Our day behind the scenes with Skyscenes Pyrotechnics at Langley School was one of our most enjoyable assignments during the summer. What more perfect setting could you hope for than a wide open green field, hot and sunny weather, with the majestic backdrop of one of the region's best schools?

The fireworks display was going to end a classical concert so Skyscenes were tasked with providing a fitting pyrotechnic show to give the guests a good send off. When we arrived on site just after lunch Steve and his crew were already hard at work. After PeteB parked (under the direction of Langley's crew of young parking wardens who did a sterling job) we made our way over to the middle of the playing field where the pyro action was.

Green fields, blue sky, hot weather, awesome venue.

The larger than usual number of bigger bore mortar tubes gave us the first indication that this was going to be a spectacular show. Having a nose through the fireworks is always our first job whenever we get on site (reviewer's prerogative!) and we were pleased to see a great selection of cakes, candles and mines too.

- You can click on any thumbnail to view a bigger picture -

Steve at work preparing the mortar tubes and racks for use. As you can see in this shot there would be plenty of aerial action. Also note the lovely weather, a real bonus when setting up fireworks which can involve hours of work.

A look down one of the candle and cake racks shows the use of candle bundles to give saturated effects, plus a big bore gold willow cake to give some nice persistent gold glitter.

General view of the site showing the large amount of support tools needed for a fireworks display. Here you can see wire, timber, tubes and cases. Steve is screwing together a rigid timber rack to support the mortar tubes.

Detail from one of the many fireworks boxes. When you start nosing through cat 4 there are often many unfamiliar names. In this case the "Tong Tai" fireworks factory, China!

How can any self-respecting fireworks enthusiast not want to
rummage around in this box of shells?

An electrical firing box. Although much of the display would be hand fired, Steve wanted to launch a wave of synchronised mines, so the precision of electrical firing was need for this.

View across the shell racks towards the school. You can see the wide range of shell sizes being set up from small through to large.

Closer view of Steve doing the final fusing up. Each line of shells is connected by waterproof PIC fuse which burns at about an inch per second, so the shells will fire one after the other. Steve is also using quickmatch here (the yellow fuse on the ground) which burns very quickly, to connect items to fire at the same time.

View through a candle fan towards the school. These are waterproofed with brown tape, and connected by quickmatch which means that all four candles will start at the same time.

Four larger shells being loaded. Langley School is pictured in
the background.

The fusing is well under way now as Steve works out the firing order for the shells. As described above, both slow and fast burning fuse is used to achieve the desired firing rate.

An interesting view right down a mortar (please note that for safety you should never place any part of your body over one of these). The shell sits at the bottom of the tube, with the paper coated fuse coming up the top.

Another electrical firing box. Once everything is set up you "just" press the right buttons. We say "just" in inverted commas because it takes a great deal of planning, work (and fusing) to set up the electrical parts of a show. Setting up times are measured in hours, even for a display that lasts minutes.

As the evening wears on, we get ready to cover the show with our various cameras. We're filming for a few projects today. PeteB will be up close and personal for some ground zero shots, I'll be a few hundred metres away for the shots shown below, and two remote camcorders will record the firing area itself.

With the setting up complete it was now time to grab a bite to eat. Langley kindly provided us with some food and drink which we took back to the site where we had left Steve to watch over the fireworks. Guests started to arrive in their dozens in the distance, all suitably dressed in smart evening wear, laden with their picnics and chairs.

As the light faded away we made our final preparations. Skyscenes made their final checks and rehearsals then donned their protective clothing while myself and PeteB went to our respective filming positions. After our success with capturing "ground zero" shots at the previous display in Wensum Valley we decided to try this again, so the camcorder was set up close to the action and left on record. PeteB retired to a safe but still very close distance to the side of the fireworks with his PPE on for safe measure, while I had the safest position right at the back of the field but the hardest job technically, to capture the fireworks in still photographs.

The last hour or so always seems to take longer when you're waiting excitedly (and nervously) to get the job done, and I don't know how many times I set up and reset the camera to make sure it was OK. But finally, the moment was upon us and the show started...

Furious action in the middle while fanned coloured crossettes
explode to the left and right, dwarfing the school.

The show opened in style with some high breaking action courtesy of aerial shells. Here a pretty purple and a blue shell break together.

Here you can see the last traces of a red shell while two silver ones break over the top of it.

Angled candles shoot out silver stars which show up in this image as long trails of bright white. The firers are dwarfed by the effects (close up detail shown at the bottom of this page).

Multicolour stars break into "fish" which swim off. You can see these as faint coloured tracers in this shot.

This is an interesting shot. Silver palm effects cross the sky high up whole below them is a cascade of blue effects. The point of interest here is the number of hues of blue there are.

Cakes and candles combine to create a busy sequence. The candles are green stars to sound effects. These show as green tracers and the spinning shells which give the sounds look like "fuzzy" silver lines. Between each one the golden willow cake fills the sky with drifting gold glitter.

Multiple aerial shells, green, silver and purple. Fully zoomed out for this shot, look how small the school is in comparison!

Another busy sequence of colour, light and noise. Candles leave green tracers on the left and right and the bright silver blobs are reports (bangs). In the middle a big bore cake provides a show of silver and colour.

From the same sequence as the big shot above, this is another view of the coloured crossettes and coloured star candles. These combine really well for a wonderful sequence of colour.

More excellently coordinated effects with pretty purple shells breaking overhead and green and orange effects lower down. Again in this shot you can see how small the school looks compared to the height of the effects.

Even more shells of different colours break high up including banana yellow, below, gold glitter leaves soft traces in this image.

Towards the end now and a wave of mines (tubes full of effects) explodes to make a curtain of searing white glitter. The whole field is lit up for an instant.

The ending barrage was a traditional gold willow effect, leaving gold glitter hanging in the air which carried in the wind.

Zoomed in view of the firing area. You can see the firers if you look carefully for the
blue overalls and red helmets, but they're dwarfed by even the small candles here.
The black shape on the right is the remote camcorder protected by a black bag,
while the crowd can be seen a long way back in the distance.

Well this was another stunning performance by Skyscenes and remains one of my favourite displays from them. This one had it all, every colour imaginable, lots of effects, good rotation from one sequence to another, massive barrages of big shells and the excitement of mines. Well done to Steve and the crew. The applause and cheers from the audience said it all.

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