Wake Forest Fireworks Were Truly Spectacular – Watch

On the evening of July 3, 2014 an absolutely spectacular fireworks show was put on by Zambelli Fireworks and the Wake Forest 4th of July Committee, at the Wake Forest High School field.

This was the 41st year the show has been held. Rhonda Alderman was in charge of the Committee this year and did a hell of a job putting on a great show for local residents.

Fireworks launch under the watchful eye of the pyro experts.
Fireworks launch under the watchful eye of the pyro experts.

Sure the weather was a bit dicey earlier in the day with a hurricane swatting at the North Carolina coast but by showtime it looked like we’d be able to watch the fireworks rain free. Or so it seemed.

At the last-minute the firework launch was moved up by about 15 minutes because rain was about to fall, and some did in a steady irritating drizzle. But the show went on.

Many are unaware that while Zambelli Fireworks is a nationally recognized firework production company, the local representative is actually an Assistant Chief with the local Wake Forest Fire Department. David Davis is not only skilled at handling fireworks but he is also a firework trainer as well.

The three crew members pay close attention to the explosive fireworks stacked around them as they start at noon to prepare for the 9 PM show.
The three crew members pay close attention to the explosive fireworks stacked around them as they start at noon to prepare for the 9 PM show.

His son Ben Davis, a local Wake Forest firefighter, was on the crew and worked alongside his father to set up and execute a beautiful fireworks show. Justin Alderman, also a local firefighter, was part of the crew as well.

Justin Alderman skillfully prepares explosive fireworks for launch by inserting a fuse that will be electrically triggered.
Justin Alderman skillfully prepares explosive fireworks for launch by inserting a fuse that will be electrically triggered.

Some show attendees mentioned they were not sure if they were going to come this year. Last year, the production launched by a different company, apparently was a dud as a substantial amount of fireworks never made it into the sky.

But even though I stood in the light rain on a very muggy July 3rd evening it was a moving experience to watch such a grand celebration of Independence. In case you ever wanted to know what it looks like when you throw $15,000 into the air, be sure to watch the video above. That is the approximate value of the 20 minute long fireworks show.

It’s not cheap to put on a great show and most people think the Town pays for the show. That’s partially true but they only pay for about 15% of the actual costs. The rest is raised by the Committee through sponsorships and admission sales.

Having watched the 2014 fireworks it is a given that 2015 can’t be missed if the Davis men are back planning, assembling, and responsible for the fireworks next year.

I’d love to tell you how awesome the Band of Oz was but the musicians were on the other side of the field from me and facing the other way. I couldn’t hear them at all. The crowd seemed to really enjoy them judging my hips moving.

There might have been good music, tasty snacks, and friendly people in bleacher seats but the one thing I know for a fact is there were spectacular fireworks.

A big hat tip to Rhonda Alderman and the Committee and to Zambelli Fireworks for having the smarts to contract with David Davis to run the Wake Forest fireworks.

Boring Technical Notes

For those that might be interested, the video production was no small feat and took quite a bit of prior planning and scouting flights to find the best and safest places to film from.

The aerial shots were captured using two DJI Phantom Vision 2 Plus quadcopters. Both were parked in fixed GPS locked positions in the sky. One was placed at the level of the average shell burst, about 125 feet. This quadcopter was at risk for the entire show since one errant shell could have taken it out. However, the quadcopter was positioned so it was not flying above people and was inside the exclusion zone, with permission, so in case it was struck the quadcopter would fall harmlessly to the ground.

The second quadcopter was placed in hover about 150 feet back and 300 feet up to capture the larger view. This position was interesting because it was above a number of power lines and woods.

Both quadcopters were within visual range at all times.

During the 20 minute long show each quadcopter had to land for one battery change. It was uncertain if flying would even be possible because of the light rain. In the end the quadcopters showed no wear from the rain.

Prior to the night of the fireworks several night flight tests were conducted to try to find the right technical setup for capturing the night video. The problem is in low light situations the video can be quite grainy and noisy.

For those that may be flying similar quadcopters and looking to capture a similar event I discovered the best setup was 1080I, ISO 100, WB Day, App -2, and AWB Average. Those are the settings I used to capture the video.

The time-lapse videos were shot at 1080 using a GoPro Hero 3+ Black.

Still photos were shot with a Canon 5D Mk II at full raw resolution (25 MB per picture).

The final video was edited with Final Cut Pro.

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