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Thread: Do The Math (And Other Advice for Newbies)

  1. #1

    Default Do The Math (And Other Advice for Newbies)

    When I switched to wholesale buying after Fourth of July 2004, I quickly found myself immersed in calculations of volume discounts, case splits on group buys, per-unit price, etc. At one point, a member of our buying group (who has since gone on to become a 1.3G pro shooter) created an online database to help us calculate everything. The group eventually broke up and I've slacked off the past couple of years, but there was once a time when I could quote you the cost-per-shell price down to the penny off the top of my head.

    Most newbies to the forum are, I suspect, a lot like I was when I first discovered PyroU: Astonished by the sheer size of other people's stashes, feeling chagrined at the fact that what you paid retail would have bought you more than twice as much if only you'd known that you could buy wholesale. For about a year -- my small retail 2004 show got ruined by rain, and I was determined to avenge myself in 2005 -- I was absolutely obsessed with the idea of creating the most massive show possible. That's OK. The "364-day planning cycle," I call it.

    As you're making the transition from a small, disorganized shoot with retail-purchased fireworks to doing a large, planned show with wholesale fireworks, newbies need to be aware of the importance of doing the math.

    COST PER ITEM & COST PER EFFECT
    One of the disappointments of buying wholesale is that you're looking at a boring, dull price list, instead of either (a) standing with your jaw hanging open in a retail showroom or (b) staring at the Phantom catalog like a nine-year-old kid dreaming of Christmas. (I know a thing or two about marketing and publishing, and if any wholesaler wants to create his own Phantom-style "wish book," just let me know.) To get the best value -- the most bang for your buck -- the newbie has to try to get past the marketing and packaging, and the way to do that is to do the math.

    Let's examine one example: On page 11 of this year's Phantom catalog is their G-183 #500 Double Break tube package -- four tubes, eight breaks, for $119.99 retail. We assume that the wised-up newbie has figured out that the BOGO is a marketing pitch intended to make clueless people think they're getting some kind of special deal. Except for a few days before the 4th of July, everybody always gets the BOGO, so in reality the G-183 sells for $60.

    OK, that's $15 per tube, you see. Now, look at the bottom of Page 10 of the Phantom catalog and you'll see the #500 Round Red Dahlia (G-650) retails for $24.99 which, once you include the BOGO, comes to $12.50 per tube. Last time I checked, the #500 RRD was the primo single-shot tube on the market. Maybe those double-break tubes are good, but in terms of jaw-dropping awesomeness, what are the odds they top the RRD?

    If you do the BOGO and get two of the G-183 packages, that's eight tubes with 16 breaks for $120. However, for $125 with the BOGO, you can get twelve (12) of the #500 RRDs, which would be a finale barrage of mind-blowing spectacularity. Go in with a buddy and buy two cases (i.e., 24 RRD) and that boosts your purchase total before BOGO by $480, thus qualifying you for extra "freebies" (which aren't actually free, but that's another story).

    Of course, this kind of calculation involves a comparison of quality -- 16 breaks with the G-183's vs. 12 RRD breaks -- and that's a subjective decision for the individual consumer. However, unless you do the math, you can't make that subjective decision in any sort of rational way. This is why the average retail customer walking through a showroom is such a total chump: "Hey, look! There's four of them! And they're buy-one-get-one free!"

    The retail chump doesn't know enough about the product to make quality comparisons, he doesn't bother to do the math, and is therefore a sucker for slick packaging and marketing come-ons. This is why, even after I switched to wholesale buying, I never became a Phantom-hater. The problem isn't Phantom -- they sell good stuff at prices comparable to other retailers -- but instead the problem is that idiot customer pushing his shopping cart through the aisle and thinking to himself that he's getting such bargains that if he buys a few hundred dollars more, Phantom will be selling him stuff at a loss.

    Wake up, chump. You've got to do the math.

    QUALITY, QUANTITY & CONVENIENCE
    Having thought about the difference between the G-183 and the #500 RRDs, let's now think about comparing those to (a) the shell kits on pp. 6-9 of the Phantom catalog and (b) the 9x3 racks on p. 12. Ultimately, no matter whether you're buying retail or wholesale, mortar shells are your best total value. But the 3" racks -- essentially nine #500 tubes -- have bigger breaks, and you don't have to worry about buying/building mortar racks and fusing them up.

