From Eric Farnsworth of Vortex:
(Warning, this post is LONG… and show stats are at the end if you wanna just skip to that part!)
Now that the dust has settled from the PGI Convention, I wanted to take a moment and give a heartfelt thanks to Scott Smith and the gang at Team Cobra for the critical role they played in the success of our show. I also wanted to share some details of the show as I know pyros are always wanting the inside scoop.
I am with Vortex Fireworks Artists and we partnered with Flying Phoenix Corporation to perform the final show Thursday night. Aside from being the largest show I’ve ever participated in, it was very unique on a few different levels. For nearly 18 years, Vortex has been a traditional pinboard operation. Our ring leader, Chuck Johnson can be quoted as saying he loves to know that when he pushes the button, he can “see the spark” running down the cable to the e-match. When we took on this challenging performance, he knew it would take every bit of equipment he owned, plus a whole lot more to pull it off. I had been shooting Cobra shows for a few years, and am involved in a local pyro club, the Salt Lake Area Pyros (SLAP). Collectively, our club members own several dozen 18Ms, and so we discussed the option of combining both technologies to shoot this massive 30 minute show. The generous members of our club all quickly agreed to be a part of this endeavor, and a couple weeks ago you probably saw the “rainbow” of modules that was posted here, as I was getting 72 mods ready to go to Fargo. The show required 77 mods, and our club members purchased a few more at the convention (and allowed me to use them before they got to!) to finish up what we needed to get the job done.
As our crew plowed through the setup of over 5000 Class B shells that were to be fired from the back field, we knew we had two challenges… The first was that we didn’t have enough cable to reach the five 16" shells that were stationed over a quarter mile away. The second was that we were worried about our ability to transmit so much current over so much distance, leaving enough current to fire the matches. The first problem was an easy solution with our Cobra system. I had seen test videos on Scott’s site showing line of sight tests up to 1 mile away. But I didn’t have a direct line of sight from the shooter’s table to the 16’s. So we put an extra module on top of the little red building just behind the race track, set it on an unused channel, and used it like a signal repeater to bounce the signal out to the 16’s. Our signal strength way out there was in the green! The second challenge, was we were worried about those amazing finale salutes. 10 pods, each with 144 3" salutes. If you haven’t seen our show, you gotta watch this. It was off the charts! I hadn’t planned on firing those with the Cobra script, but we felt like it was a necessity. So we reached out to the Northern Lighter Pyro club, and they graciously lent us some extra modules to help us ease the burden on the pinboards. We put a module on each of those 10 finale pods, and I added that single cue (they all went off of one cue!) to my script.
The scripting was done with Finale Fireworks, and we fired the show using Control Panel Pro. If you haven’t tried Control Panel, let me tell you, it is a life saver! It gives you so much feedback about the mods, the signal, the battery strength, everything. It even showed me that 3 of the borrowed mods were in Talon mode! That would have killed me if I hadn’t seen that. The team out in the back field fired the Class B shells along side our scripted show, following voice cues on a separate recording of the soundtrack. The synchronicity of the show is unbelievable. People thought it was all scripted, it looked that good.
Now, about Scott and his team. If you haven’t had the chance to see how amazing Team Cobra is, I hope you don’t have to - because it usually means you’re having a problem But if you ARE having a problem, these guys will absolutely take care of you. As I was dry-running my script before we started hooking up modules, we found a strange anomaly in the audio. I brought it to Scott’s attention, and long story short, he and his guys worked on it for three days, to figure it out and make sure we had a flawless performance. They took my gear and worked on it in their trade show booth, in their hotel after hours, they even took my gear to dinner the night we were shooting, to listen to it all one last time and make sure it was working. I think they listed to our entire show probably 20 times to make sure it was perfect. That’s some serious extra-mile service right there. Additionally, Scott provided a signal booster to all the Cobra shows shooting each night, to help make sure we all had every chance for success. The best part was having Scott ride shotgun during the performance, to help keep my nerves calm and assure me it would all go well.
We had a rocky start to the show, when several of our gas mines blew blind and ended up setting off one pod of product prematurely, but lessons were learned and it won’t happen again. The rest of the show went really really well. All in all, we had over 5300 Class B shells ranging from 3" to 8", and then the five 16" shells. The infield was laced with over 120 Class B cakes, over 300 Dominator slices, 900 Dominator single-shot product (comets, mines, etc…), 31 gas mines, 10 hanging salutes, and two dozen strobes. The script was just over 1200 cues and was written for 77 modules, but we ended up 93 when we added in all the “convenience” modules. We had 100% fire rate from the Cobra modules. The only exception being some product that was blown apart by a ground salute set off in a show before ours, which destroyed the product before our show began, and a small handful of comets that all the e-match wire was burned/melted/shorted out from the fire at the very beginning of the show. Those were ruined before they could be fired. But other than that, absolutely everything else fired, 100%.
There have been a number of videos posted on YouTube of our show, this one here is my favorite. It’s back far enough that you can see both the ground work and the big shells in the sky, and the audio is real good on it too. My thanks go out to whomever shot this video and shared it online. Attached are some fun pics from the setup. Thanks again, to everybody who made this show a reality. I can’t possibly name you all, but to every hand who helped pull this off, you have our gratitude. If anybody would like to get their hands on these amazing Class B cakes and shells, or the Dominator Pro-Line products, reach out to Glen Freitag of Flying Phoenix. Now I’m off to finish scripting a much much smaller show that I’m shooting in 3 weeks!
PS - trying to tag everybody involved but I know I’m not getting everyone… please feel free to tag others that I may have missed!
Link to my favorite video of our show!