The Big Bang Theory: Pyrotecnico On The Apple Music Super Bowl Halftime Show

Pyrotecnico has been in business lighting up the skies since 1889, so not surprisingly, the family business has a few Super Bowl Halftime Shows under its belt, having first worked on the NFL’s entertainment spectacular for Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston, TX.

Bob Ross, chief integration officer for Live Events, and Executive Vice President of SFX, and fourth generation pyrotechnics expert, Rocco Vitale, talked to Live Design about creating the show for the Apple Music Super Bowl LVII Half Time Show

Live Design: What is the timeline for your involvement in the show, when des the NFL come to you?

Bob Ross: The NFL is one client, for the pre-game and post-game celebrations, the player intros, and national anthem. So, for example, we have a call to action at 4 pm for fireworks off the roof to put some energy around the stadium and start mobilizing people who are tailgating in the parking lots and draw them into the stadium.

Rocco Vitale: For the anthem, we make the finale with the jet flyover a bit grander, and pull 80 pieces of product for “bombs bursting in air.”

And then we have ROC NATION as a client for the Halftime Show. We have the off season to figure out how we can accommodate each venue, and then usually by late summer, around Labor Day, is when we usually engage with conversations with ROC NATION.

When the artist announcement comes out, we start engaging with Bruce Rogers (of Tribe, Inc.), who is our primary designer, and the artist design team which this year was designer Willo Perron and we work through their ideas and their visions and see how we can create within the parameters of a roof for display area.

LD: Does the venue make a big difference?

BR: Last year it SoFi Stadium and that is not a pyrotechnic-friendly venue because of the construction of the roof and also the proximity to LAX and its flight paths. At State Farm Stadium in Glendale, AZ, on the other hand, we had a beautiful roof to work on and clearance for to display fireworks off the roof.

LD: How did you feel about the design with Rihanna elevated on platforms?

RV: It was perfect. We always want to make sure we leave our mark and do something you need do something grand coz in our industry you're only as good as your last gig.

LD: How do you start design for the show?

RV: We get the actual playlist from the artist and start thinking about where we want the emphasis, and the show’s design team want to see the pyrotechnic moments. We create 3D renders for them. We need to have a finished product by the week of the game so when rehearsals happen we know where the camera blocking is. We're making the most out of each moment where they pan out on the stadium.

LD: What equipment are you using?

BR: We use two Pyrodigital FCA controllers and approximately 190 firing modules that were utilized across 120 positions around 360 degrees of the roof. Between those 120 positions we had approximately 4800 pyrotechnic devices. Last year we definitely had fewer devices because we didn't have a roof to utilize, but this is larger than what we had at Raymond James for Super Bowl LV in 2021, because we only had two scoreboards to work with. We had a lot more surface area on the stadium roof at State Farm.

LD: Is there anything you do in the stadium that the TV audience don’t see?

RV: There are a few opening tears during a first song, "Bitch Better Have My Money" and a sequence chase to build energy. For "We Found Love" there wasn't a request from the design team but we said 'Take a look at this' and they thought it was pretty cool. That was seen by the people sitting in the seats and that's good because without the audience reaction in the stadium, it's fairly boring watching the show on TV.

LD: Were there any safety concerns?

RV: Ultimately, any type of environment that we go into, whether it's a stadium of festival or tour, safety is a top priority

BR: In November and December we take a look at safety distances and the roof material itself. We like to be good stewards and leave the place in the order we got it. Is always our top priority. On day one of load in we go through with the team with GoPro cameras and videotape for our records the entire surface the roof and identify any damage that’s there already. Also, we record our shoots to make sure that we capture any product that may not be performing as desired.

We laid down approximately three miles worth of flame retardant membrane on top of the roof surface to protect it from sparks or hot debris. From there we place all our pyrotechnics during a three-day adventure of hiking up multiple staircases to bring everything up to the roof.

LD: Do you devise your own color palette?

RV: A lot of what we do when we work with designers is in silver, white and gold because it works with everything and this was the request for this show. When the last song is "Diamonds in the Sky" you know it is a natural fit. It was already a stripped-down palette with red and white on the stage, so it worked very well.

LD: What was your favorite part of this project?

RV: Watching the collaboration take place between our team and Bruce, Jesse, and Willo and just seeing the trajectory of how the design comes together. It's always a great experience. I always say when you have a lot of like-minded people who have a lot of energy around what we're doing, that's my favorite part.

LD: What was the biggest challenge on this one?

BR: The wind was a challenge and was something we had our eyes on right up until the show.

RV: Set up was during three days of rain, and the vinyl roof sits on a 20 degree angle which was like a giant Slip ‘N Slide to work on. We were able to keep the crew off the roof for the worst of it and kept active with other projects, but it certainly increased our stress levels.

LD: Is there a way to make pyro more sustainable?

RV: For the Super Bowl, a majority of what we use is American made, which is sustainable because your not bringing things in internationally. Also, over the last few years, there has been an emphasis on making things low smoke, so I think we are in a better place than we were ten years ago there. It gets talked about with vendors, which is a great thing.

BR: We work with certain manufacturers that make a debris-less product. Traditionally, you saw firework shows and the ground ends up being littered with paper debris and foil. There is a premium for a debris-less products, but we can't afford to have the field littered with stuff after the Halftime Show just before the second-half kicks off.

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