    Time is money, and the value of the time you spend building a rack, loading shells and then fusing the rack is a cost worth thinking about. Of course, for most of us, fireworks is a hobby, a pastime, a labor of love, and we thoroughly enjoy the time we devote to planning and assembling a show. Eventually, however, if you want to get the maximum show value from your time, you have to start thinking about the time-efficiency factor, otherwise known as convenience.

    When Jeff Wilson posted video of his 2004 finale, I remember being surprised to discover that nearly all of it was done with cakes. No shells? No candles? No rockets? It doesn't make sense, unless you think about the fact that (a) Jeff buys at the rock-bottom discounted wholesale price, (b) he lives in a 1.4G-legal state where he can go out in his backyard and shoot every night if he wants to, and (c) this was just another 4th of July show like he does every year.

    Maybe some of you guys are such fanatics you relish the thought of spending several hours in the July sun loading and fusing mortar racks. But you can't deny the time-saving logic of Jeff's approach: Just fuse together more than a hundred 500-gram cakes . . .

    OK, you're a newbie and you don't have a few thousand dollars to throw around this year, so you haven't reached that point. Still, you see that the convenience factor involves legitimate calculations of the value of your time (and sweat, and stress) when it comes to putting together a show.

    If you had just hit the lottery and quit your job, so that money was no object and there was no limit on the time you could devote to preparing your show, you might do things completely different. As it is, there is some maximum limit on how much money you'll spend, and some maximum limit on how many hours you'll spend, putting together your show.

    Therefore, to get the most bang for your buck, you have to do the math on your time, as well as your money. The quality of any given effect is subjective, and therefore impossible to measure. However, you can calculate what an effect costs, and you can think about the time spent achieving that effect -- loading and fusing 27 mortar shots vs. fusing together three 9x3 cakes -- and by doing the math, you therefore are able to make a decision that is still arguably rational, despite the subjective nature of the decision.

    S.P.S. & THE K.I.S.S. PRINCIPLE
    Complexity is the enemy of efficiency, which is the basis for the K.I.S.S. principle -- Keep It Simple, Stupid. And as any student of design will tell you, there is a beauty to simplicity.

    When I was obsessively planning my 2005 show, several more experienced pyros tried to tell me that I was over-thinking it. And it wasn't until I'd watched the video several times through that I realized how right they were. For all my elaborate planning, what I finally achieved with my finales was nothing but a gigantic sky-puke effect. As sky-pukes go, it was pretty awesome, but it was still just a sky-puke.

    Newbies need to think hard about this question:
    Q. What makes a finale?
    A. S.P.S.: Shots per second.
    Near the very end of your finale, you want to reach a peak where breaks are popping at a rate of >10 per second. The size, the colors, the effects, the loudness -- all of this will vary, but what produces the characteristic intensity of a finale is the machine-gun rapid-fire of a high S.P.S. factor. Now, apply the K.I.S.S. principle to the S.P.S. factor and ask this question:
    Q. What is the absolute guaranteed way to maximize the intensity of your finale peak?
    A. Simultaneously fuse multiples of identical cakes that feature a multi-shot finale barrage
    .For example, think about a 25-shot 200-gram cake with a duration of 40 seconds that fires 20 single shots and then a five-shot barrage at the end. (There are lots of cakes like that.) Now, think about a full case of 12 cakes like that, set up in a 3-angle "W" fan formation, and fused to fire simultaneously. What you will get is 240 shots over the duration of the cake, ending with a nearly-simultaneous barrage of 60 shots at the end.

    It's not rocket science or brain surgery, you see. You can augment this formula and improve on it, but you can't really beat it: Keep It Simple Stupid.

    That's why some of the old-timers on the board always give approving comments whenever they see a set-up that involves firing case-load barrages. You really can't go wrong with that approach, because you get a high S.P.S. number without the sky-puke randomness of mixing different cakes.

    FRONTS, ANGLES & LAYERS
    Because my shows were a male-bonding project with my twin sons (who were 11 when we shot our first show in 2004), I got into the habit of firing my finales in three parallel stations, spread on a front across the spectator's field of vision like this:

    SON A STATION <---90ft.--> DAD STATION <--90ft.---> SON B STATION

    So the barrage field is spread over a width of 180 feet. You could make it wider or narrower, depending on what kind of space you're shooting in and how far back you are from your spectators. And you could shoot from four, five or however many stations you want, depending on how you want to set it up. The point is that this idea of multiple stations spread across a front allows you to get more stuff in the air at once, and fill a wider barrage field. It's a cool effect, and if you've never thought about it, you should.

