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POW! To Tha Moon!

I am continually amazed when I realize just how long certain 'modern' products have been with us. For example, in researching this week's article, I was reminded that the rocket has been with us for hundreds of years. The Chinese, the same people responsible for gunpowder, used primitive rockets. The "rockets red glare" that Francis Scott Key refers to in our national anthem is the glow from rockets used to deliver bombs and incendiary devices.

Today let's discuss a new, more peaceful, use for rocketry. One of the goals of using pyrotechnics in a production is to direct the audience's attention. This can be done to focus all eyes on a specific spot in the auditorium; or to direct attention away from a point momentarily. The benefit of using a rocket for this purpose is that the pyrotechnician can make the audience follow an effect from one point to another.

The Line Rocket is similar in principle to a model rocket engine. Model rocket engines, of course, are designed to be inserted into a model rocket. Without the structure of the rocket and its various stablizers, the rocket engine would simply fly about willy-nilly -- not a pleasant thought! Since the Line Rocket doesn't use any stabilizers, it must be attached to a sturdy, taut line to control the direction of flight.

To attach the Line Rocket to the line you will need a Line Rocket Holder, a custom-milled piece of hardware designed to fit snugly onto the Line Rocket and hold it firmly onto the line. Some professional pyrotechnicians have manufactured their own holders to reduce cost, but I would advise against this course of action unless you have the time, skills and guts to build something reliable enough to hold the rocket on course.

As for the line itself, I'd recommend using 1/16" galvanized aircraft cable (GAC), also known as wire rope. This is a lightweight cable that is very strong and, more importantly, will not melt when exposed to heat. We have had customers inquire about using nylon monofilament wires to create an invisible effect, but cannot recommend using a product that will melt when heated. If you find you have to have an "invisible" line for your rockets, I'd recommend looking into powder-coated black GAC. More expensive than standard cable, it should disappear nicely against a dark backdrop or night sky. GAC is available from most theatrical suppliers or hardware shops. These companies can also get you the tools and supplies you'll need to rig a line.

The Line Rocket by itself is a great effect -- it whizzes along the line at high speed with a terrific whistling noise. Visually, however, Line Rockets simply aren't that impressive by themselves. LeMaitre appears to have addressed this with upcoming designs. The Line Rockets with Tail will feature the Line Rocket engine and a 2-3" tail of sparks. In the meantime, the same effect can be achieved by attaching a small gerb underneath the rocket. The matches for both the rocket and the gerb would need to be fired simultaneously, of course.

The possible uses for a Line Rocket effect are almost limitless. Any point in a production that calls for the audience to focus their attention on one point, or from one point to another, on stage can be a place to use the Line Rocket. Some examples are in order:

At the beginning of a concert, you want an effect that will start the show with a "bang." Picture three or four rockets (more or less depending upon size of venue) streaking from the back of the crowd to the stage. When the rockets "hit" the stage, several theatrical flash effects are triggered, possibly in conjunction with a gerb waterfall effect.

At midnight during a New Year's Eve celebration, you want an impressive way to ring in the new year. Imagine sending several rockets from the edges of the ballroom into your centerpiece display at the stroke of midnight. You can follow up with a confetti drop from the centerpiece for a huge New Year's effect.

Finally, a common request we hear comes from magicians who disappear from stage and re-appear in some other part of the auditorium. The difficulty is making the audience look away from the stage to where the magician has re-appeared. What could be more dramatic than a whistling rocket, trailing sparks, that flys from the stage to the back of the house? It's simply human nature to follow something like that, which guarantees the audience is looking right where you want them to. 


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