Special Effects or Mechanical Effects


The use of special effects can enhance any production. Effects can range from something as small as the use of breakaway glass to a huge fireball. No matter the size of the effect, care must be taken and all safety procedures need to be followed in order to maintain a safe set. The Assistant Director must include any special effects in the daily safety meeting. We recommend the use of on-set professional special effects personnel or at least consulting with them when renting or purchasing special effects equipment and/or material. There are many choices of special effects “shops.” Here are a few that have worked with LMU students: 

Full Scale FX

Roger George

Special Effects Unlimited

At LMU you are not allowed to use any pyrotechnical device (explosions, guns firing any blank or projectile, etc.) 

At LMU you are allowed to use several special effects on your productions: 

  • Breakaway glass or bottles (eye protection must be available and worn) Alfonso Breakaway Glass
  • Wet downs (spraying water to enhance the look of streets for night shooting) 
  • Rain bars (if on stage, precautions taken to protect the floor and a clean-up plan in place. A wet-vac or sump pumps as needed are useful tools.) 
  • Smoke/fog (non-toxic, water-based materials only.) An SDS1 must be attached to the call sheet. Cast & crew must be notified ahead of time. Particle masks should be made available to the cast & crew. There is no form of any smoke, fog, or haze allowed on campus, which includes any LMU stages or black boxes at this time. For any off-campus use, you must obtain permission from the location and it must be indicated on your Film LA or another jurisdiction’s permit. You may be required to hire a Mechanical FX professional.
  • Smoking on camera is allowed however ONLY HERBAL cigarettes, fake tobacco or fake cannabis are the only substances that can be used on camera. BUTT CANS and a FIRE EXTINGUISHER MUST be present for all such work.
  • Dust pellets, you may use dust pellets to simulate bullet hits only if they are thrown. If you want to use a paint-ball type of gun or wrist rocket, a professional special effects person (approved by Production Administration) must be hired to control and administer the device. In any case, eye protection must be available and used. 
  • Open flames (candles, camp fires, stoves). There are no open flames or candles allowed on campus, except for the the sound stages, which are permissible locations provided there are safety procedures in place, such as a fire extinguisher and the office of Public Health & Safety (P-Safe) has been notified.
    • If you are shooting on a local location (LA County or City), the Film Permit Office may require the presence of a professional FSO2 if an open flame is used. If you are filming in a “High Fire Hazard” area you will not be allowed to use an open flame.     
    • A responsible person shall be designated for the handling, placement, safe use and securing daily of any open flame devices.  
    • secure all stationary open flame fixtures.  
    • Flammables and combustibles shall be kept a safe distance from open flames.  
    • All gas lines in connection with the use of open flames shall be approved in accordance with applicable building and fire codes. When using liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), hoses and fittings must be of a type approved for LPG service.  
    • All cast and crew, including stunt performers, should be notified reasonably in advance of their involvement with open flames. (again, this should be on the call sheet) 
    • When fire is used, fire extinguishment equipment must be in close proximity and properly trained personnel should stand by.  
    • Appropriate fire authorities should be contacted prior to the use of open flames, whether at a studio or on location. 
    • The person responsible for igniting the flame should ensure he or she maintains a clear line of sight of the flame or maintains direct communication with a designated observer.  
    • Make sure that an adequate number of proper fire extinguishers are at hand. 
    • Test the extinguishers before igniting any open flame to ensure that they are in working condition. 
    • Consider that the illusion of fire can be created with a lighting effect. Be careful with loose clothing around open flame. Untreated fabric can ignite quickly and cause severe injury. 
  • Dust Effects “Fuller’s Earth” is the most common “product” used for dust.  Some of the more common organic products used to create dust effects include wheat flour, rice flour, corn starch, coffee creamers and crushed nutshells. 


Common effects of exposure to any airborne material are eye irritation, respiratory irritation, and skin irritation. Particle masks should always be made available to the cast & crew. The MSDS will contain information about the products being used, the necessary precautions that should be taken, and the products’ potential effects. The MSDS must be attached to the call sheet. 

If the product is combustible, do not use around open flames or other potential sources of ignition (e.g., set lighting devices). 

Before using any materials please ask: 

  • Are you or any member of the cast or crew asthmatic, allergic or have other medical conditions that would be affected by exposure to the product?  
  • Is the product combustible; and will it be used on an interior set or location?  

When using products to create effects, you must take all appropriate safety precautions.  

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