    A guy in upstate New York (excuse me forgetting the name) did a show in 2004 that taught me the next trick of overlapping angles. Envision that three-station front, with each station firing effects that go up at angles, such as a "W":

    W ------- W ------- W

    Two cool things happen here:
    • The barrage field is widened by the angles on the outside; and
    • You get a criss-cross effect from the overlapping angles on the inside.


    Think about those three W's as being three simultaneously-fired Z-cakes and imagine the overwhelming visual impact on the spectators. Whether it's cakes, shells (with tails) or candle racks, if you can get this overlapping angle-fire effect working for you, I guarantee your Fourth of July guests will go home impressed.

    The next consideration is vertical layers. That is to say, you want to try to fill the sky not only from side to side, but from top to bottom, like this:
    TOP: TUBES/9X3
    SHELLS/500-GRAMS
    200-GRAMS/CANDLES
    MINES/COMETS/TAILS
    GROUND: FOUNTAINS/FIRECRACKERS/ETC.

    Your #200-#500 tubes or 9x3 finale cakes will generally give you the highest lifts and compose the top layer of the barrage field. Mortar shells and most 500-gram cakes will break slightly lower; 200-gram cakes and premium roman candles will break below that. You'll have a stream of comets and tails going up, with mines bursting up from the ground, and down at the ground level you want to have some extra visual excitement.

    The idea is, at the peak of the show, you want to fill the spectator's field of vision, in both the vertical and horizontal aspect. For that last 30 or 40 seconds, there will be more visual information -- light, color, motion -- than the spectator's eyes can perceive at once, and more than his mind can process.

    Sensory overload, the "mind-blowing" effect, is the result. The psychological factors involved create a sort of adrenaline rush that shuts down conscious thought processes. This is where the spontaneous shouts and screams come from. And that sudden surge right at the end, when the S.P.S. factor peaks, is something that your guests will remember, even if they can't quite put into words what it felt like at the moment.

    NOISE & THE DON'T-THINK FACTOR
    Just a few more considerations, among them whistling, crackling and, er, loud. On that third item, I can only offer all "kEwL bOmB dOoDz" this caution: "The first rule of Fight Club is, nobody talks about Fight Club." The insane quest to achieve sonic enhancement is your business, but if you end up in federal prison, don't blame me, OK?

    As to crackling, for the past several years pyros have been complaining about the tendency of manufacturers to end every cake with the crackling-flowers effect. Maybe we get tired of it because we see it so much, but folks at the shows never complain. If you're shooting a long show with lots of different cakes, though, you might want to arrange your sequence so that the audience doesn't get bored: "Ho-hum, another crackling finale."

    Maybe you don't care much for whistling effects, either, but from the spectator's perspective, no finale would be complete without some whistling, which is why I always mix in a few whistling shells in my racks.

    A cheap trick I learned: Get yourself some of those cheap cuckoo fountains that come 6 to a pack. Stick a bunch of those on your finale boards and fuse 'em together. You'll get 30 seconds of whistling (not to mention the ground-level visual effect) but in the intensity of the moment, your audience won't realize that it's the fountains producing that sound. They hear the whistle and see stuff going up in the sky and their minds connect 2+2 in such a way that they think that the aerial effects are whistling -- to the extent that they "think" at all.

    That "don't think" factor is something the newbie overlooks. It's like when a rock band is playing and the guitarist accidentally hits the wrong note -- as long as he quickly recovers and keeps playing, the audience doesn't really recognize the mistake. Fireworks is show business, and so you're always going to have something that "goes wrong" (e.g., a cake that doesn't fire) that the audience won't really notice. Your inner perfectionist can't stand this, but you can't let it bring you down.

    Sometimes, this kind of "accident" (as long as it doesn't involve a safety risk) can produce a cool effect. The last couple of years, shooting in Alabama, I've gotten into the habit of making runs to the local stands, buying random cakes to fill out the boards. Given the limitations of performance descriptions on the labels, you don't really know what you're getting until it starts shooting. And so I'm standing there watching the boards go and suddenly I'm like, "What the heck was that?" A spiral turbillion, a blue comet, a sharp break -- some effect I hadn't expected, and maybe with two or three cakes firing together, there is a really cool combination that was totally unplanned. Sometimes I've watched the show video over and over again, comparing the effects to my list of stuff on the boards, and I still don't know what caused that cool-looking "accident."

