Designed by Ricardo Caballer; Pyrodigital firing with 565 16-cue modules, 15 field controllers, 9000 cues, 11330 items.
It’s difficult to know where to being with a report on this outstanding display. The most complex (by many measures) ever fired in the history of the Montreal International fireworks competition.
Back in 2001, Pyro Spectaculars By Souza attempted an ambitious display with 390 FM-16 modules, 5200 cues and 7738 items, including a segment to the music Lord of the Dance, sequenced by Alberto Navarro, that used 1011 cues in 45 seconds. The Souza display broke two records at the time, but did not garner a Jupiter that year. In 2008, Pyrotecnico won the Gold Jupiter with a display featuring 460 FM-16 modules and 6600 cues. In 2012, Atlas Pyrovision Productions also won gold with a display that featured a massive cue count of 7396. The ultimate record being that established by Pyroemotions/PyroDigiT team in 2013 which featured 7900 one-shots and a total of 8727 cues fired with the PyroDigiT system and also winning a Gold Jupiter.
Over the years, then, there has been a move away from traditional multi-shot devices, such as Roman Candles, to the use of precise one-shots, supported by firing systems that have the capacity and speed to fire these in creative ways. The Pyroemotions display in 2013 was the ultimate expression of this in the context of the Montreal competition, with some people complaining that it was a bit unbalanced with respect to the use of shells. However, this type of display is a different way to create a pyromusical and deservedly won the Gold Jupiter that year.
So now, in 2016, we witnessed a record breaker in two ways – the largest number of one-shots and the largest cue count though, arguably, not the largest ever “device count”. Some of the closing displays by Panzera in the late 1990s featured more than 1500 10-shot bombette candles, easily giving equivalent device counts over 15,000. No matter how precise, though, Roman Candles cannot compare to the precision that can be created with one-shots or the special “multi-shot” systems used by Ricasa.
There are many areas where displays with such high counts of one-shots can fail. Amongst these are incorrectly set angles, the wrong product in the wrong place or items not firing at all. Of course, the same can be said for a display featuring a lot of Roman Candles, but the more physical positions that have to be installed, the more chances there are for errors or mis-fires. Other issues where one-shot dominated shows can fail is if the timing is not really precise – this can create a feeling of juddering or not-quite-synchronized firing. Also, if the products are not consistent, these shows fail with the effects not rising to the same height or having the same duration.
Much has already been written about Ricasa’s show and I am indebted to Fred Bastien for his astonishing analysis posted on the forum. Fred gives a great analysis of the structure of the soundtrack and really shows how complex the display was. For my part, I’m interested in some of the technical questions. From my perspective, the display was close to flawless. There were perhaps one or two tiny errors, but I cannot remember where they were. All saxons and gerbs fired properly; all wheels (including the gorgeous gold spangle ones) turned without problem (this is, unfortunately, not usually the case). Angles were precise and correct throughout. There was great support from a great variety of excellent quality shells.
The almost five minute sequence to the Piano Concerto Number 1 by Tchaikovsky was both a technical and an artistic triumph. It greatly exceeded my (already high) expectations. Composed of around 2500 cues, 22 firing positions represented the 88 notes of the piano. Through brilliant use of different products, from small mines, comets and photoflash, we could imagine the pianists fingers running along the keyboard. Shells and bigger comets provided the representation of other instruments in the orchestra. The sequencing was so fluid it was a joy to behold – no jerkiness or shuddering. This, to me, was the most impressive piece of pyrotechnics I’ve ever seen in Montreal (and I have seen a lot).
The rest of the display was also excellent, including the finale. Unfortunately, I missed the letter mines spelling out M O N T R E A L and then 2016 right at the very end, but winds had been towards the audience and there was quite a lot of smoke. Some minor criticisms – I would have liked a broader colour palette. Whilst the colours were excellent and vivid, they tended to be more to the warm end of the spectrum with blues and purples seemingly under-represented. I know Ricasa makes dazzling blues so this was a tad disappointing – though the smoke accumulation could also be a factor here. Whilst there was little repetition, we did see the photoflash shells and mines used more than once (brilliant though they were). The nauticals were good, but I would have liked some more (and brighter ones) in the finale.
The audience gave the team a well deserved standing ovation, as did everyone present in the Salon des Articiers after the display. Ricardo was visibly relieved that everything had gone well. To setup such a complex display on-time and have everything fire correctly is a major technical and logistical achievement and the large team should be congratulated for this. Ricasa should definitely be on the podium, but with one strong contender still to go, it’s impossible to say what their final position will be, though they are number one at the moment.