Thursday Salute to Originals: What’s Behind the Perfect Fireworks Display?
The Fourth of July holiday evokes images of flags, barbecues, friends, and of course, fireworks! With the bright flashes, saturated colors, and booming sounds, fireworks are an explosive art that appeals to all of the senses. As our eyes and ears recover from yesterday’s pyrotechnic extravaganzas and the gray smoky skeletons of the fireworks drift away, today we are digging into the design process behind a fireworks show.
Did you know that the choreographers, laborers, technicians, and city officials spend a minimum of 3 to 4 hours planning each minute of the show? If you have ever poured long hours into a CAD drawing or compared a napkin sketch to a completed building, you can probably appreciate the execution process of a fireworks display from concept through realization.
Step 1: Experience and Envision
Before firework specialists can even begin to think about design, they must experience the site of the show. The terrain, amount of open space, and size of the anticipated audience all play important roles in determining the theme of the firework display.
Then it’s on to the drawing boards! According to professional firework artist Cai Guo-Qiang, “size, scale, shape, color, duration, and sequence” are the most significant considerations during conceptualization phases. Like other fields of design, rough sketches
describing forms and colors begin to bring ideas to life!
Step 2: Collaborate and Create
After consulting with pyrotechnic technicians and the music team, it’s time to turn scribbled drawings into a reality. Though the colors, shapes, and sounds of firework displays may seem random, the details behind each shell’s launch is carefully plotted
on graph paper, and then transferred to AutoCAD software. With the computer, designers can determine exactly how high, and at what angle, the colorful explosion will occur. Every burst of light you see in the sky is perfectly timed,and planned!
Step 3: Fabrication
Gunpowder is essential to shell design, not only for propelling the firework upwards, but to cause the explosion and “booms” that we all love! Designers use different variations of chemical powders and gunpowder to create the beautiful shapes and colors
that light up the sky. Combining decades of experience with new computer technology, fireworks artistry has grown more extravagant each year. Shells can even be fired from an electric current with the push of a button! From traditional Chrysanthemum shapes,
to crackling Crossettes, the design possibilities are endless.
Step 4: Showtime
Who knew that a simple show could require months of planning, design, and fabrication! We certainly have a newfound appreciation for fireworks artistry, and we can’t wait to see our favorite colors light up the sky.