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What licences and permits are required to produce special effects for films, television programmes and theatrical performances?
A discharge permit is required for using special effects materials (SEM) to produce entertainment special effects. The operators responsible for the discharge shall hold valid special effects operators licences.

Under what circumstances may a discharge permit be exempted?
A discharge permit is not required if only a limited quantity of non-pyrotechnic special effects materials (non-PSEM) is used. However, the use of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) or PSEM will always require a discharge permit regardless of the quantity to be used. The exempted quantities for non-PSEM are specified in the Dangerous Goods Ordinance. Nevertheless, for safety reasons, it is advisable to employ suitably qualified special effects operators for the discharge as these operators are obliged to comply with the Codes of Practice issued by the Authority.

What is the classification of discharge permits?
Discharge permits are classified as Stream A or Stream B according to the type of entertainment programme. In general, films, commercials, television episodes are classified as Stream A whereas dramatic and musical works and theatrical performances are classified as Stream B. When classifying a discharge permit, the Authority may have regard to the followings:

  • the presence of an audience and its proximity to the special effects
  • the types of special effects materials to be used
  • the firing venue and its surroundings
  • the special effects scenes including the presence and actions of performers and stunt persons, and their interactions.

Does the discharge permit issued by Create Hong Kong, Commerce and Economic Development Bureau cover fireworks displays?
No, fireworks displays are regulated under the Dangerous Goods Ordinance under the jurisdiction of the Secretary for Home Affairs for discharge on land, or the Director of Marine for discharge at sea.

What are special effects materials?
Special effects materials (SEM) are materials that may be used to produce special effects for entertainment programmes. SEM are classified as pyrotechnic special effects materials (PSEM) or non-pyrotechnic special effects materials (non-PSEM). PSEM are of explosives in nature. Non-PSEM are dangerous goods without explosive contents. Typical examples of non-PSEM include LPG, naphthalene and gasoline. Please refer to the Schedule of the Entertainment Special Effects Materials List Regulation for details.

How are storage and conveyance of PSEM regulated?
Storage of any quantity of PSEM requires a store licence. Conveyance of PSEM requires a conveyance permit. However, a conveyance permit is not required for small quantity of PSEM conveyed in accordance with a discharge permit under the supervision of a suitably qualified special effects operator.

How are storage and conveyance of non-PSEM regulated?
Storage and conveyance of LPG are regulated under the Gas Safety Ordinance by the Gas Authority. There is no licensing requirement if the water capacity of the LPG involved is less than 130 litres. Storage and conveyance of other non-PSEM are regulated under the Dangerous Goods Ordinance by the Fire Services Department. There is no licensing requirement if the quantities involved are less than the exempted quantities stipulated in the Dangerous Good (General) Regulations.

What can I do if the shooting of special effects is postponed after a discharge permit has been issued? Can I apply for refund of the permit fee?
Fees paid are not refundable. However, the holder of a discharge permit may, prior to the expiration of the permit, apply in writing or by fax [fax no. (852) 3101 0929] for alteration to the validity period. If approved, an alteration fee is payable.

What is the classification of special effects operator licences?
Special effects operator licences are divided into Stream A and Stream B, on the same basis as for classifying discharge permits. Special effects operators are only allowed to work under discharge permits of the same stream.

Special effects operators of Stream A are classified as:
  • Special Effects Operator Class I (Stream A)
  • Special Effects Operator Class II (Stream A)
  • Special Effects Operator (Stream A Short term)
  • Special Effects Assistant (Stream A)
  • Special Effects Assistant (Stream A Short term)

  • Special effects operators of Stream B are classified as:
  • Special Effects Operator (Stream B)
  • Special Effects Operator (Stream B Short term)
  • Special Effects Assistant (Stream B)
  • Special Effects Assistant (Stream B Short term)

  • Detials of the classification of special effects operator licences may be found in schedule 2 of the Entertainment Special Effects (General) Regulation. Ssome special effects operators may have restricted scope of operation due to their limited scope of experience and competence. Holders of Special Effects Assistant licences are not eligible to be specified as the “operator-in-charge” in a discharge permit, but they may work under the supervision of the operator-in-charge.

    How to apply for a licence or a permit under the Entertainment Special Effects Ordinance?
    The licensing system under the Entertainment Special Effects Ordinance is administered by the Special Effects Licensing Unit of the Film Services Office. For enquiries, please contact (852) 2594 0465. Application forms and guidelines are also available at the website <>.

    What can I do if my application for licence or permit is refused by the Authority?
    Any person who is aggrieved by a refusal by the Authority ofn the application for a licence or permit, he/she may make an appeal against the refusal by serving on the Secretary for Commerce and Econcmic Development a notice of appeal in writing within 28days after the notice of that refusal. The appeal will be heard by an Appeal Board which is formed by the Chairman and four members of the Appeal Board Panel.
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