RhinoFire Step13 Sequencer
This exciting new product from EasyPyro is marketed primarily for use as a sequencer to expand existing firing systems. It features a trigger input to start a pre-programmed firing sequence over 12 cues, ending with a 13th cue which is a trigger out to another system. A flexible range of sequences is available to cover just about every scenario and it can fire standard e-matches, Talon and SFI igniters. The unit currently retails for around £165+VAT.
First impressions and build quality
Being housed in a Sea Horse case means this unit feels rugged straight out of the box. This was also the first impression of several professional firers who I showed this unit to. These cases are incredibly strong and waterproof when closed so are unlikely to suffer any great problems in the back of a van. If you are unsure on that point I would direct you to this video where the manufacturer throws one of their own units off a cliff prior to firing it!
The lid closes with two very positive locking clips and the unit also has a carry handle.
Interestingly another thing which caught the firers’ eyes was the “Made in the UK” label. This is reassuring in the event of any problems or servicing issues, since some overseas companies can be difficult to contact at times.
Inside the case and the buttons are sealed and clearly labelled. The in and out triggers are PyroClips making them easy to connect wires to. The display is a small digital one, backlit when you’re actively using the menus. The only other visual indicator is an LED on the front which flashes when the system is armed.
At first the firers noticed the lack of individual LEDs above each cue connector (which is usual on many systems to give a visual indication of continuity). However on this system there is a separate test button, when pressed the LED display shows all 12 cues with a solid block for OK or an “x” for a bad connection.
The power switch and charger connection also feature on the main panel. When shipped to us, the system came with dual UK and overseas mains connectors (both flat and round pin).
You can view a lot more photos of the unit from various angles in our RhinoFire Step13 gallery.
RhinoFire Step13 main sequencing features
I won’t dwell too much on the technicalities of each menu mode since these are well described in the excellent user manual which you can access on-line here. But in brief, you have a choice of:
Equal – Very handy quick menu option to fire all the cues in sequence with an equal delay after each one (or set to 0 to fire all of them together).
Different – As above but you can set different delays after each cue.
Clock – Set the time on a clock when each cue will fire.
Step – Manually step from cues 1 – 13 (remember 13 in this case being the output trigger to the next unit, if you connect one). We’ll cover this option in more detail later.
Sweep – Timed sweeps across multiple sites. This mode was untested by us, but you can see various modes in action in the manufacturer’s video clip here.
The unit is always started by a trigger input. This is intended usually to be a cue on an existing firing system. In other words, you connect the RhinoFire to your firing system as if it was a firework cue and when you trigger it, the RhinoFire will run through the set sequence.
However this does not mean you need a firing system to use this. You can create a trigger just by connecting a PP3 battery! And if that wasn’t flexible enough, there’s a manual button combination (ARM + RUN) that does the same.
Other housekeeping menu options include pulse duration (for e-match or Talon/SFI), beep, LED and language settings.
A major feature on this unit is the ability to save your programmed sequences. You can actually store up to 10 shows per sequence mode. Plus, the unit remembers the last settings when switched off.
The unit in action at a professional fireworks show
With the main thrust of this unit being a sequencer I sent this out to a professional show to try out a sequence. This would also be a good test of the unit out in the field.
In this particular case ‘Equal’ mode was used to fire 10 single shot comets in a chaser sequence with 0.2s between each one. In the photo below you can see the unit sitting on the grass with the wires connecting the single shots. It is worth noting that as night fell the unit was extensively coated in dew with no ill effects.
However as you can see in this next shot, another feature of the unit is the ability to close the lid tightly over the wires. This is extremely useful for making sure wires cannot be pulled out by accident or tripping over them; they’re locked firmly in place.
The trigger to fire came from a cue on the firers’ existing NightHawk unit. We filmed this sequence in action from both firers’ helmet cameras plus a DSLR from well behind the audience. You can see the results in the following video clip. Note the cue being fired after the 10 comets was the next cue on the NightHawk – a shell – and was not part of the RhinoFire sequence.
Here’s the sequence captured on a long exposure photograph too, confirming all 10 cues fired (we don’t do things by half!).
Both firers were impressed by this unit and were hard pressed to find anything lacking, especially in view of the low cost compared to many of the larger sequencers or firing systems. In conclusion the report from the display was this would make a very useful addition to any firer’s existing set-up.
Use as a standalone firing system
The lack of individual cue buttons (1-12) and the marketing of this unit as a sequencer would lead you to think at first that’s all this unit does. But there’s a little gem of a sequence mode available where you can manually step through each cue, in order.
So in answer to the question “Would this work as a standalone firing system?” the answer is yes, with a few caveats which I’ll cover shortly.
Putting this unit into manual step mode still requires a trigger to start cue 1 and then each subsequent cue. But as we described above this can be as simple as connecting a PP3 battery to fire each cue. Or, you can manually step it through by using the ARM+RUN button combination.
This opens up a number of exciting possibilities for those looking for a step up from the sub-£100 home systems. Whilst you obviously lose the wireless feature found on many of them, for the price jump to around £200 you gain an indestructible case, 12 cues (any of which can fire up to 12 e-matches in serial or parallel) and a fully programmable sequencer if you want to do your whole show from a single button press.
The triggering of each cue by the button combination would suit those who want to sit in the thick of it. For everyone else, just run a length of wire to your firing point or the audience and fire from there, either directly with a battery or make a simple switch (which would be preferable, as shaky hands on a PP3 connector can easily fire multiple cues!).
In this video I’ll give an example of the two methods of manually stepping through the cues:
This offers some quite exciting possibilities for home shows as well as pro shows too then.
The trigger input is particular suited to audience participation in starting the show say with a demolition style plunger. It would be simplicity in itself to make one of these press a switch connected to a battery which in turn is connected to the RhinoFire.
I mentioned a few caveats above for those looking at this as a standalone firing system. The first is that you have to step through cues 1 – 12 in order. Unlike dedicated firing systems which have individual buttons, you would be restricted here to doing things in order. To me that doesn’t seem to be too much of a handicap, but if you are considering spending £200 on this as a complete system, you may be best going up to say £300+ and the 18 or 20 cue wireless waterproof systems that EasyPyro stock. The extra money gives you the same rugged construction but a remote handset where you can fire off any cue at will.
Also, unlike many other dedicated firing systems this unit is not wireless, as a sequencer it is not intended to be. Again this to me seems a minor handicap since a length of bell wire is all you need to run from the unit to where you want to trigger it from.
Pro firers with existing systems probably won’t have much use for the step mode, but its inclusion means this unit offers a potentially useful firing system to home users too and for a cost not much more than the 12 cue wireless systems (which don’t come in a waterproof case or offer much in the way of programmable sequences).
This is superb value, rugged, UK made sequencer which performed well and offers a wide variety of sequence modes to suit virtually any professional requirement for up to 12 cues. The 13th cue out to another system offers the possibility to expand to any number of additional units.
The manual step mode means this sequencer can even be a standalone system of sorts and with a cost of around £200 could be of great interest to non-professional firers wanting a rugged and flexible back garden system.
Being UK made is the icing on the cake and it is worth pointing out that EasyPyro have received consistently good feedback to date from professional firers in our busy Fireworks Forum.
An easy BEST BUY.
RhinoFire website: www.rhinofire.co.uk
Quick link direct to the manual (which includes full technical specs): Click here.
With thanks to Colin, Andy and the Dynamic Fireworks team for the opportunity to squeeze a field test of this into a display.