The Technology Behind Fourth Of July Fireworks

15879772_mOne of the most highly anticipated parts of any Fourth of July celebration is undoubtedly the fireworks; a stunning display of light which ignites patriotic emotions in us all. However, many may not realize how impactful sophisticated software technology can be in creating spectacular fireworks displays.

“These programs have created a whole new genre of artists, with fireworks as their medium,” said David Whysall of David Whysall International Fireworks. The aforementioned company utilizes a product from Finale Fireworks to choreograph their shows, which include music backgrounds and graphic effects set into place from a computer. In the end, this video simulation allows pyrotechnic companies to mimic firework shows in real life ultimately fine-tuning them before showing potential customers. According to an article from ComputerWorld (via), these products “can also export script files to a variety of fireworks firing systems, which execute the actual show” while also providing a 3D environment that highlights how a show looks from different viewpoints in the audience. Although computerized firing systems have been around for years, these software programs have become more advanced over recent years ultimately turning annual Independence Day shows into a creative visual display.

Before computerized systems became the norm, fireworks were electrically set off using manual switch panels. Prior to that? Pyrotechnicians were forced to light fireworks by hand, using road flares to directly ignite the fuse. Today, one would be hard-pressed to find a hand-fired show, as the practice has become increasingly rare due to safety concerns and advanced choreographic technology.

This isn’t the practice for every fireworks show, however. “Your typical small-town 4th of July show is not choreographed to music or even pre-planned as to which shells are going off at what time, so there is no need for the design and planning that goes into a higher-budget show,” Kepley said. This is especially true as the software is particularly expensive, used for grandiose events such as New Year’s Eve in Times Square.


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