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Big bang theory: Expert reveals 2 key elements of world-class fireworks shows

Zambelli Fireworks launched more than two tons of explosives during Sunday’s show, but a truly amazing fireworks display takes more than just sheer volume.

Today I met Damian Dicola, production manager with Zambelli and the man who has the dream job of every Scout who loves big explosions (aka every Scout, period).

Dicola and the Zambelli team started work on the show two years ago when they scouted locations at the Summit, then just a dirt field. Once they finalized the soundtrack, the design team worked for three months making a show synchronized to the music — expertly timed down to one one-thousandth of a second.

He said there are two keys to a spectacular fireworks show: angling and creativity.

“We had 15 pods of angled racks,” Dicola said. “Angling makes it so everything doesn’t break at the exact same spot.”

Many fireworks displays are sufficiently vertical and high enough for everyone to see, but Sunday’s show went horizontal, as well, giving everyone a nice view from their camps.

Then there’s the creativity side, which includes details like fireworks with a waterfall effect to frame the National Anthem and timing explosions with the music. Timing the launch of the 3- to 12-inch shells takes much more than a high school understanding of physics.

“We know exactly how far it’s traveling so it will break right at that moment where you want it to,” Dicola said. “So if it takes one 3.74 seconds to break, we launch it 3.74 seconds before that point in the song.”

All this using Zambelli’s safety practices, which are safer than industry standards. Dicola said there were no shell malfunctions or early breaks during Sunday’s 25-minute show. That’s especially important given that Scouts were scattered throughout the site to watch.

And did Dicola get to sit back and enjoy the show himself?

“I saw it all,” he said. “And I was up high enough to hear the cheers echoing. I think it made [the Scouts'] day after all the rain. They can go home and say, ‘Mom and Dad, I saw a show bigger than any you’ve ever seen.'”


Photo courtesy CJ Nusbaum

3 Comments on Big bang theory: Expert reveals 2 key elements of world-class fireworks shows

  1. Sasha's mom // July 22, 2013 at 11:30 pm // Reply

    My son talked said the show was awesome!!

  2. Chris Fay leader attending // July 26, 2013 at 11:36 am // Reply

    Yeah… it was incredible!! I was a leader at the Troop C221 site and it was just over us, at the C2 Subcamp HQ area. I remember seeing the best ever (for me) in the New York City harbor (Hudson River outlet to the sea) with the fireboats staged among the high masted sailboats for a 4th of July when I was a kid, and this was better!!! My son as an attendee got to see this with me, so I am deeply, deeply appreciative, I was an AMAZING show!! I shot more than 60 frames on my Nikon!

  3. James Lehman, Jr. // July 26, 2013 at 10:26 pm // Reply

    Sat in A4. The timing was excellent, the spacing exact, the colors and dimensionality were superb. Whatta presentation. And, as a bonus, we did NOT have to listen to Tchaikovsky. Not that I don’t appreciate a good 1812 Overture (what does the invasion of russia by france have to do with the USA Independance Day? Never could figure that out). It was good just to see the visual effects. Very good. And from the vantage point of our camp, not below in the stadium. ALmost the equal of 2005, when they combined TWO shows in one, for almost an hour of lasers, pyrotechnics and thumping patriotic music.
    Good Jambo, it was !

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