Before the Civil War, early fireworks technicians lit fuses with smoldering cigars and tightly-wound burlap sacks, launching a single pyrotechnic into the sky. Today, technicians use laptops to ignite 22,000 devices in 20 minutes.
But the future of pyrotechnic entertainment means much more than lighting lots of fireworks — it’s about timing their detonation by the millisecond to create vast 900-foot wide images in the sky, and considerably reducing the explosive’s smoke and debris fall-out.
Fireworks by Grucci, a New York-based company that has been innovating fireworks since the 1850s, has successfully used its latest explosive tech, called “pixel-bursting,” to create vivid abstract images in the sky. In 2014, Grucci set the Guinness World Record for “largest pyrotechnic image,” as they detonated a 600-foot high and 900-foot wide flag over Fort McHenry, Maryland, in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
This sophisticated coordination is accomplished by using microprocessors to regulate the speed at which a firework comes out of its mortar, allowing technicians to control how high the shell will go in the sky. Each shell is like a pixel — just a color — but when combined by the thousands, they create a vivid image.
Grucci has also made the business of explosions cleaner and less ridden with smoky debris, allowing them to ignite thousands of fireworks from some precarious places, like the roof of a billion-dollar hotel, the Bellagio, in Las Vegas.
“Now we find ourselves on buildings, bridges, and towers,” Grucci tells Inverse, whose fiery, smoking displays of 20 years past wouldn’t have allowed his company detonate thousands of explosives on such ornate structures.
Some fireworks are so free of spraying ash, smoke, and powder that the National Park Service allowed Grucci to launch fireworks up the sides of the Washington Monument, whose light stone surface had just been cleaned. “Naturally we had to manufacture products that were impeccably clean so we didn’t create one spot on the monument,” explains Grucci. At 18 inches away, the pyrotechnics basically gleaned the surface of the 133-year old obelisk, leaving no scratches.
Pixel-bursting choreography and clean-explosives are here today, but Grucci acknowledges that still more novel pyrotechnics are being developed in his Long Island, N.Y., research and development lab. “I will never say we’ve done it all,” says Grucci.