    Same thing when you mismeasure a fuse, or when a cake fails to ignite, causing a lull or a delay in the show. When your goal is 100% ignition, you get mad every time this happens, but even if the audience notices, they won't really remember it once that big finale is over and their ears are ringing.

    What else? Oh, yeah, smoke: If you're lucky, you'll get a steady breeze during your show, so that the smoke from your lift charges floats away without obscuring the clarity of the breaks. Generally speaking, you can avoid this problem if don't fuse together a barrage sequence that lasts more than a minute. Even on a relatively windless night, you can just pause between sequences and wait 15 or 20 seconds to let the smoke dissipate before you start firing again.

    'BETTER THAN DISNEY' -- IT'S TRUE!
    After my first big show, I had people telling me it was "better than Disneyworld" and kind of thought they were just flattering me. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized they were telling the truth.

    If you do it right, there is nothing in the world better than a consumer fireworks show. Why? In a word, proximity. Professional displays require a substantial "set back" distance between the spectators and the firing stations. With consumer fireworks, you're usually firing no more than a couple hundred feet from in front of the spectators.

    When you're shooting a consumer fireworks show, the spectators can look down and see the lift charges firing right there in front of them, an effect they almost never see at a pro show. And when they look up . . .

    OH! MY! GOD!

    The highest breaks are only 200 or 300 feet over their heads, and that case of 36-shot Happy you fused together -- heh heh heh -- is breaking rat-a-tat-tat so close in front of them, it's scary. Buddy, when those Z-cakes start ripping, you'll hear the girls scream and the guys say, "Wow." And when you fill the sky with willow breaks, all the girls will wet their pants and all the guys will be jealous, wishing they were as cool as you.

    Proximity makes the consumer fireworks experience superior. As a spectator once told me, "It feels like being inside the show."

    All right, sermon over. Sorry I went so long, but I haven't posted here in a while, so if any newbies need extra encouragement, I aim to give them all they can handle:
    • Plan it just right boys, never be afraid to give your fuses an extra ziptie for good measure.
    • When in doubt about what to do, pack more into the last few seconds of the finale.
    • Above all, keep it green. Nothing is more important than the safety of you and your guests.

    If you do all that, then shortly after sundown, when everything is set to go, you can calmly and confidently tell your guests, "I am about to blow your freaking minds."

    The best part? Next year, you'll get twice the crowd, because the folks who went downtown to see the fireworks this year will hear about how much better your show was.

    Honestly, it is better than Disney.
    Last edited by PyroBubba; June 13th, 2009 at 04:16 PM. Reason: fix typos
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  2. #2

    Default Re: Do The Math (And Other Advice for Newbies)

    awesome

  3. #3

    Default Re: Do The Math (And Other Advice for Newbies)

    Make this one a Sticky!!!! Excellent post.

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    Default Re: Do The Math (And Other Advice for Newbies)

    +1 for sticky!!!! awesome post

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    Member Array fireworkfan504's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do The Math (And Other Advice for Newbies)

    Thank you for posting this!!!!:d

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    Default Re: Do The Math (And Other Advice for Newbies)

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew157 View Post
    Make this one a Sticky!!!! Excellent post.
    Thanks, Andrew. I put a few hours into it, to say nothing of five years of messing around with trial and error.

    Approaching fireworks planning as a math problem is something I had to do because, from the time I got rained out in 2004, I envisioned me and my twin boys shooting together on that 3x front I described.

    OK, so if you've got 3, 6 or 9 of an item, it isn't hard to figure out how to arrange it. But suppose you have 4, 5, 7 or 8?

    Well, with 4, you can either put 2 on each of the outside stations, or put 2 in the center station and 1 each on the outside stations. With 5, you either put 3 in the middle and 1 each on the outside, or else put 1 in the middle and 2 each on the outside. Etc., etc.

    After you've been doing that kind of calculation over and over for a while, it starts to become ingrained in your mind. And it's the same way with calculating price per item, price per break, breaks per second, and so forth. It all works out as a math problem.
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    Default Re: Do The Math (And Other Advice for Newbies)

    wow! best info i've read in a post in a while...Thanks man

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    Default Re: Do The Math (And Other Advice for Newbies)

    Stick please!!!!

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    Default Re: Do The Math (And Other Advice for Newbies)

    A well thought out and presented post. Good to see ya back here PB.
    I'll second the sticky motion...
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    Default Re: Do The Math (And Other Advice for Newbies)

    Very well done.

