Ever watched an award-winning display and wondered ‘how do they do that?’ It’s not ‘light the blue touch paper and retire’. Today, creating a firework display demands long hours of planning and preparation. This section of fireworks.co.uk shows you how it’s done. It is not intended to teach you how to become a master pyrotechnician but to give you an insight into the complexity and detail of the tasks involved.
Planning a fireworks display.
Begins with a lot of legwork and long-term planning. There are discussions with the client about budgets, style, and timing of the show, site layout, and conditions, safety considerations etc. A site survey is always necessary, together with liaison with a variety of authorities.
Creating the display.
The Display Director devises the show. All aspects are planned in detail with sequences prepared for all the necessary elements of the show. The opening and closing sequences are usually showpieces which are linked together with specialty feature elements.
Music and fireworks.
Many shows are fired to music and the soundtrack has to be edited, usually from pre-recorded sources, then timed to correspond with the pyrotechnic effects. Finally, the soundtrack is cued and a copy burnt to CD to be played over the showground P.A. system.
All big shows nowadays are programmed into a computer for split-second precision of firing. The music, firing list, timings, and cues are all programmed into the computer.
The fireworks need to be sourced. Although all display companies will keep large stocks sufficient for most displays, fireworks may be brought in specially for a competition or a very special occasion. Crews have to be booked and briefed, transport arranged, and all of the necessary equipment assembled together or built specially.
Please click on the images below to learn what piece of equipment is being used.
Arrival on site involves unloading the hardware, tools and pyro, and the display layout is marked out. Most of the hardware is mortar tubes and frames for roman candles. Apart from the very large ones, mortar tubes are assembled together into crates and these have to be braced and fixed for security. Candle frames likewise hold multiple elements, often in fan-formation, and need to be secured. Single-ignition units and batteries of cakes are the other main constituent of a large display.
When the hardware is set out according to the display layout the fireworks are distributed to the corresponding item. Next, fireworks are fused together into their correct sequences. This might involve the use of delays or slower fuses to achieve timing but this is often unnecessary if the show is fired using a remote firing system, or by computer.
Only small displays are fired by hand so the next step is to insert a pyrotechnic igniter or electric match at the correct point in each fuse run. The lead from the igniter is connected to the firing box, usually through one or more hubs or distribution points. Throughout this process, the fireworks will have been fixed to their framework or loaded into the mortar tubes.
When the circuits are all connected up and ready, the process of testing begins. A tiny electric current is fed to each igniter – sufficient to test that the connection has been made, but not sufficient to actually fire it. As the process of fixing and fusing each firework or battery is completed, the final task is protection. All fireworks need to be protected from pre-ignition by sparks from other fireworks, and from non-ignition because of damp from the rain.