The Super Pyro Glossary

We have compiled a list of the technical terms used in the pyrotechnic industry. They are divided into the following sections:

Display Types

Outdoor Aerial Display

A pyrotechnic production utilizing primarily aerial shells, repeater cakes, display candles, and ground display devices. The production is typically divided into three sections: the opening, the body, and the finale. For more detailed information, please refer to this section. A special type of outdoor aerial display is the Close Proximity Display.

Close Proximity Display

A special type of Outdoor Aerial Display utilizing close proximity effects. Typically, a close proximity display is warranted in locations where the display site does not allow enough of a safety zone for traditional aerial shells. For more detailed information, please refer to this section.

Indoor Display

A special type of display utilizing stage effects. Indoor displays are typically performed in conjunction with a stage production such as a musical concert or theatrical performance. For more detailed information, please refer to this section.


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Aerial Effects

Aerial Shells

These are the most commonly used devices in an Outdoor Aerial Display, producing many different types of colors and effects. The most typical effect is the familiar round flower shell, but shells can also make patterns, produce salutes, and even deploy parachutes. Other types of special effects include crossettes, bees, willows, palm trees, mines, whistles, spinners, strobes and multi-break shells. Aerial Shells are fired from mortars secured in wooden racks and angled in various directions. Shells come in many various sizes, with diameters as small as 1/2 inch to as large as 36 inches, although the most commonly used shells range from 3” to 6”. In general, the larger the diameter the bigger the burst or spread, and the larger the safety zone needed.

Bees

Also known as tracers, go-getters, or fish, bees are a type of aerial effect that upon bursting streak in random directions or seem to vibrate.

Close Proximity Effects

Special pyrotechnic devices designed and manufactured to produce little or no fallout. Close proximity effects can be utilized in areas where traditional Aerial Shells are too hazardous. For more detailed information, please refer to this section. Close proximity effects are differentiated from Stage Effects in that they typically project 75’-200’ in height and are designed to be used in large venues such as sports stadiums. Close proximity effects are designed to simulate standard aerial effects such as flower shells, mine shells, and comets.

Comets

As their name implies, Comets produce a long, streaming tail of sparks.

Crossettes

A type of aerial effect where the stars break into a palm tree effect and then surprises you by breaking again, crossing into intricate web-like patterns.

Display Candles

The professional version of Roman Candles, our display candles range in diameter from 1” up to 3” and produce multiple shots of various effects and colors.

Flower Shells

The most common type of aerial shell, the flower shell opens into a large, round symmetrical ball upon breaking. Commonly named after various types of flowers such as Chrysanthemums and Peonies, flowers are available in a great many color configurations.

Mine Shells

A type of aerial shell, the mines produce a “flower bouquet” effect, burning immediately from the ground up with a spray of glittering sparks.

Multi-Break Shells

Highly specialized aerial shells that, upon reaching their apex, break in a series of different effects either in succession or simultaneously.

Palm Trees

Aerial shells with a large comet tail (the “trunk “) and large, long-duration stars that deploy in a radial pattern (the “leaves”).

Parachute Shells

Aerial Shells that upon breaking deploy an effect hanging from a parachute, typically a string of flares that burn for approximately 15-20 seconds.

Pattern Shells

Aerial Shells designed to form intricate patterns upon breaking. Some of the many patterns available include rings, hearts, bowties, 5-pointed stars, smiling faces, and our custom-made plumeria flowers.

Repeater Cakes

A group of aerial effects designed to fire rapidly and continuously. Repeater Cakes come in batteries of 25 to 1,000 shots with bore diameters from 3/4” to 3”. Typically they have a duration from 20 to 60 seconds and are availble in many different colors, effects, and configurations.

Salutes

Aerial shells that produce a bright flash and a large, loud report (“bang”).

Spinners

A type of aerial effect that projects a shower of sparks while rotating around its axis to produce a pinwheel type of appearance.

Strobes

Very bright pyrotechnic effects that flash or blink rapidly. Utilized in stars in aerial devices or in strobe pots.

Whistles

Pyrotechnic effects that produce a large whistling or screaming noise.

Willows

Aerial effects designed to simulate the appearance of a willow tree, with many fine shimmering “branches” burning almost to the ground.

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Ground Effects

Ground Display Piece

A pyrotechnic device designed to function on the ground rather than projecting aerially. This category includes set pieces, waterfalls, wheels, strobe pots, and flares.

Set Piece

A ground display piece consisting of a wooden framework to which lances are attached. The resulting design produces an image of text, logo, slogan or other picture in multiple colors. For more information please refer to <this section>.

