2500 Rocket Barrage at Winterblast 2014

Every year, I attend a week of fireworks, symposiums shell making at the WPA’s Winterblast. This year was the 25th Anniversary of the event and I wanted to do something a little over the top to add to our convention. I decided to launch a 2500+ rocket barrage for the 25th Anniversary of the Western Pyrotechnic Association.

In order to launch a rocket barrage, we needed to build racks to place the rockets in a position where it went the direction we wanted to avoid the crowd watching the event. This was not supposed to be an interactive show.

2500 rocket barrage rackWe used hardware cloth to give us the ability to aim the rockets.

We laid down quickmatch to help speed along ignition and ensure the rocket barrage got enough flame to ignite the fuses.

With an effect like this, it’s really hard to get all of the rockets to launch at once. Some of them jam, some of them fall apart, some of them explode on the launch pad. All in all, we only had 30 rockets that did not light, which is absolutely amazing.

Without a crew to help, this rocket barrage never would have happened. Special thank you to Dave Best, Dan Ramsauer, Marty Walker, KathyKat, DaveX, Markus von Graf, Fred von Graf, Allison Cohen and those who cannot be named.

Winterblast is five days of hands-on workshops, lectures and members taking on wild projects like the rocket barrage. For more information about Winterblast and the Western Pyrotechnic Association, visit http://westernpyro.org.

burning man temple of whollyness

Burning Man Temple 2013 burn a success

This year for the first time, Black Rock FX was given the unique opportunity to burn the Burning Man Temple 2013. It is a huge honor and one of the signature burns during the event.

Every year, the Burning Man temple has a different shape and theme. For 2013, it was the Temple of Whollyness. This temple was made out of wooden glulam beams in the shape of a pyramid. It was constructed in a way that meant this structure was designed to stand a very long time. This was a beautiful feature because the building struck awe in most visitors.

2013 temple whollyness preburn

One advantage of glulam beams is that the high strength and stiffness of laminated wood allows for a structure which can span large distances without intermediate columns, allowing more design flexibility than with traditional timber construction. They are also designed to be flame-resistant, which becomes a challenge, since the Temple of Whollyness was conceived to be a huge effigy that was expected to be burned down to ashes. Since the wood was treated to be flame-resistant, there was no easy way to burn it to the ground.

Thankfully, we found a way!

The projected timeframe to burn the structure was 45 minutes. We were able to get the structure to collapse in only six minutes!

I greatly appreciate the chance to work on such a wonderful structure and hope we get a chance to do something like this in the future.

Sam Brown: “It’s been a ten year dream to work with Pyro Boy”

sam brown

There’s a great interview by Sam Brown with Promo News.

Sam Brown was the director of the music video Pyro Boy did for London Grammar. Sam is widely regarded as one of the UK’s top commercials directors. He has directed videos for Jay Z, Adele, James Blunt and the Foo Fighters.

Where did the idea of the firework man come from? Did the song provide the inspiration? Presumably this amazing suit already exists?

The idea grew from a line in the song: ‘if a child cries what would you not give them?’. The video was intended as a simple allegory for parenthood. I was thinking about the way we do everything for our children, selflessly and without question, with the unspoken understanding that one day they’ll do the same for us. So in the story the man looks after the girl, and then right at the very end the girl looks after the man.

The guy in the suit is Pyro Boy, an astonishing eccentric called Wally Glenn. It’s been a ten year dream to work with him, but I’d always felt like I wanted to fit him into a story somehow and couldn’t think of the right idea. It’s well known that I’m a pyromaniac. Music videos have pretty much been a way of exploring that obsession. I’m always trying to find ways to explode things.

You can read the full interview here:

http://www.promonews.tv/interviews/sam-brown-its-been-ten-year-dream-work-pyro-boy

london grammar: if you wait

London Grammar video features Pyro Boy

London Grammar released their album “If You Wait” and their debut song “Strong” features Pyro Boy!

The video was directed by Sam Brown. His recent work includes videos with Jay Z, Adele, James Blunt and the Foo Fighters. The video was shot in high definition and high speed giving a unique view of fireworks in slow motion. The location was the LA River, just under the 4th Street bridge. We shot the video in July, but did not disclose any information until the video was officially released.

The song, Strong is off the London Grammar debut album, If You Wait.

I am absolutely thrilled to be associated with such an outstanding project.

London Grammar - If you Wait

Burn Wall Street – The arson squad cometh

burning man 2012 burn wall street

Oh Burn Wall Street, we had such big plans for you. Sadly things got in the way that had nothing to do with us. This was supposed to be the biggest burn, biggest fireworks show in the history of Burning Man. You’d have to go back to Crude Awakening to find something bigger — and Black Rock FX burned that one too!

So sadly we’re stuck with the biggest structure burn and the featured part of the upcoming documentary, Spark: A Burning Man Story.

Still, we had fun, but it’s sad we could not complete the project we wanted to do and that people expected.

