wires away from the wiring for the fire effect. If you do not know much about electrical wiring, get some assistance. The starter and lamp holder could be fitted into a small plastic "experimenter" box, the sort available from Maplin.

Eventually this will probably wreck the starter, but they're cheap enough not to worry about. To add to the effect it is possible to purchase lamps that have a candle or flame effect. Basically they are large neon lamps with an impurity introduced to stop the plate glowing steadily. You would need about five to give an appearance of a small fire, that is just as well as they are likely to cost about 5 each.


There is no substitute for using common sense when working with electricity. Remember electricity is dangerous and you must handle the equipment with care. Make sure you know the mains is turned off when plugging in lamps.