United States – July 31st – Atlas Pyrovision Productions


Designed by Stephen Pelkey and Matt Shea. Pyrodigital firing with 430 16-cue modules, PyroMate NightHawk firing with 29 45-cue modules. VisualShowDirector scripting with 7396 cues

The Atlas press released promised thunder and lightning and so mother nature cooperated. For only the second time this year, we had to watch the radar before heading to La Ronde as ominous clouds gathered. About 15 minutes before show time, lightning was seen above downtown Montreal, though no thunder was heard. Despite a few tiny sprinkles at one point during the show, the weather remained dry. The only unfortunate aspect was that the wind direction shifted by 180 degrees literally seconds before the display stared, ensuring the smoke and debris were directed at the audience at La Ronde. Fortunately the wind was strong enough such that the smoke didn’t accumulate too much and spoil the display.

One other thing of note, before my review-proper, is that both the opening and closing competitors this year had the largest cue counts and most one-shots.

The display began quite dramatically after the 1 minute 22 second narration was over (though there nice bengal and strobe stick effects during this). I’m not a big fan of narrative elements so was grateful that this was the only one in the display. Fairly quickly we got to see fantastic sequences of one-shots and bombettes during the Toccata segment. The go-getter shells fitted well with the music too and the audience reaction was very enthusiastic.

There were interesting firing patterns in the Nutrocker segment with ramp 3 divided into sections to good effect – though on the parts where piano notes were synchronized to the shots, it would have been even more effective to have the position of the shots correspond to the position of the notes on the keyboard! All that said, this was a really well done segment as was the Night on Bare Mountain one.

Shell selections were interesting during the display, with some particularly nice farfalles and shells in the shape of butterflies. The lauded ghost shell effects (where a wave of colour sweeps over a shell’s stars) were not too effective, though, since too many were fired at once as well as other shells which really made the effect hard to discern. I was also surprised that there was a fair bit of repetition of effects (notably the farfalles, but with some other shells too). This was a bit surprising and did detract from the overall design of the show in my opinion.

Ramp 5 was used and the effects on it were good, giving the impression of great height, but the firing angles used made it sometimes difficult to really know that it was ramp 5 and not ramp 3 being used. One of the photographers asked me afterwards “how come they didn’t use ramp 5″, but I pointed out that “they had”. This is always a challenge with this extra set of pontoons close to the audience: how to use them to present something different. To be fair, Atlas did have fireballs fire on these, but there was so much else going on in the sky that these weren’t too obvious and they weren’t particularly large.

One negative aspect of using so many one shots is that, because of the way the angles were set up (either vertical or in V patterns), the range of effects produced was somewhat limited. Because of the the calibre of the products, there was less “dynamic range” than there would have been with, say, 4″ mines added into the mix. As much as the one-shot sequences were good, once we’d seen a few different ones, there was nothing left to give any additional WOW factor. I also noted that the synchronization, though good and consistent, was just off by a fraction of a second. Maybe this was due to the distance I was from the sound system – perhaps further back (with a longer audio delay) it was right on. From my vantage point, the one-shots in the Vaccalluzzo show had the best synchronization of the entire competition this year.

The finale was good, but not quite as good as I expected as I was disappointed to see the same shells used again that had been used earlier. The vaunted pyroarch give some good effects but I would have enjoyed them more had the arch been a true semi-circle. As it was, the angles ranged from about 45 degrees to vertical. There were some good nauticals at the end and, of course, these would have been nice to have at other points during the display but, of course, ramp 5 precluded this (though they all exploded quite a long way away – so it might have been OK). Due to the smoke, it was hard to see the effect of the special salutes, though the apotheosis of the display was good and loud.

All in all, it was an excellent display and good use was made of the sky. The one-shot sequences were good, but the restricted range of angles meant that the display wasn’t quite as “wide” as some of the others this year and the calibre of the devices did limit the dynamic range a bit. The capacity audience certainly enjoyed the display and it must surely stand an excellent chance of a Jupiter this year.

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