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
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
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
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
View across the shell racks
towards the school. You can see the wide range
of shell sizes being set up from small through
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
Four larger shells being loaded. Langley School
is pictured in
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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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