In anticipation of the first Celebration of Light night of 2011, happening tomorrow at 10:00pm in English Bay, I was a part of a media tour of the fireworks barge this morning with Producer Patrick Brault.
Patrick has been involved with the Celebration of Light since it began 21 years ago and he says to this day, not much has changed except they’ve been able to make some improvements in the technology. In the first year he said they had kilometers worth of wiring on the barge and manually controlled the firing of each shell. The soundtrack was on large reels and they had audio cues, “line 1, line 1, GO!”.
“Now it’s all computer-controlled,” said Patrick. “We program the time that we want the fireworks to shoot and the computer system shoots them. There is a lot less cabling because we have computer modules everywhere on the barge.” While a computer controls the firing and timing, there are still manual settings and safety systems in place that can fine-tune timing and shut any section off manually in case of an emergency on the barge.
Aside from the behind-the-scenes technology there’s a big difference this year that some have already noticed from afar. “We brought the barges closer to shore so that it’s more in your face for the people on the beach,” Patrick told us. “Usually the distance between the fireworks and the public is all in relation to the largest size of shell that we shoot.”
Patrick said an example would be those large willow-like shells that shoot high into the air and cascade downward. So in order to keep the large shells, not compromising the show at all, they moved those to a third barge that will be located further away, in the regular barge location (from previous years).
With far too many grey days than we’d like this season, Patrick said cloud cover doesn’t bother him and the fireworks crew and that rain and humidity are more of a factor (in terms of the setup and firing of the shells). “Some effects do look better in the rain,” he added. “Personally, I like to have a little bit of a cloud cover or no moonlight because if it’s too bright then people might get distracted from the show itself.” He went on to explain that his whole family comes from the show business and theatre worlds so you want “lights out” and no distractions when the show is underway.
For Saturday’s fireworks display, China will present “China Storm”, a representation of the 24 seasons in Chinese culture, and will feature world music. Next Wednesday’s show presented by Spain is called “Odyssey” and Canada’s finale will be “Then and Now” on August 6th.
The City of Vancouver is strongly encouraging the hundreds of thousands of fireworks goers to “cart out what they cart in” and put garbage in bins. There will be “Zero Waste Stations” around popular viewing areas like English Bay and Kitsilano as well.
You still have until Monday to enter to win reserved bleacher seating for Canada’s fireworks display in my final Celebration of Light contest. Head down to your viewing spot early to catch free concerts at ShoreFest happening around English Bay and Kitsilano beaches.