FX vocabulary


A list of words used in the world of squibs.

Air Squib
Simulates a bullet hitting an actor using compressed air as propellant. Note that this method may also emit imitation ”blood” and can also blow out a cloud of dust to simulate/visualize the ”hit” in low light conditions or when a less gory result is wanted.
Air Squibs use no explosives and require no license to use, since they pose very little risk of injury to the actor.

Blood effect
Term used in filmmaking meaning the use of stage blood on an actor or ”creature.” The blood can be added as makeup, staying in position, but may also be rigged to squirt or pump from the actor, often in a gruesome way, depicting serious injury.

Bullet effect
Involves a squib to shatter props, squirt liquid or simulated blood to give the illusion of a real bullet striking the materials or an actor. Due to the risk of ricochets or accidents, real bullets are for safety reasons never used when it involves people.  A famous example of a near-accident is during the filming of James Cagney’s ”White Heat” (1949) when skilled marksmen were employed to shoot near Cagney as he was hiding near a window frame. Cagney became nervous about the method and asked to be shown the effect from a distance. When observing the test, one bullet ricocheted hitting the position where Cagney was to be standing.

Blood squib
A squib expelling simulated blood on an actor to give the illusion that the actor has been hit by a bullet.

Bullet hit
This term is usually used to describe any type of squib effect – the impact of a bullet striking an actor or props during a film shoot or during a theatre production. Note that the hit can include blood, but may also just give off  ”dust” to simulate a bullet striking a dry object – or may just shatter the object, such as a mirror, a breakaway bottle or similar.

A product used to set fire to a fuse or other pyrotechnic material by discharging a high voltage spark across its terminals, similar to a spark plug in a vehicle. The resulting spark is often enough to light other pyrotechnic materials. The advantage with an eSquib is that it can be reused several hundred times. It is not suitable for use on an actor due to the risks of using high voltage on the body and the resulting spark not looking realistic, and there is not enough force in the spark to blow a hole in the garments.

Gun Shot Sound Effect Speaker
Conventional pyrotechnic squibs have a fire-cracker sound when they are ignited, which is replaced by a sound effects editor in a movie’s post-production process. Air Squibs give off a quick hissing sound from the release of the compressed air, which is similarly replaced in post-production. However, during filming with an Air Squib, or in the case of a live stage event, the Gun Shot Sound Effect Speaker -- a small wireless loudspeaker synced with the triggering of the Air Squib – can be used for added realism and to give actors something startling to react to.

The simulation of a bullet striking an actor – emitting blood or dust.

Movie squibs
A general term describing simulated bullet hits in actors, or in props. They are rigged to expel blood, dust or break material (breakaway glass, etc.). Despite the term, these squibs may also be used for TV, stage or even live events.

A squib used in film production is an electrically fired small explosive charge that is strong enough to blow a hole in an actor’s garment and a hidden blood bag to simulate a bullet hit in the actor. To prevent the actor from injury, he or she must be protected from the explosive charge, usually with rubber sheet padding and a brass plate affixed with double-sided tape. The disadvantage of an exploding squib lies in that it must be handled and fired by licensed special effects technicians, must be stored under lock and may not be transported freely – such as in a letter, regular packages or on an aircraft, since it is considered a high-explosive, even if in very small quantities.