Burn Wall Street was a mock city with five buildings named after financial institutions that mocked the financial collapse of Wall Street in New York. The tallest building was 72 feet high. You can discover the political message elsewhere. Our role was to present a very awe inspiring burn and fireworks show.

We had a lot more fun with Anubis.

Spark: The Burn Wall Street Story

Promethean Fountain

The Promethean Fountain is a flaming waterfall created by Wally Glenn and funded by Burning Man. The Promethean Fountain allows people to safely hold and interact with fire.
Named after Prometheus, a Greek Titan who was a champion of man. He stole fire from the Greek god Zeus and gave it to mankind. He was punished severely for this act. Prometheus was tied to a rock while and eagle at his liver.
The Promethean Fountain first premiered at Burning Man 2010 and was located at First Camp. It was also featured at Wally Glenn’s 2010 winter Solstice Party.

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Oakland artists launch rocket at Burning Man

Black Rock City, Nev. — The rumor at this year’s Burning Man Festival was spreading. Was that 40-foot-tall rocket ship hailing from a West Oakland warehouse planted in the harsh desert soil going to launch?
Some said it wasn’t possible, but most wanted to believe.

As participants at this year’s festival rode up to the rocket in a car converted into a pirate ship blasting electronic music or on a glowing bicycle — or even nude on a Segway Personal Transporter — the members of the Raygun Gothic Rocketship camp were happy to accommodate the imaginations of the visitors.
David Shulman, one of the three lead artists, had his story nailed. The rocket would launch one to three feet because of a “constricted high-energy plasma flow engine,” thanks to collaboration with researchers at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. The whole playa was waiting for the Friday night launch.

The rocket team
Back at the rocket camp, which consisted of 85 people, the community displayed back at Louise Street Studios in Oakland was in full swing. In the middle of one of the harshest natural environments in the U.S., the crew had constructed a camp with a lounge area, wireless Internet, solar showers and a full kitchen catered by good friends Kim Morabito and Andy Tannehill, who run an Oakland-based organic catering company appropriately called Table Nectar.

“Having friends cook in the kitchen,… it feels like you are having a family gathering every night,” said Natalia Villalabos, a dedicated volunteer.

Brunches included meals such as banana-blueberry pancakes, bacon and fresh fruit. Dinners ranged from Indian to Cuban. The meals were a time of relaxation and camaraderie for the group, when one could partially shield oneself from the whiteouts that were a common occurrence and connect with friends and family.
“If you are having a bad day, you have multiple pairs of arms that will give you a big hug and a kiss,” Villalabos continued. “You feel really solid in this community. … We spend so much time being caring to one another.”

The more time one spends with the Raygun Gothic Rocketship artists, the more one realizes this journey was about more than building a retro rocket. It was about the bond created when creative minds share skills and personalities.

“The driving force for me is to create in this type of environment and to be able to create collaboratively,” said lead artist Sean Orlando. “We’ve been able to assemble engineers, scientists, structural engineers, computer programmers, people with no skills whatsoever, and they can come in and work together to create something.”

The rocket became the shared common goal for the industrial artists, who are part of the growing arts movement in West Oakland that is one of its kind.

Launch night
An estimated 30,000 visitors made their way to the rocket for the Sept. 4 night launch as the rocketeers held a 500-foot perimeter to avoid any fiery accidents. A rough dust storm rolled through the Black Rock Desert, whipping dust into every crack and crevice of the rocketeers’ playa-damaged bodies and delaying the show for close to two hours.

The crowd grew impatient, but when the countdown began, the masses chanted with enthusiasm. The next few minutes resulted in a dazzling display of pyrotechnics.
Jack Schroll was the leading man in the team that created blue fireballs and a massive showcase of fireworks, which consisted of 100 gallons of methanol and 55 gallons of gasoline. The preparation back in Oakland took “one hour per second of display,” plus the nine hours it took to install the day of the launch.
While the rocket didn’t actually get airborne, the fireworks were so dazzling that many watching still weren’t sure if that plasma achieved its goal.

“I can’t even fathom how many stories there are about what actually happened …,” Orlando said. “It’s really exhilarating to think something that we created sparked enough interest with people that they would want to come and see what we’ve done.”

Heading home
As the exodus of Black Rock City took place, the team began to remove the scaffolding of their installation.
“I felt a little sad today,” Orlando said. “I’ve strengthened a lot of my friendships with people. I think it will be really exciting to see where the rocket ship goes.”

For now, it is back in seven pieces and in storage in West Oakland. In one sense, the journey is complete for the 60-plus team of artists, scientists, engineers and builders.

But there is always something to add to the rocket, and while the crew is still getting dust out of their bike chains and healing cracked skin, one can sense a project is right around the corner.
“Based on everything we have accomplished, we can pretty much do anything we set our minds to,” Orlando said.
By Sean Donnelly
For the Oakland Tribune
Posted: 09/16/2009 06:01:12 PM PDT
Article Source: http://www.contracostatimes.com/top-stories/ci_13352246