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Through fireworks, a 'Transient Rainbow' illuminates the night sky

The ‘Transient Rainbow’ firework technique uses 1,000 shells in 15 seconds.

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The ‘Transient Rainbow’ (left, celebrating a Museum of Modern Art opening in New York in 2002), uses 1,000 shells in 15 seconds.

Courtesy of Fireworks by Grucci/File

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Electronically lit fireworks allow for millisecond precision, instead of four or five seconds when hand-fired, according to Philip Butler, producer for Fireworks by Grucci in Brookhaven, N.Y.. Experts can now direct blasts to exactly where they want them – to spell words, to form the Olympic rings (as during the Beijing games), or Mr. Butler’s favorite: to create a full rainbow across the night sky.

The “Transient Rainbow,” from Grucci and gunpowder artist Cai Guo-Qiang, forms a 300-foot arch of colored bursts. One thousand shells fire in just 15 seconds. With computer-assisted timing, the group can place each of its seven different colors perfectly in space, as if using pixels to create a full picture.

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Check back here in July for the full story of how technology has revolutionized fireworks shows.