Czech fireworker Jaroslav Štolba: Ignis Brunensis is among the most prestigious fireworks festivals, we are able to fire the show in a white shirt
Brno – Jaroslav Štolba from Flash Barrandov SFX is an essential person for the Ignis Brunensis festival as technical director. His team also prepares fireworks show for every year. In the interview, he revealed how the fireworks craft has changed over the past 20+ years as well as how Flash Barrandov SFX has conceived and prepared its show Playing with Fire.
This year, you have prepared a show called Playing with Fire for the audience in Brno. What do you personally enjoy most about the way music plays with fire?
The harmony and symbiosis of music and fire is largely subjective, both in the design and in the perception and reception of the audience. This is most apparent in situations where designers from different parts of the world design a show to the same music. The tempo, the rhythm is somewhat similar, but the overall rendition is often very different. For example, to the music of Leoš Janáček, the perception of musical keys and modulations is certainly different for Scandinavians, Japanese, Spaniards or South Africans, and therefore the visual treatment can be very surprising and attractive for the audience. However, every firework designer prefers to be free to choose music that he identifies with, where he is convinced that the fiery means of expression and the music are one orchestra, one whole.
You chose six different pieces of music for the show. Which of the six is most meaningful to you?
That's a tricky question. That's playing with fire! We've included themes from Plunkett & Macleane in the show. One of ours (Flash Barrandov SFX) first special effects supervisions on an “A-list” film projects was for this movie. And the music for this adventurous period film, following our film effects, was created by multi-award-winning Craig Armstrong. Now we're in a bit of a reversed situation as we’ve created our fireworks effects based on Craig Armstrong’s music.
In 2002, your team was the first ever winner after the fireworks competition moved from Kraví hora to the dam. What do you see as the biggest change in the past 20 years for fireworks above the dam?
In 2002, the Ignis Brunensis festival was fighting for favour and respectability. Today, it is recognised as a prestigious world festival. Brno is considered as the home of the most prestigious fireworks shows. We are among the best with traditional locations such as Cannes, Monaco, Hannover, Montreal, Vancouver or festivals in China and South Korea…
And how has the job of a fireworks designer changed over the years you've been in the industry?
The biggest change is certainly in the technique of firing. Whereas in 2002, we operated the fireworks manually, trapped in a booth right on the pontoon, equipped with helmet, shield and rubber jacket, wearing headphones with the music blaring in our ears but being drowned out by the rumble of the fired mortars, and pressing a button on the keyboard at given intervals. Everything had to be connected by twenty kilometres of cable. The launcher had to know the music perfectly, and with an accuracy of about 1 second, he pressed the button about 150 times during the fireworks display. An adrenaline rush during a piano play... Over the last twenty years a whole digital revolution has taken place thanks to the wireless method of firing, allowing perfect synchronisation with the background music. The design is programmed with a precision of one tenth of a second, which requires perfect knowledge of fireworks, precision in the installation on the pontoon, angles in units of degrees, distances with centimeter precision - and we control the fireworks from a distance of several hundred meters from the pontoon and perhaps even while wearing a white shirt. In 2023, each participant can use the capacity of two thousand commands for fifteen minutes of the show.
One last, more personal question. What are you most looking forward to this year (not only at IGNIS BRUNENSIS)?
Meeting like-minded friends, and not only professional ones, who will come to South Moravia from many countries...
The author graduated from FSS MU in Brno,
for more information from students of the faculty visit Stisk online
Photogallery: Robert Vystrčil