"Nobody ever wants to talk about the 6,000 great things that you did..."
July 4, 2020 11:32 PM   Subscribe


posted by aws17576 at 11:57 PM on July 4 [11 favorites]

oh man what happened that comment took a long time to type too
posted by aws17576 at 11:58 PM on July 4 [58 favorites]

Funny enough, the exact same thing happened in Tulsa right around that time. I happened to be driving home from the convenience store when the show was scheduled to begin and it was quite a light show. Since I was a few miles away it wasn't obvious that literally everything went off at once, at least until the initial blast of color was followed by nothing at all. It was unsettling.
posted by wierdo at 12:37 AM on July 5 [1 favorite]

For some reason, I never saw this video before (or at least I don't recall it). That is a stunning video and I can't imagine what it would have been like to have been there, chilling out while waiting around for the show to start, and then THIS. (You may wish to turn the volume down prior to clicking on the video link)
posted by acidnova at 12:48 AM on July 5 [4 favorites]

OH BOY I saw this in PERSON!!!! It was terrifying and hilarious and also one of the last times I willingly sought to watch fireworks for entertainment purposes

10/10, A+ for effort across the board
posted by Kitchen Witch at 3:38 AM on July 5 [22 favorites]

I was a minor legal baseball game that did a little show. I was fairly young and i remember some guys SPRINTING from where they had their set up and then it went boom fairly close to the ground. Not nearly as many fireworks.
posted by AlexiaSky at 3:47 AM on July 5

Went fine this year! [starts around minute 7:00]
posted by chavenet at 4:48 AM on July 5

Nobody knew what was going on until the pyrotech came back and said, “That’s it, something went wrong. Computer glitch. There are no more fireworks.”

Coolest computer glitch ever!
posted by sammyo at 6:51 AM on July 5

The Seattle New Year's fireworks in 2007-8 had a similar computer crash but they were able to do it by hand, though it was a bit delayed...
posted by BungaDunga at 7:30 AM on July 5

I appreciate Santores candor - as noted , a mensch.
posted by davidmsc at 7:42 AM on July 5 [1 favorite]

Maya Kroth... is currently writing a book about naps.

This article isn’t going to help you with your research, Maya.
posted by q*ben at 8:02 AM on July 5 [5 favorites]

I was fairly young and i remember some guys SPRINTING from where they had their set up and then it went boom fairly close to the ground.

My daughter's high school boyfriend volunteered with the JayCees, who put on the local fireworks display every year. He had a t-shirt that said "I'm with the fireworks crew, if you see me running, try to keep up!"
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 8:06 AM on July 5 [6 favorites]

Then they run wires to a computer station at one end of the barge where all the controls are.

As soon as I got to that line I thought, "This is going to turn out to be a software issue, isn't it?"

I was able to find a few more articles like this one and as best I can piece together what happened was this:

All the barges have a timecoded set of instructions for when to ignite each firework.

There is also a backup set of instructions for how to ignite them if for some reason the ignition signal isn't received. I guess so they go off, just out of sync with the music.

These two instruction sets are merged into a single file.

Somehow the merge created a file which thought it was supposed to do everything at once (the backup), then the regular sequence. Apparently there's a pdf out there that goes into more detail. If anyone can find it, I'd be really interested.
posted by justkevin at 8:22 AM on July 5 [7 favorites]

Never has the phrase "halt and catch fire" been more apt.
posted by SPrintF at 8:24 AM on July 5 [4 favorites]

This control systems blog has an archived copy of the Garden State Fireworks PDF press release, which goes in to more detail about the malformed command file, but is still vague about the specific error/unintended additional procedural step… which allowed the creation of an anomaly, or what they mean by 'doubled' the primary firing sequence.
In an effort to be over-prepared for any disruptions in communications, a secondary back up computer file was created for the display. The technical explanation of the creation and implementation of the back-up file requires a significant understanding of the computer firing systems themselves. Basically, if any of the five locations do not receive the initiation code, the secondary file allows each of the five locations the opportunity to independently 'manually' initiate a new sequence that will allow for seamless synchronization to all locations. Our technicians out on the barges have an independent protocol to activate this sequence if any of the automatic test sequences don't confirm open communication. Both the technical aspect and logic of this failsafe are all sound implementations of the computerized firing systems. This back up method has been executed successfully on countless occasions by our company.

