Artem captivates audience with smoke ring
Thursday, 21 February 2019
artem-torusArtem's Torus ‘smoke vortex cannon’ created donut shaped smoke rings
UK - Artem, the physical special effects company, made further inroads into the theatre sector recently with a new effects’ challenge from the world of dance. Artem, whose credits include Harry Potter: The Cursed Child and Holiday on Ice, 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. 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.”
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.”
Torus has its UK premiere at DanceXchange, Birmingham on 15 February and then goes on tour, finishing in Barcelona on 19 July.
(Jim Evans)

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