This should be fun...I need a shot of a toaster sparking and possibly flaming as if it short circuited. The sparks can come from the cord or from inside the toaster. I need the whole effect to last about 2-3 seconds. Before resorting to computer generated fx I'd like to start by trying to get this practically. Any suggestion that will allow me to keep my eyebrows?
Magicians have a special, relatively safe to use pyro powder that seems to throw sparks from your fingertips. You can order it thru magician's supply companies that cater to the trade.
Theatrical supply companies also offer pre-made squibs that will flame, smoke, or spark. You can make your own from some model rocket parts and igniters, tripping a custom powder mix, or simple flash paper wads. But this is easy to screw up if you're not an expert.
If you can foley the audio later, (because it will be noisy) another way to do this would be to rig a small DC electric motor inside the toaster, spinning an abrasive metal disk against a soft metal bar that will throw a fountain of sparks. A simple toggle switch controls when it works, you could power it with DC thru the old AC cord, or via radio control, the whole thing could be made from a surplus RC car with battery pack, speed controller, motor, frame, and wheel parts. Just change the tire to an abrasive wheel like from a Dremel moto-tool. This would be low voltage, with no chance of electrocuting anyone, but depending on the speed of the spinning disk and the type of metal, say, a "comb" of cheap music wire segments brushing that abrasive wheel, you could throw very large fountains of sparks this way, with maybe just a *little smoke.
But after suggesting all of that, I have to say that doing it in post is easier than ever these days, using either a particle system like wondertouch, or stock footage from a source like Digital Juice's compositor's kit. They will look real because they ARE real.
And nobody has to get hurt. My own choice would be a combo of sparks done in post and a little squib of simple flash paper done as a practical.
Thanks for the advice all. We'll be going the post effects route with the kind help from the advice you've posted. Doing it for real while possible, given my lack of experience with this makes it not the wisest choice, (but it would be pretty cool).
At least do this: hide a photo strobe in the toaster and trigger that. You can get remote-controlled ones, or wire one up. When the flash goes off from it, that will add a lot of nice on-set reactive lighting that will be motivated, and the talent has something physical to react to. Add the post effects to that on-set strobe flash, you will look great.
Thanks Mark.. I was also planning to stuff the toaster with treated paper an light that to get flame and black smoke and augment that with fx. There is no talent in the shot, just a couple seconds of the toaster doing its thing. I agree that the strobe will add a nice bit of interactive light.