Logo Burn

A set piece in the design of a company or corporate logo.

Lance

A small pencil-sized pyrotechnic flare used in the construction of set pieces. Lances come in a variety of colors and typically burn for 50-60 seconds.

Strobe Pots

Ground devices that typically burn for 30-60 seconds and produce a strobe effect.

Wheel

A ground display piece mounted on a wooden frame and designed to rotate about its axis like a pinwheel.

Waterfall

A cascading shower of sparks in silver or gold. Typically used in a ground display piece where the effects are suspended from a cable and the sparks reach the ground.

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Display Terminology

Battery

A collection of pyrotechnic devices such as a group of mortars that are designed to fire either simultaneously or in rapid succession.

Break

The term for the individual burst of a pyrotechnic device that produces either a visual or audio effect, or both. Also see Burst.

Burst

The action of a pyrotechnic device when it deploys or opens to produce the designed effect. Also see Break.

Mortar

A fireworks launch tube from which aerial shells are projected into the air.

Stars

The main element of most pyrotechnic effects, stars are the components that produce the colors and/or sound in a firework device. Aerial Shells are typically filled with many stars carefully arranged to produce the great variety of effects available.

Opening

In the context of an outdoor aerial display, the initial segment of the production typically comprised of a large volley of effects. The intent is to draw the spectators’ attention to the location of the display.

Body

In the context of an aerial display, the body is the main section between the opening and the finale.

Flights

Sets of aerial shells fired concurrently from separate locations to create multiple bursts.

Fronts

A line or wall of display effects – Mines, Comets, Candles and Multi-shot Repeaters chained to be fired at timed sequences in a variety of spectacular formations.

Finale

As the name implies, the final segment of a production usually comprised of several large batteries of pyrotechnic effects. The finale is typically the most intense and spectacular section of the display, leaving an indelible impression on the spectators.

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Site Terminology

Operator

The chief pyrotechnician on a fireworks display. The operator must be licensed and has the overall responsibility for the safe setup and discharge of the pyrotechnics.

Discharge Area

The immediate area surrounding the pyrotechnic devices on a fireworks display.

Fallout

The debris remaining after an aerial pyrotechnic device has burned. While this debris is comprised mostly of pieces of cardboard or paper, hot ash and sparks may still remain and is therefore hazardous. See Fallout Zone.

Fallout Zone

The area on a pyrotechnic display reserved for the containment of any fallout debris from aerial fireworks devices. This area must be kept free of any persons or flammable materials during the firing of the display. See also Safety Zone.

Safety Zone

The area on a pyrotechnic display containing the Discharge Area, the Fallout Zone (if applicable) and any additional area that must be kept clear of any unauthorized persons and other hazards. For more information, please refer to <this section>

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Special Effects

Stage Effects

Special pyrotechnic devices designed and manufactured to produce no fallout, most stage effects can be utilized within 15 feet of spectators. These devices also produce little or no smoke and are safe to use in indoor venues such as theatres, ballrooms, and meeting halls. Many effects are designed to simulate standard aerial effects such as aerial shells, mine shells, salutes and comets, and ground display devices such as strobe pots and set pieces. In addition, some specialized stage effects are designed to be held or worn by specially trained performers. Types of stage effects include airbursts, gerbs, flash pots, flame mortars, strobe pots, flares, fireballs, waterfalls, saxons, and concussion pots.

Airburst

A stage effect designed to simulate the burst of an aerial shell.

Concussion Pots

A stage effect designed to produce a loud report or bang.

Cannon

A special effect antique cannon that uses black powder to emit a loud report (cannonball not included).

Confetti Cannon

A non-pyrotechnic special effect utilizing compressed air to project confetti and/or streamers over a large area. Can also be used to project flower petals.

Fireball

A stage effect designed to produce a flame and a mushroom shaped smoke cloud.

Flame Projector

A propane-based special effect that can produce either large blasts or a linear "wall" of fire. This device can be used safely indoors.

Flame Mortar

A stage effect designed to produce a jet of flame to heights between 5 and 15 feet.

Flare

A stage effect designed to produce a brightly colored light.

Flash Pots

A stage effect designed to produce a bright flash of light and a puff of smoke.

Gerb

A stage effect designed to produce a fountain of sparks, gerbs come in many sizes from a 5-foot to 30-foot projection with durations lasting from ½ to 30 seconds.

Saxon

A stage effect mounted on a wooden frame and designed to rotate about its axis while projecting a shower of sparks like a pinwheel.

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