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    Default Re: Do The Math (And Other Advice for Newbies)

    Nice, thanks Bubba.

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    Default Re: Do The Math (And Other Advice for Newbies)

    And the winner of 'post of the year' goes to...

    A very well done post and an excellent read. A great reminder and reality check to the more experience folks and a great lesson to those working their way into it all.

    :Two Thumbs Up:

  13. #13

    Default Re: Do The Math (And Other Advice for Newbies)

    Quote Originally Posted by Old Pyro View Post
    Good to see ya back here PB....
    Heh. Back in the day, I made a complete nuisance of myself, because I was basically trying to talk through all these problems I was working out in my mind. I didn't know what I was doing, and I was always arguing with the guys who did know what they were doing.

    Yesterday, when I posted my annual stash picture -- which isn't even 1/4 of what I shot in 2005 -- I was looking through the showcase threads and saw an awesome stash photo of a guy's Patriotic buy. Half that stuff wasn't even on the market when I made my first wholesale buy in Patriotic's 2004 after-season sale, and a lot of what I bought in 2004 has since been discontinued.

    Newbies nowadays should be grateful. There is a lot more video and photos online than there was five years ago, so you can really look at different rack designs, different cake-board patterns, different effects, etc.

    I wish I could remember the name of the guy from upstate New York whose 2004 show video really inspired me for 2005. He had a lot of angled action going on, and so I said to myself, "That's what I want to do." I did a lot of stupid things wrong in 2005, but the basic idea of getting that criss-crossing angle effect worked from the first time we lit the opening candle racks. (I got the design of the candle racks from "L," the guy who put together the online database for our buying group and has since gone on to become certified as a pro shooter.)

    Now, back to that Patriotic stash photo I saw yesterday. The guy was talking about a 13-minute show, and one of the commenters was telling him he had enough stuff for waaayy more than 13 minutes. Well, yeah, but . . .

    1. My general belief is you can't do much more than 15 minutes of continuous firing before people start getting bored. The "MEGO" (My Eyes Glaze Over) factor is what you've got to think about. It's better to do a really good 10-minute show with a super-intense finale than to pound away for 20 minutes and let the MEGO factor spoil the audience impact.
    2. Given that he's buying from Patriotic, you have to think about the possibility the guy is not going to be shooting in a 1.4G-legal state. Been there, done that. Even at 9:30 p.m. on the 4th of July, when the switchboards are melting down, if you shoot for more than 10 minutes in a non-1.4G-legal state, you're tempting fate.
    3. Exactly how much "awesome" do you want in your finale?

    Say the guy with the Patriotic stash starts off with a board where he's got 1 cake firing at a time for most of the way, with a 2- or 3-cake finale on each board. Say a board like that has eight to 10 cakes and lasts two minutes.

    The guy fires Board A (applause), Board B (applause) and Board C (applause), each board getting a little bit bigger, a little bit nicer. OK, by the time he's through with Board C, he's past the 5-minute mark. A little change of pace -- some fountains or rockets or wheels or something.

    When that's over, you're at the 7-minute mark. All right, let's light 3 boards on a front. These boards are identical in design, and it's a 2-minute duration. Open strong with an effect they haven't seen (Gallant Sight?) and the board finishes with your 30-second fake finale. Strong enough to make them think "that's it," but not as strong as what's coming next. (Applause.)

    OK, you're getting close to the 10-minute mark. Now the real finale. Two questions:
    1. What's the duration of the longest cake in your finale?
    2. How much quickmatch do you have?

    Answer that question however you want, but there is no limit to what can be fired simultaneously in your finale.

    Assuming I had enough quickmatch, if I had X-number of Sun Shower and X-number of High Stepper, everything else would be an afterthought. I think 3 cases of each, with some fountains and maybe a case of Large Happy for good measure, would be plenty enough. But if you're thinking of a larger number, good on ya.

    You can look at the price list of your favorite wholesaler and do your own calculations.

    Also, somebody should link the planning thread where the guy talks about the "roller coast" concept. What I did wrong in 2005 was to over-do it in the early part of the show, so that it was practically a finale from start to finish.

