Boom! Inside the making of a fireworks spectacular (pictures)
Anyone who has watched a fireworks show in the San Francisco area has seen Pyro Spectaculars' work. CNET recently spent a day with one of the company's crews as they produced a "Star Wars" fireworks show for the Oakland A's.
OAKLAND, Calif.--What does it take to put together a major fireworks show? The folks at Pyro Spectaculars should know. As one of the biggest pyrotechnics companies in the United States, they're responsible for putting on shows all around the country.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, they're the biggest show around, and they've produced fireworks for New Year's Eve, the Golden Gate Bridge's 75th anniversary, and during the baseball season, a series of shows for the Oakland A's.
CNET reporter Daniel Terdiman recently spent a day with the crew that produced the annual "Star Wars" fireworks show for the A's. Over the course of a full day, the crew built the show almost from scratch, arriving in an empty parking lot, unloading everything from a truck, putting everything required together, and then firing off 15 minutes of spectacular pyro.
The plan for a Pyro Spectaculars fireworks show is created well in advance, and every mortar has a specific place. As the crew set up, members checked a chart showing where each mortar, or gun, was supposed to go.
During the show, some racks fire off matching shells in opposite directions so that the same effects are seen in two different locations. In order to do that, the racks are angled away from each other, as seen in this photograph.
As the crew sets the racks of mortars up for the "Star Wars" show, they first cleaned every one of them out to make sure there were no live shells left inside from a previous show. While none were found, there were plenty of remnants from burned shells.
The pyro crew runs the show from this controller, which receives radio signals containing cues timed to "Star Wars"-themed music playing inside the Oakland Coliseum. The controller has various safety features to ensure that the show can be stopped if necessary.
When putting together the show, the crew did everything in stages. Here, the individual fireworks shells are laid out atop the mortars in which they'll be put. Before that can happen, though, they must first be wired to a series of modules mounted on the sides of the racks of mortars.
The crew works methodically to wire up the individual shells to the mortars. Each mortar is individually addressed, and each shell is meant for a specific mortar. Because of that, the show's producers know exactly which fireworks will go off in which order.
After all the shells are wired up, the crew conducts what's called a continuity test. The idea is to be sure that all the wiring has been done properly, and that each shell has been installed in the correct place. During the first test, the box addressed number 48 returned no response, meaning it hadn't been wired properly.
Fireworks shows at the Oakland Coliseum happen alongside a bridge over which people can walk between the stadium and the nearby train station. During the show, the bridge is closed, and afterwards, the pyro crew walks from end to end, checking to make sure no unexploded shells have landed anywhere members of the public might walk.