Today, there is no need to manually light off fireworks. According to Intel Free Press, modern technology and computers have revolutionized the craft of choreographing the exact timing, height, and direction of the fireworks. Some of the shows even feature words that are spelled out to music.
Pyro Spectaculars, run by CEO Jim Souza, has created fireworks shows for events like the Olympics and overseas Chinese New Year celebrations. Additionally, the company wows audiences with the newer “pyro-musicals” like the Macy‘s Fourth of July show above the Hudson River in NY. Souza told Intel Free Press that, “What’s changed over the years is the ability to design these shows with a computer.These displays require perfect timing, precision, and for shows like the Golden Gate Bridge’s 75th birthday celebration, tight synchronization with music broadcasting over a radio station.”
Julie Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association, noted that the first time computers were used for fireworks displays was in 1978, when they were used to set off an electric match to contact a fuse. Now, companies design a show in a way that is comparable to movie production. They choose from an electronic inventory of effects that know which shell bursts at which time, and how long each firework will last.
Before a show can be choreographed, the properties for each of these shells is recorded, including burn time, lift time, and effects. Microchips in the shells trigger the fireworks to explode at a specific height in a specific direction, all timed to the millisecond. Heckman said, “Timing chips are something I know the companies are working on. These chips will accelerate wider use of letters, for example. An ‘M’ for ‘Macy’s’ could look like a ‘W’ if turned the wrong way. We’re getting there, but [we're] not there yet.”