    Don't do that. Come up with a good opening to catch their attention, then slow it down, build to an applause point and pause. Lather, rinse, repeat. And when it comes time for that real finale, aim for that few seconds right at the end where it's so intense people feel like they're dying from a heart attack.
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    Member Array St1dinoh's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do The Math (And Other Advice for Newbies)

    holy crap bubba...

    i've been wondering where the hell you went, turns out you were typing up a post this whole time.

    great post, and nice to see you back.

    you should post more often.
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    PM me your email address for a price list, and check out our youtube page www.youtube.com/MillerFireworks.

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    Member Array Switchfoot55's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do The Math (And Other Advice for Newbies)

    Well, I very much enjoyed reading through this. Thanks PyroBubba! I think PyroU would benefit greatly if some of our well seasoned shooters took the time to write posts such as this in the various parts of the forum. Hopefully it helps calm down some people and put it in perspective!
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    Default Re: Do The Math (And Other Advice for Newbies)

    Quote Originally Posted by St1dinoh View Post
    holy crap bubba... turns out you were typing up a post this whole time.
    Well, I didn't type a whole year, just a whole morning, but I type fast.

    Time is money, man, and I've got a lot less of both this year, so I don't have as much time to play the annoying PUForum know-it-all. Also, there was that disastrous little October 2005 incident where I made the mistake of selling to the wrong idiot who got busted and then told the cops where he got it. No prosecution (the warrant was flawed, as I explained in a follow-up phone conversation with the fire marshal) but once they seize a huge stash -- I had $1,300 wholesale in October -- and search your wife's underwear drawer, it sort of puts a damper on things.

    So now I have the logistics nightmare of figuring out how to accumulate a stash 700 miles away in Alabama, etc., and doing it under the budget constraints of a guy who's building a new career as a freelancer/consultant. It's all about the math, but as long as I'm not living under a bridge, I'll still find a way to shoot something every Fourth of July.
    Last edited by PyroBubba; June 13th, 2009 at 04:04 PM.
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    Member Array PlayaSteelo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do The Math (And Other Advice for Newbies)

    Quote Originally Posted by PyroBubba View Post
    :Also, there was that disastrous little October 2005 incident where I made the mistake of selling to the wrong idiot who got busted and then told the cops where he got it. No prosecution (the warrant was flawed, as I explained in a follow-up phone conversation with the fire marshal) but once they seize a huge stash -- I had $1,300 wholesale in October -- and search your wife's underwear drawer, it sort of puts a damper on things.
    Holy crap that sucks!! I remember you back when I started on PU in 05. I was more of a lurker back then and didn't interact much, but after a very long break from the forums I've now decided to change that. Its good to see you back.

    This is a very nice thread you started. I also call for sticky.

  18. #18

    Default Re: Do The Math (And Other Advice for Newbies)

    BTW, here's my (pathetically small) 2009 stash photo. I've actually got more than that, and plan to get more, but it sure as heck ain't $1,300 wholesale.

    Now that I'm thinking about newbies, let me offer perhaps the most valuable advice any newbie could ever get: G--D--- those Saturn Missile Batteries!

    In my very first wholesale buy, I got a whole case of 200-shot SMBs and if I'd known what I was doing, I'd have given the entire case to the children of my worst enemy on earth.

    Duration of those wretched things was 2+ minutes. Doomed sinners should say a prayer of thanksgiving that the eternal tortures of fiery Hell cannot be worse than listening to more than two minutes of screee-pop screeee-pop screeee-pop . . .

    If you're going to fool around with SMBs, get a case of the 25-shots and quickmatch them for a 30-second blast. But don't fool around with anything that could possibly have a longer duration. I still have nightmares about it . . .
    Legalize 1.4G in Every State!
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  19. #19

    Default Re: Do The Math (And Other Advice for Newbies)

    Pyro poetry.
    I defend as I attack.

  20. #20
    Member Array WiPyro's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do The Math (And Other Advice for Newbies)

    Wow what a great post realy got me itching to get my show set up thank you for taking the time to post this.

  21. #21

    Default Re: Do The Math (And Other Advice for Newbies)

    Wow - very inspiring post. You have definitely given some great advice... I'll be reading that over again a couple of times while I re-plan my show. Thanks!!

  22. #22

    Default Re: Do The Math (And Other Advice for Newbies)

    Quote Originally Posted by WiPyro View Post
    got me itching to get my show set up
    Test-fire time! In 2004-2005, I'd test-fire something just about every weekend, and do a mini-show every couple of months. Did a sweet little show for my daughter's 16th birthday that opened with about a 15-foot front of fountains.

