In “Perfect Tiki Bar: The Lighting,” I briefly touched on how to make light bulbs look like flame:
Flame-look flicker bulbs can be purchased, but their wattage is so low that they really are not useful for light at all. Disneyland uses special trickery to allow bulbs of any sort to flicker like flame. The electrical controls can be expensive, but someone who knows what they’re doing can tackle the project for under a hundred dollars.
I’ve learned of an electrical control called SimFlame that can be purchased for just over a hundred dollars, and it is essentially three control boxes in one: one box will control three bulbs (up to 100 watts each), with each one getting a different flame pattern. That’s important, because if you have more than one bulb controlled by only one source of “flicker,” then the bulbs look more like they’re throbbing. That can look great if the effect you’re shooting for is a room lit by a rusty old generator, but it looks a little creepy if you’re trying to make it look like fire. I don’t have one of these control boxes yet myself, but the website has video of them in action, and they look very promising.