When one talks about Super Bowl XLVIII, the numbers are almost unimaginable: the viewership alone was 115 million in the U.S., which is almost one third of the U.S. population. It was the most watched event in all of American television history.
Those weren’t the only astonishing numbers involved in the event. For the Super Bowl Halftime finale with Bruno Mars, there were almost 3000 pieces of pyrotechnics set off by Strictly FX of Chicago, IL, the special effects provider for the event. “The pyrotechnic extravaganza during the final moments of ‘Just The Way You Are’ really put the finishing touch on the entire event, and certainly added to the overall sense of scale in the production,” notes Super Bowl Halftime Production Designer Bruce Rodgers of Tribe Inc. Rodgers and his team at Tribe work directly with Super Bowl Halftime Executive Producer Ricky Kirshner of Touchdown Entertainment Inc. to create the Halftime event.
The finale, an artistically programmed pyro infused masterpiece that exploded high over MetLife Stadium, included 400’ red comets, 400’ silver wave chrysanthemums with tails, 275’ white crackle comets with tails and 200’ blue mines with tails. “Last year during Beyoncé’s performance, there were a lot of opportunities or moments for effects. This year, there was the finale, which the whole show was based upon,” says Super Bowl Halftime Special Effects Designer and Strictly FX Partner Mark Grega.
The opening moments of the Halftime spectacular also included pyro- this time in the form of 100’ snowball mines, 140‘ silver comets as well as 138 total ultra bright tracer comets. ”The snowball mines are new product from our manufacturer Ultratec, and they’re very impressive,” comments Grega.
For “Locked Out of Heaven,” pyro was also present. “We had some silver comets with tails into the first chorus located upstage of the band, as well as green and yellow mines on the roof. For ‘Treasure,’ the rooftop had a number of big gold and silver glitter mines, and gold glitter comets,” the Special Effects Designer explains.
The special effects team had pyro positions in a variety of locations in the stadium. “There were 58 positions on the rooftop for pyro; on the field, it changed constantly from rehearsal to rehearsal to what was actually done on game day” says Grega. There were also pyro positions on the audio carts, thank to audio vendor ATK.
Pyrotechnics weren’t the only special effect in the Halftime Show. There were also eight Strictly FX Venom MK2 flame cannons on the field. “During ‘Runaway Baby’ we used our proprietary flame cannons as accents. The audience really seemed to enjoy the effect, although the television viewers only saw them for a few seconds,” Grega remarks.
For the first time in years, the event itself was held outdoors in the winter, so weather was one of the primary challenges for Grega and his extensive team of expert technicians. “There was a side of the stadium that did not get the sunlight- we called it the dark side. There was 15 degree temperature change, so when it was 16 degrees on one side it was 0 on the other. So, when you started to go and work on something, your hands hurt instantly,” Grega notes. Although the weather was fine for the game and the halftime, there was a variety of winter weather during the rehearsals. “Even in the most difficult of conditions, the Strictly FX team was always professional, and always had a positive attitude,” notes Rodgers.
Strictly FX had an expansive team at MetLife Stadium for the event. It included FX Crew Chief/Designer Adam Biscow, Rooftop Crew Chief/Designer Ron Bleggi , Rooftop Pyro Operator and Programmer John Lyons, FX Main System Tech Grant Sellers and Field Pyro Operator Reid Nofsinger. “All of our crew endured exceptionally bad weather on site, yet managed to pull off a flawless show- I am so proud of each and every one on them,” concludes Grega.