Each of the five locations involved in the display have their own computer controller into which the files are downloaded. Before the two files are loaded into each of the five computer controllers, the primary and the secondary file are merged through the software to create a new file that is then loaded into each of the controllers. During the downloading process, an unintentional additional procedural step occurred in the loading process which allowed the creation of an anomaly that 'doubled' the primary firing sequence. The primary sequence then consisted of a sequence that would fire the entire display simultaneously and then proceed to fire the display in the proper sequence.
I could swear that I read an article at the time that explained more of the specific technical details of the error, but it's not turning up.
posted by zamboni at 8:38 AM on July 5 [5 favorites]

The unnamed computer control system was FireOne. Comments on control system and fireworks blogs at the time suggests that the press release doesn't quite make sense..

Updated info...I spoke directly with the system manufacturer. It was 100% user error. They manipulated their software file on site and all cues were set to fire at 00:00 on accident. Negative timecode was ran to start with, but it all fired simultaneously.
For those interested, yes, the show was shot with FireOne. Without throwing anyone under the bus here, the "problem" was the .fir file had every cue listed as 00:00:00 for the fire time. Probably happened on the export somehow (I've seen some weird things happen during exportation of the .fir file) and no one caught it. The show was loaded into the main panel which was fired via time code fed back from the radio station. The second tc started, every cue fired.
One suggestion that I haven't been able to verify, which makes some sense, but am not entirely convinced by, is that the local control and remote control scripts specify time codes differently:
It was caused when the techs decided to merge two firing files.
One is a delay - you press go and it counts the seconds between cues
The second type is automatic - you press go and it waits for timecode.
They put the two files together, in the order I listed above. Once it got timecode, it was halfway down the actual file that they produced - so the system thought it was already passed the delay portion of the firing file, so it fired everything.
posted by zamboni at 9:20 AM on July 5 [8 favorites]

I think all fireworks shows should be like this -- you get the big finish right away, and everyone gets to go home a lot quicker.
posted by AJaffe at 9:34 AM on July 5 [7 favorites]

I saw this in person and it was (and likely will forever be) the best fireworks show I've ever seen. Literally everybody I know who saw it was absolutely delighted by what happened. The amount of entertainment by unit of time was immense.

I feel that the surprise and realization were vital parts of the experience. It wouldn't have felt the same if I had known what was going to happen.
posted by truex at 3:02 PM on July 5 [13 favorites]

I think all fireworks shows should be like this -- you get the big finish right away, and everyone gets to go home a lot quicker.

Probably less scary for pets in the end, too.
posted by brundlefly at 4:58 PM on July 5 [2 favorites]

Clearly, “fail” is a relative term. I would have loved to have been there! It just so happens I got the chance to help set up a fireworks show for the 4th this weekend (a bucket list item for me!) and there was a lot of speculation about what would happen if everything went off at once; I’ll be sure and show them this at the next show I volunteered for in 2 weeks!
posted by TedW at 8:00 PM on July 5

Yep, sounds great! I get very bored by minute four or so of any fireworks display.
posted by grandiloquiet at 8:33 PM on July 5

Not nearly so exciting, but I used to live in a small town where they’d launch fireworks over a pond that had once been a drinking water reservoir. Residents gathered in a field on one side, with the fireworks launching from the other. There were no computerized controls; just a couple of guys walking back and forth, lighting fuses by hand. With surprising frequency a fuse would go out or take longer to ignite the rocket than expected, and in the unplanned moments of silence we’d hear “Shit!” and ”Fuck!” drifting across the water.
posted by jon1270 at 4:47 AM on July 6 [3 favorites]

Best display ever!
posted by Gwynarra at 1:28 PM on July 7

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