Short & Intense Firework Displays

Advice on picking the right fireworks when you need to make an impact.

Away from Bonfire Night (when you might want to take your time letting off pyro in the back garden), quite often it is in fact better to keep your display short, intense and to the point. In my Choosing Fireworks help section I list a number of events where this is the case, such as New Year’s Eve displays. In this article, I’ll take a look at the concept in more detail.

Fear of short displays

You’ve heard of FOMO – fear of missing out. I’m pretty sure there’s something called FOSD too, that’s fear of short displays. As any firework retailer will agree, the general perception of the firework buying public is that you should get as long a display for your budget as possible. That’s understandable. Fireworks are not cheap so why would you want to blow £200, say, in three minutes when you could spin it out to half an hour?

But the truth is that the longer a display you have for any given budget, the more drawn out it will be, the more repetitive it will get and quite honestly if you push things too far you’ll end up with a display that’s boring. On the other hand, blow your budget in a shorter time and you can enjoy significantly more intense effects and guests will leave your party thinking “WOW!”.

But there are other advantages too. Shorter displays are less disruptive to neighbours, involve less setting up and less effort to fire.

It’s also the case that whilst a few minutes might not sound very long (particularly if it’s costing you a few hundred quid!) the reality is that, once you’re standing in the garden, time does seem to flow a lot slower.

So if there is any advice here on UKFR I would put near the top of the list when it comes to choosing fireworks it’s simply this: Don’t be afraid of shorter displays. With fireworks, always think in terms of what will create the best display, not the longest.

Good fireworks for a big impact

Bigger barrages or compound cakes are great for high impact displays. But do check out the video clips of each item on firework retailers’ websites first, as some barrages are designed for duration and not impact (that is to say, don’t assume every expensive barrage is also spectacular).

Some barrages are fused to fire ultra-quickly in order to maximise impact. There are £100+ fireworks available that last less than 60 seconds, as an example. The video below shows a £170 firework called Legend which goes completely nuts for less than 40 seconds (that’s equivalent to over £15k per hour!). But when you watch the video, you’ll see what an amazing experience it is (and I was there filming it, I can tell you it was awesome):

Also useful are:

Fanned cakes: Especially those firing in banks of multiple shots (the complete fan in each volley). These can be real sky fillers.

Dump cakes: These fire their entire arsenal of shots in one hit. Ultra-short duration but massive effect and great for the end.

Also good for big effects are large display rockets. Any Category F3 rocket above £20 is likely to be a big one (again, check out video clips beforehand) but smaller rockets too can be effective if you pick carefully. Look for 1.3G classification rockets (or those which are 1.4G but supplied in pyromesh) and avoid Category F2 rockets which are 1.4G classification. My 1.3G or 1.4G? article has more information in this.

Mines also create a one-hit effect from the ground upwards and are worth a look.

Avoid fountains and wheels for this type of display. Low noise barrages and roman candle bundles are also unlikely to work well here.

Loud fireworks
Flash, bang and thank you. Mines and salute cakes for maximum impact.

Firing in multiples

A useful trick of more experienced firework displayers is to fire items in multiples. So you would fire two or more barrages together and these can either be spaced out to cover more of your display area, or situated in the same spot to simply double-up the effects. It’s a great way of creating extra impact on smaller budgets and using smaller pyro.

Another tip is to fire off a barrage and then some rockets over the top while it is running. This can really liven things up!

Have a read of my Lighting Fireworks section for more help with this and the Lighting Multiple Fireworks guide.

Further information

The other Choosing Fireworks sections might also be of help in case your display also falls within the scope of those too.

If you’re a complete beginner and some of the terms used in this page are unclear then head over to the Beginners Start Here! page for a run-through of both fireworks and the extensive guides on my website.

The next step after narrowing down your choice of fireworks is buying them, arguably the most fun part! The Buying Fireworks sections will help you.

Then, it’s time to set up your pyro before firing it. The Setting Up Fireworks and Firing Your Display sections will guide you further.