Shell

Lighting up the skies

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 January, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 January, 1993, 12:00am

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SOME people think even E.T. the Extraterrestrial would have been stunned if he had watched the spectacular fireworks that lit up the sky over Victoria Harbour on the second night of the Year of the Rooster.


But, have you ever wondered what goes into producing such visual miracles? Mr Michael Morris, one of the 30 pyrotechnicians from Pyro Spectaculars, the United States company that was commissioned to choreograph the display, unlocked the mystery to Young Post before the event.


''The shape of each rocket determines the pattern of its effect in the sky,'' Mr Morris, 29, said.


Round shells make defined rotund patterns resembling flowers such as chrysanthemums, peonies and double petals.


Cylindrical-shaped shells, on the other hand, produce asymmetrical forms with its usual accompaniment of bright colours.


''The size of the firework, however, depends on whether the rocket is hard or soft.'' Hard shells make large and powerful patterns while softer cases and those with less explosives inside, like the willow shells, explain their weaker appearance.


What usually captivates spectators in a fireworks show is the kaleidoscope of colours that light up the sky.


With seven years of experience in the business, Mr Morris explained this had to do with the composition of the chemical components inside the shells.


For instance, copper produces blue, barium makes green and strontium red. A metal like iron creates gold sparks while titanium causes silver ones.


''An artist can freely combine them to make every colour imaginable!'' Mr Morris is chiefly involved with designing and setting up the show.


''We definitely consider firework displays an art form. It is called 'painting in sky with fire'. We also consider ourselves artists.'' When asked about the dangers involved, he seemed satisfied with the safety level.


''We do not need to stand close to the fireworks while operating the show. We control everything electronically in a control room some distance away.'' However, he said the real danger was in the handling and loading before the show.


''These shells are like loaded guns. I would not put my hand into the mortar.'' But despite the potentially lethal effects of fireworks, Mr Morris considers his job a labour of love. He said his favourite firework is one from China called ''Grapes All Over the Vineyard''.