Interview team B.E.M.

I met with Gilles Masson, technical coordinator for B.E.M. who are putting on the out-of-competition opening show that inaugurates the 31st Edition of the Montreal International Fireworks Competition. With a soundtrack put together by the Royal Canadian 22nd Regiment, it is entitled Salute to Our Troops, an is unique in being held in Canada Day – a first in the history of the competition.

B.E.M. are located just outside of Montreal and have been in the business for over 25 years. They participated three times in the competition proper, and were awarded the Bronze Jupiter at their appearance in 2005. Suffering a large fire in 2013 that resulted in two deaths, Gilles noted that the Masson pyrotechnic family is very close knit and they have done their best to move forward from the tragic events of that year, which occurred just before their busiest period.

Gilles explained that this show will be straightforward to setup as they have only two crew members from B.E.M. (with brother-in-law Gaston Parisien being the other one) due to the Canada Day needs for their crews so they had to come up with a design that would work with the constraints at hand. Hence the format could be called classic – composed of only ramps 1, 2 and 3 and with just five positions on ramps 2 and 3. However, Gilles explained that five positions is still sufficient to give a full range of angles and positions as the show is largely symmetrical.

The choice of products was made with the emphasis on quality and includes many European manufacturers such as Igual, Panzera and Grupo Luso as well as a selection of the best from North America. About 90% of the product is homologated in Canada, but Gilles said that B.E.M. have put in about 10% of “competition” stock, left over from their last appearance at La Ronde in 2011.

Gilles Masson

Gilles Masson

B. E. M. proprietor Bernard Masson’s son, Paul, worked on scripting the show to the music prepared by the Royal Candian 22nd Canadian Regiment, which they had received in February. Gilles said they were all very impressed at the quality of the soundtrack presented. Explaining the process of design, Gilles noted that they had listened to the soundtrack many times in order to get the overall feel of the tempi, level of emotion etc. and then carefully examined the waveform view. This was then broken down into segments as short as three seconds, in order to create a script that reflected the diversity in the soundtrack.

One unique element of this show will be the use of live cannons, four of which will be reloaded and fired with 102mm blank artillery shells by two soldiers – this is a first in the history of the competition! I asked about synchronization of these and was told the soldiers will have a stopwatch an walkie-talkies to coordinate their volleys! The display is being fired using FireOne and Gilles said there are 74 modules with around 2300 cues.

This should be a very interesting inauguration of the 31st Edition!

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