    OK, since we're doing the nostalgia trip, the coolest effect in the 2005 Fourth of July show went like this:

    MT RED SKY <-----------30 ft-------> MT RED SKY <--------30 ft------> MT RED SKY
    (20 second delay)
    GLORIOUS WATERFALL <--30 ft> GLORIOUS WATERFALL <30 ft--> GLORIOUS WATERFALL

    So it was 20 seconds of red glitter, and then the gold waterfalls started pouring through the red glitter, until it faded into all gold. Lots of ooohs from the ladies on that one.

    For Patriotic or WFBoom customers, also good for ooohs is 3-station front of any of these: Gallant Sight, Fantastico USA, Gold Dust.

    Used to say the guys are always welcome at the show, but I shoot for the ladies. Everybody likes the big boom barrages, but it's those kind of slow, quiet "artistic" effects in the mid-show that make the ladies go ooooh.

    The Wizard Of Oooohs would be a cool screen-name, BTW.
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  23. #23
    Member Array St1dinoh's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do The Math (And Other Advice for Newbies)

    Quote Originally Posted by PyroBubba View Post
    Now that I'm thinking about newbies, let me offer perhaps the most valuable advice any newbie could ever get: G--D--- those Saturn Missile Batteries!

    In my very first wholesale buy, I got a whole case of 200-shot SMBs and if I'd known what I was doing, I'd have given the entire case to the children of my worst enemy on earth.

    Duration of those wretched things was 2+ minutes. Doomed sinners should say a prayer of thanksgiving that the eternal tortures of fiery Hell cannot be worse than listening to more than two minutes of screee-pop screeee-pop screeee-pop . . .

    If you're going to fool around with SMBs, get a case of the 25-shots and quickmatch them for a 30-second blast. But don't fool around with anything that could possibly have a longer duration. I still have nightmares about it . . .
    lies, all lies and slander...

    this is how you do saturns

    (fast forward to 8:15)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ygTXLmmY3A

    thats (4 cases of forward silver dragons) made little children cry, full grown adults hide behind lawn chairs, and my camera man tell his fake-pregnant (long story) girlfriend to "get in the truck, get in the truck"

    lol

    everyone was perfectly safe, but it gave the impression that all hell was breaking loose and something was horribly, horribly wrong.
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    PM me your email address for a price list, and check out our youtube page www.youtube.com/MillerFireworks.

  24. #24
    Have fireworks. Will travel. Array JoeRatman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do The Math (And Other Advice for Newbies)

    Moved to Show Tips and Techniques.

    "Share your display ideas with others."
    Licensed MN Outdoor Fireworks Operator
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  25. #25

    Default Re: Do The Math (And Other Advice for Newbies)

    Quote Originally Posted by St1dinoh View Post
    4 cases of forward silver dragons . . . "get in the truck, get in the truck"
    LOL! That was "money," as the kids say. So good it was evil.

    Still, it was a short-duration effect, like I say, rather than that interminible 2-minute crap I had to endure in 2005.

    Excellent work throughout, BTW. And I still can't find that "roller coaster" thread I was talking about, but here's a good show-theory thread from 2006.
    Legalize 1.4G in Every State!
    Imagine East Tennessee
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  26. #26

    Default Re: Do The Math (And Other Advice for Newbies)

    St1dinoh, what you did in the first minute of that video was also instructive. 40 seconds of 3x loud crackling fountains and then (I'm guessing) 3x Fireworks Fiesta. Even if you were buying retail, that would still be less than $50, but the transition at ~0:40 shows how you can get a nice mood-change effect that way.

    Everybody thinks about the big stuff, but if you use small stuff the right way, it can be ultra-cool. Look at the Patriotic list and think of what you could do with:That's a pretty intense 40 seconds of fun for about $120. Throw in a half-case (6) of Falcon Soaring ($45) and I'd dare say that would be considered a decent fake finale for your backyard Fourth, or at least a sweet little one-minute show for midnight on New Year's Eve.
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  27. #27
    Member Array St1dinoh's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do The Math (And Other Advice for Newbies)

