Portfolio of Kimberly Johans

A collection of articles created during my stint as a journalist at The Macau Daily Times

Four teams left to go in the big fireworks shoot-out

Posted by Kimberly on September 30, 2007

By Kimberly Johans
Published in The Macau Daily Times
September 30, 2007, page 5 (766 words)

With the Macau Fireworks festival winding slowly down to a close, it comes down to two days of shows and four teams to go.
With the United States against Japan and France head to head with China, it’s going to be an interesting finish.
With National Day on Monday, some people may label that fireworks show as the best to come but who’s to know?
Speaking to representatives from Marutamaya Ogatsu Fireworks from Japan and Jacques Couturier Organisation from France, we learn that it’s all about keeping it in the family.
Marutamaya’s company is one of the oldest fireworks brands in the world, with the company building its pyrotechnic world since the 17th century.
Kohei Ogatsu is the latest addition to the company, taking over the reins from the father, grandfather and great grandfather, a tradition he’s undoubtedly proud of.
According to the company’s website, “at [the] Ibaraki and Yamanashi factories, skilled pyro-technicians use a combination of modern and centuries-old techniques to hand-craft each fireworks.”
In addition, the round fireworks commonly used in Japanese shows have a perfect spherical shape that is unique and something that Macau had the pleasure of seeing last night.
Two types of aerial fireworks were used, pokamono and warimono. The former have a thin shell that breaks at the top of their trajectory and splits in two along the seams, while warimono have thick shells that spread in a spherical shape when they explode.
Meanwhile, Joseph Couturier, Director and Designer is part of a younger company that has been operational since 1988 and for the French team, it’s all about telling a story.
While Japan has had the honour to competing in the Macau festival before, this will be Couturier’s first time and they have something special for Macau to see.
“There is a specificity with our company,” said Joseph.
“When we do our fireworks it is always to say something.
“Now we choose to tell a story, about the Little Mermaid. It’s a well known story and even if people don’t know they will get to know it with the show,” he added.
The company will be using text and the fireworks to tell the story with narration to be carried out in Chinese for the mainly Chinese audience that will make up the spectators.
I wanted in the beginning to have two voices but it would have taken too much time and too long,” said Joseph.
“But the jury will have the story in English, Portuguese, Chinese. The best way would be to have sub-titles for everybody,” he added suggesting that this is common in France with the company having carried it out often.
For Japan and Kohei, it was all about singularity, where spectators would have seen a lot of straight high shots. Kohei suggested that diagonal shots would not achieve the same objective but were expected to be used.
The music for both companies leaned towards the traditional, with Kohei deciding on Japanese pop songs, “I know Macau people like Japanese music. I checked!” and Couturier choosing accordion music as well as “some fighting music to make the fireworks talk.”
And neither seemed terribly concerned with shooting from a barge either, with Kohei suggesting that about 90 percent of the company’s fireworks displays are done in such a manner.
Couturier also said that “in France we are from the west so we have shows very often on the barge. “I think it’s beautiful on the barge as you have the reflection of the light on the water and you can play with it,” he added although he did mention that in France they had a minimum of three barges.
“Here we always have the same configuration so you are always in the same kind of way of doing things,” he said.
Then there’s the issue of safety which both teams agreed upon.
“I saw the show a couple of days ago and there was some small product that went into the crane,”s aid Joseph, adding that “It was OK because it was small but if it was a big shell there would have been a problem.
“This is part of the process of setting up fireworks to be aware of what’s going on.”
Kohei agreed saying “of course it’s important to show the audience a beautiful show but more important is the safety.
“In this case we don’t use the dangerous shells,” he added.
With both shows clocking in at the same time of 18 minutes and 30 seconds it will come down to uniqueness; but then that’s also something the two companies have in common.

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