Colin Sullivan

Times Square New Years 2010 Pyrotechnics

This past new years, I worked for Pyro/FX at Times Square, programming and operating the digital firing system to fire all of the pyrotechnics underneath the ball. It was an exciting and nerve-wracking experience, but like all shows I've done, very rewarding in the end.

Unlike our shows at Mohegan Sun, where my boss (Phil Gauvin) writes the scripts in our native scripting program, I was handed a script that a different coworker had written in Excel, which was in a format that made sense to him as he was planning the event.

When I first looked at this script, I was a bit taken back. 942 cues, approximately 650 of which detonate in 60 seconds, between 11:59:00 and 12:00:00. This was a huge script, and it was not in the format that I needed it to be in for the Nighthawk.

Ruby to the rescue.

I had been working with Ruby for a good amount of last semester, so about a week before the show, I went to town. After a bit of trouble with converting the time on the original script (5:59:45 PM) to my relative time from the start of the script (0.00 seconds), I had the script ready. Since there was about a minute of pyro every hour until midnight, I decided to just make the entire night a single script, and to avoid overflowing any number representations in the system, just added about 100 seconds between these discrete events. This allowed me to simply stop the panel after each event, forward to the next cue, and I was good to go. Dave Levoy from Pyromate, Inc. was with us all night as a consultant in case we had any problems with his system, and to make sure we didn't run into any quirks or small issues. He helped me figure out how to run such a long show on his panel, and pointed out the number overflow problem.

Setup went pretty flawlessly, as it usually does with the Pyromate system. We used all wired mods, to eliminate the possibility of wireless interference, although I'm sure they would have worked just fine.

As far as the actual execution of the show, it was a bit chaotic in the beginning, but everything ended up working out in the end. I enjoyed the time between firings, as I only had to check continuity and keep track of a small number of events at once, and it gave us ample time to fix any problems that may have occurred during firings. All in all it was a very successful event, and thanks to those 5 hour energy shots, I was alert the entire time :-P