© Ralf Kreuels

Partying until the sparks fly

Concerts, festi­vals and sports events would only be half as much fun without impres­sive special effects. But since lots of regu­la­tions must be complied with for pyrotech­nics, Magic FX focuses on other visual effects — as it did with its latest product, the Sparxtar.

The Nether­lands enjoy an outstanding repu­ta­tion among fans of elec­tronic music. Famous DJs launched their careers there, and tens of thou­sands of people party at festi­vals throughout the country every year. The fans want to do more than hear beats and melodies, they also want to see sparks, confetti and soap bubbles. This is exactly the part of the spec­tacle that Magic FX, which is based in the town of Boxtel, special­izes in. It produces machines that turn events from concerts to soccer games into special-effects spec­tac­u­lars. “Our team loves music, festi­vals and events,” says oper­a­tions manager Wouter Hoex. “Many of our people play in bands them­selves, work as DJs in their free time, or simply like to go to concerts.” A look at the 40-strong team under­scores his words; its average age is 29.

Wouter Hoex is part of the young team at Magic FX. (Photo | Ralf Kreuels)

A blower from ebm-papst in the Sparxtar makes sure the sparks really fly. (Photo | Ralf Kreuels)

Since the Magic FX employees know from their own expe­ri­ence how much special effects contribute to the atmos­phere at live events, they focus in their daily work on high-quality prod­ucts like their latest special-effects unit, the Sparxtar. It sprays sparks at heights of two to five meters, and users can control the dura­tion and rhythm of spark emis­sion. Hoex explains how Sparxtar works: “The unit heats metal powder up to well above 500 degrees. Together with the ­oxygen which works as a cata­lyst, that causes the powder to spark. A fan blows the sparks into the air.”

Effects without pyrotech­nics

For a long time, precise control of special effects from the lighting control board was not a matter of course, as Hoex explains: “Pyrotech­nics were often used in the past to generate certain effects at events, but that has been much more strictly regu­lated since the early 2000s following serious acci­dents, and rightly so. So nowa­days many event orga­nizers use visual effects from other sources. They’re not dangerous, so they don’t require special autho­riza­tion, and they’re also much easier to control.”

Short delivery times are espe­cially impor­tant for Magic FX’s customers. (Photo | Ralf Kreuels)

That is why the company keeps its prod­ucts on hand in a large ware­house. (Photo | Ralf Kreuels)

Even when events do without real fire and explo­sions, the effects should not be any less spec­tac­ular. So an impor­tant require­ment remained a certain height for the effects so that the spark machines would be noticed even on big stages. In the Sparxtar, the RG 128 centrifugal blower from ebm-papst blows the sparks upwards. Hoex and his team chose the product because they had already had posi­tive expe­ri­ences working with ebm-papst on an earlier project. “We were looking for a very reli­able product for this appli­ca­tion. Nothing is more annoying than a special-effects machine that fails at a crucial moment. And the blower has to be small because the entire unit has to be compact and unob­tru­sive on stage,” says Hoex.

On and off fast

Given these require­ments, ebm-papst provided various prod­ucts to Magic FX so that the company could test them in real-life condi­tions. “The RG 128 won out because in addi­tion to the main require­ments, it can also be turned on and off fast,” says Hoex. “That’s impor­tant because only precise control enables precise effects.”

Our effects are safe and can be much more precisely controlled than pyro-tech­nics.”
Wouter Hoex, Oper­a­tions Manager Magic FX

Customers seem satis­fied with the result. In the first two months after it reached the market, 400 Sparxtar units were sold. So far it has been used at the Euro­vi­sion Song Contest in Tel Aviv and at other major concerts. “The Sparxtar is a completely new equip­ment cate­gory and makes safe and impres­sive sprays of sparks,” enthuses Hoex. “We hope we can provide sparkling high­lights for many more events with it.”

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