    Quote Originally Posted by PyroBubba View Post
    St1dinoh, what you did in the first minute of that video was also instructive. 40 seconds of 3x loud crackling fountains and then (I'm guessing) 3x Fireworks Fiesta. Even if you were buying retail, that would still be less than $50, but the transition at ~0:40 shows how you can get a nice mood-change effect that way.
    TBH, that fountian segment at the begining was something i can't talk about on here, but lets just say it used to be 3 winda fire fighter fountians

    i always open all my shows with fiestas, i take 1/2 a case and block them up so the fused sides are touching. this way once they start up they are shooting "against" each other. one starts left, and one starts right in each block causing them to criss cross. this means once those little buggers get rolling they fill the sky up real good (double saturation at each point).

    if you watch that entire show you'll notice we go in and out quite a few times. start on shore, then go out to the barges (on the river), then once we hit a spot where we wanted the smoke to clear out a bit i fired another cue on the shore (first the mines, then the girandola line rocket)...

    then it was back out onto the barges for more fun.

    mixing it up like that not only allows the smoke to clear out a bit, but it keeps the audience guessing.

    anytime you can bring effects closer and farther from the crowd, or switch intensity, or go wide then back narrow again it adds a new dimension to the show.

    lets say you plan to shoot a 1/2 hour show, and in that show you plan to shoot 4 big wide fronts...

    you wouldn't smash all 4 fronts back to back in a row would you? then why not add lots of different elements to the show and mix it up as much as possible?

    if you do a search for "index cards" on this site you'll find a good trick to help you lay the whole show out so as to keep it mixed and balanced.
    www.millerfireworks.com

    PM me your email address for a price list, and check out our youtube page www.youtube.com/MillerFireworks.

  28. #28
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    Default Re: Do The Math (And Other Advice for Newbies)

    Quote Originally Posted by PyroBubba View Post
    Everybody thinks about the big stuff, but if you use small stuff the right way, it can be ultra-cool. Look at the Patriotic list and think of what you could do with
    Welcome back Bubba!!! And all this time we were wondering where you were .

    Almost any of the "kids stuff" can be used to great effect if you fire the entire case load. Last year we shot a whole case of buzz balls with a case of small bees thrown in for low-level effect. The results were . Just make sure you have a ton of space if you try this.. I can imagine what would happen if I pulled that off here on SI .
    Staten Island, New York Pyrotechnician

  29. #29

    Default Re: Do The Math (And Other Advice for Newbies)

    Very good, Stoney. Now, let me point out that even the greenest newbie can do some cool stuff, if they'll just learn to think crazy.

    OK, Mr. Newbie, you and your brother-in-law -- who lives elsewhere and will shoot his own separate show -- are looking at the Phantom catalog, planning a run. You're each going to spend $500 bucks, going halfsies on the buy, so you're thinking of the BOGO and splitting stuff up, and you're saying, "OK, two of those, two of those, two of those . . . ." That's sane.

    Crazy? Look at pp. 14-17 of the Phantom catalog, the 200-gram repeaters. Notice that you can also buy them in cases at a (very slight) discount over the retail. Guess what? The BOGO applies to cases, too! Better yet, at most locations (inquire with the manager) you can mix-and-match your BOGO cases of the same price.

    Crazy? Look at the 200-gram cakes priced at $289.00 per case of 12. With the BOGO, you and your brother-in-law can get 4 cases (48) cakes for $578 and split them so that for $289 each, you each get:
    • 6x Falcon Rising 25-shot
    • 6x Wild West 25-shot
    • 6x Colortopia 25-shot
    • 6x Vapor Trails 96-shot
    Just looking at the shot count and performance description of Vapor Trails, I'm guessing that's the Phantom re-wrap of Fireworks Fiesta -- basically, angled comets, sort of a mini-Z.

    OK, now, I said you'd each spend $500, so you've still got $211 to play with, and you can figure out whatever else you buy with that. But that split on 4 cases is your finale.

    Crazy, remember? 18x25 = 450 aerial breaks, and Falcon Rising, Wild West and Colortopia all have tails on the shots, too. Plus 6x96 = 576 criss-crossing comets from your Vapor Trails.

    You'll need to get in touch with Skylighter and order some quickmatch (or make your own, according to easily available online instructions), but this is a plan for a wicked-cool finale from Phantom for under $300. Imagine all of that stuff firing off in under a minute . . .

    Crazy, see?
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  30. #30
    Member Array PyroMania's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do The Math (And Other Advice for Newbies)

    Great post PyroBubba. Made me rethink a couple things for my show.
    I agree, this should be a sticky.
    The "roller coaster" post sounded familiar ...if this is the one you were talking about.
    http://www.pyrouniverse.com/forum/sh...ck+showhttp://

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