Interview with Team Luso

I met with Vitor Machado, competing under the Grupo Luso banner for the forth time in Montreal. Ten years after their stunning debut display, which garnered a Silver Jupiter (though many people thought it deserved the Gold), Luso are competing here once again, despite Vitor’s exclamation, after their display in 2008 was not rewarded with a prize, that they would not be back.

Vitor Machado

Vitor Machado

So the first question was, naturally, what had changed his mind about returning to Montreal? Vitor noted that they were disappointed with the display’s placement in 2008 but he found himself thinking about “what to do next time in Montreal”. Aha! So they did want to come back. “Of course!”. We then had a discussion about how Montreal is such a special place given that the audience’s whole reason for being there is to see the fireworks, that the fireworks are the central event of the evening. He also mentioned that the Montreal competition is one of the most stable in terms of format – this also being important as well as the fact that the Montreal site is especially designed for fireworks.

We then discussed what had changed since their debut in 2002 and one thing that immediately was mentioned was the fact that now, all displays are electronically fired whereas back in 2002 about one third of the shows were manually fired. This, Vitor noted, makes for a more level playing field and means that creativity and design become key, rather than technology.

In terms of the design process, Vitor said he’s thinking about it all the time and is already thinking about his next visit to Montreal and noted that the process is much longer than just a month or so. One other thing that has changed, for Grupo Luso, is that, since 2002, they have become much more of a pyrotechnic products manufacturer. Their display this year will feature 100% Luso material, with about 70-75% coming from Portugal and the rest from Luso’s production facilities in China. This change is important and Vitor said he also wanted his display to be a showcase for their products, but, of course, without it just appearing to be product demonstration. Several new products will be shown to the public for the first time in Montreal and he noted that the competition is a good place to try new things out. Sensitive to cost, Vitor said he’d rather spend the money on something disposable rather than on an expensive structure (such as the ring or dome used in 2002/2005.

Vitor was somewhat circumspect about the design of the show, wanting people to experience the special effects themselves but not so willing to talk about them, save for the live performances by violinist Eric Speed and fadista Yolanda Soares. He did say that he wants to create an emotional environment that involves the audience, especially including music that is so dear to the Portguese soul, Fado. At the end of the day, he said he wanted to represent his company’s culture and do the best display for them and the audience.

Technical aspects are that the display will be fired using FireOne and Galaxis (also used by Sugyp and Vaccalluzzo – sharing the system saved all  three companies some costs). There will be around 3000 cues. Vitor did all of the design but was assisted by Montreal native, Melanie Cagnon who now works for Luso and assisted with the choice of music.

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