posted by Ian Russell

A Sparkly New Year

I've worked on some pretty big outside broadcasts: hundreds of cameras, dozens of OB units with the whole world eagerly watching, you know the sort of thing. This New Year's eve, I'll be filming one of the biggest, most spectacular events I've ever been involved with and although, all around the world, people will be busy celebrating the start of their 2014, I reckon they'll pause for a moment, keen to see what's happening in Dubai that evening.

At first it may sound like a familiar event, another firework display joining the thousands that take place on New Year's Eve but this display will be like no other, in fact, it's destined to be record breaking, aiming to take its place in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest ever seen. The current official record stands at around 77,000 fireworks, on 31st December in Dubai, the plan is to let-off 450,000. Even allowing for a few misfires, the record is due to be smashed.

The company tasked with providing the fireworks for this record attempt is the New York based Fireworks by Grucci. This world-famous, family firm of fireworks experts has been trusted to stage important fireworks displays for decades but this is huge, even by their standards.

450,000 fireworks in only six minutes, that's an average of 1250 bangs every second, meaning the existing world record should be broken around the one-minute mark. The individual shells will be placed in mortars, each firework needing its own mortar tube. These 450,000 tubes are being placed all around Dubai's Palm Island; a circular set of man-made islands three miles across. Even this sizable venue isn't big enough for the world record display so we've taken over the world, the six mile wide set of man-made islands formed in the shape of the land masses of our planet. All together, the launch sites span 12 miles, the biggest single 'Field of Play' I've ever had to cover, live on television.

The display is set to especially composed music and programmed to fire to the split second, controlled by dozens of computers all connected to a super-secure network with countless back-up systems and fail safes. Some of the fireworks even carry their own individual microchip into the sky to ensure their momentary bright burst of life is triggered with millisecond accuracy.

UK based firm, IMG Artists Events, is organizing the whole project. The logistics are perhaps even bigger than the display. Safety is paramount, programmes of road closures are being arranged to allow the fireworks to be rigged at their firing sites without endangering anyone. Security is being put in place across the 12-mile site, if someone was to stray into one of the hundreds of danger zones, that section of fireworks would be shut down immediately.

Afterwards, the computer systems will deliver an approximate number of fireworks fired and, because of the margin, it will be clear the record will have been broken. Then, by the next day, for safety reasons, every shell will be double-checked and any unfired explosives safely processed. This will allow the exact number of fireworks fired to be calculated and that's the number that'll hopefully end up in the Guinness Book of Records.

The filming of this display is similarly a massive undertaking. We've been scouting for the best places to watch from. A squadron of cameras in helicopters, others in some of Dubai's tallest buildings and yet more near the water line to catch reflections and give a sense of scale. That's our biggest challenge. If you're high enough and far enough away to see the whole display then you're too far back to see the detail and beauty of the individual fireworks. If you're close enough to see the shapes and patters produced by the shells, the scale of the event will be lost. 

I'm sure there'll be a blog or two to come that talks more about how we approached filming this massive event. In the meantime, happy Christmas and have a very happy New Year too. May your New Year's Eve go with a bang!


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