Fireworks show for the MoŽt Cup sail boat race.
The fireworks display occured on September 18, 2003 in San Francisco Bay.

The fireworks were privatly funded by Larry Ellison, ORACLE as a part of the exhibition series between the America's Cup champions, Team Alinghi from Switzerland, and the America's Cup Challenger of Record ORACLE BMW Racing from San Francisco.

Produced by Mike Workman, Pillar Data in association withIn Living Colors, a production company owned by Greg Boyd (who also owns PyroTooling) and Kevin Brueckner of Fireworks America.

To play the sound track from the show (there are 10 seconds of silence before the music starts).

This great picture is courtesy of John Delaplaine, DELAPLAINE CREATIVE



Excerpt from the San Francisco Chronicle:

Thursday's big bangs for Larry Ellison's bucks, the best fireworks show several TIC spies said they'd ever seen, was created by fanatic hobbyist Michael Workman, whose Pillar Data is a start-up company backed by Ellison.

Months ago, Ellison asked Workman to light up the skies. "It was a lot," was all Workman would say when crass TIC asked about the budget.

As to whether his ambitions stretch beyond the big bay razzle-dazzle, "For me to shoot shells over San Francisco Bay was probably the highlight of my life. But you could have shut the fireworks off and still be staring at something so beautiful, the Golden Gate Bridge and the bay. To compound that by using the sky as a canvas, and then painting the sky across that canvas. . . . I actually had tears in my eyes."


These great pictures are from

Jim just looked out his window and saw fireworks, he displayed real presence of mind and some terrific photo skills.

Here's what he had to say about it in his blog:

"Holy cow! That was 1/2 hour's worth--and way better than 4th of July. I think it was for the Moet Cup sailing races."



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Well the Chronicle might have got an interview first, but HCC managed an exclusive of our own with Mike Workman. While we were not able to get any scoop on the activities of his well funded, but secretive startup Pillar Data, we did get some insider info on the MoŽt Cup Fireworks show, and a little info on some future fireworks plans of this explosive duo of Mike Workman and Greg Boyd.

HCC: Was the Fireworks Larry Ellison's idea or did you drop the seed?

Mike: I think Larry did. We had been trying to come up with an excuse for a year or two. This was the best excuse anyone could dream up, perfect!

HCC: Did Larry Ellison know about your passion for fireworks before this show came up?

Mike: Larry and I discussed fireworks the first time we met. He loved the idea of building fireworks. He made a very interesting comment to me that I'll never forget: "It's a great hobby, when you tell people, it disarms them, because they think you're a nut, a bomb maker, and so therefore they immediately assume a position of moral superiority over you". Fascinating, and often true I've observed.

HCC: What was the time frame from inception to commitment, and from commitment to Sept. 18?

Mike: I think Larry and I discussed this while Pillar was in it's old facilities on McCarthy, so it had to be in May.

HCC: When will Pillar Data sponsor a fireworks show?

Mike: I would like to do a bigger one, with help from Larry, on Pillar's IPO. That will be a big show. Greg and I have discussed it. I think we would build all the demo shells together.

HCC: How long have you been into fireworks?

Mike: Since I was 14. That means 32 years. Damn.

HCC: Why did you pick those particular songs for the choreography?

Mike: Greg picked the demo song, a good light hearted intro song sounding fun and festive. The intro to the main show "Ride Captain Ride" was picked by Kevin of Fireworks America, he also added the William Tell overture at the end. All the in-between pieces are favorites of mine, and were structurally good for Fireworks. Songs that aren't too repetitive, build in intensity, hook you at the beginning with an intriguing melody and pull you in with a powerful orchestration, that's in general what we were looking for... Of course throwing in Ozzy Ozborne to liven things up, as well as using Arthur Brown's "I am the God of Hellfire" which was mood setting and fireworks appropriate.

HCC: How does one ever put fireworks to music, I mean I can see how music is put to words, or words to music, but fireworks are so visual - how do you know what a burst will look like in relation to a sound?

Mike: Great question, the answer is best left to an expert like Kevin of Fireworks America. But you partially answered it with the question: You use a visual "scope" time waveform of the music. From this you can exactly (enough) determine when you want a shell to burst. That burst follows a known number of seconds after the shell is fired. So the program that sets the queue firing times uses a catalogue of delay times based on the shells called out to fire the que at an appropriate time so the effect happens timed with the music.

HCC: Isn't it an almost impossible task to get the timing right so the effect happens in sync with the music?

Mike: Yes. Difficult for several reasons. 1) Pyro is not quantum mechanics, there are approximations in fuse burn time, lift charge ignition, shell burst times, etc. 2) The audience will see the light from a shell at the same time (at 186 miles per thousandth of a second, of course they would), but at 1100 feet per second the sound can take a tenth of a second longer to get from one person in the audience to another separated only by 110 feet. Thus, sound effects, etc can appear or feel different to an audience on one side of a show than another. All of this amounts to the following: Get it close and if the show is emotionally appealing, if it gives you Goosebumps, your brain overrides any errors in favor of the fireworks.

HCC: Did you have any secret trick or help from another source putting this together that you could share with us now that the MoŽt Cup fireworks show is over?

Mike: I think we all know the answer to this one. I think we all know that Clams is the moving force behind all we do at Pillar, and WeenerWorks. Greg says "that mutt isn't involved in ILC". Can you say COB? The Weenerdog is secretly behind most of our achievements damn it, it's time to come clean.


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  Having managed a few words with Mike Workman, HCC put on the blindfold and drove out to the secret desert fireworks site (involves a four wheeler & a GPS) to talk with Greg Boyd. We were hampered by only being able to ask questions between loud & colorfull test firings, while also consuming Beer & Peekles.

Comment by Greg: non-alcoholic of course!

HCC: Greg's was, HCC's didn't matter - they wouldn't let me around anything explosive anyway (except the Peekles).

But we did gain some insight into the attraction of fireworks that led Greg to the formation of his company In Living Colors. This may not be the best interview on record, but the Beer, Peekles & Fireworks made it the most fun interview we've ever done.

HCC: Where & how did you first meet Mike Workman?

Greg: It was at our annual PGI fireworks convention. Since I am a pyro tool maker, I was showing a star roller to one of the wholesalers . This little girl comes over (I think she was about ten) and asks "Excuse me sir , my father would like to know if you are selling those?" I told her that it was the first one and that it wasn't for sale. This little girl kept this up for four days .. On the fifth day, a large storm came through our campground and blew down my tent. Then the rain came. To make matters worse, someone thought that I had left, and stole all of my stuff. Here comes that little girl again ....... "Excuse me sir, but my father would like to know if you would like to stay in our R.V.?"   So with that,   I did,   and he got my very first star roller to test. (Still works to this day !!!!)

HCC: So basicly having met through your company, PyroTooling, & both being Pyro guy's you just decided to get together & blow stuff up. Or was there more to it, like a shared love of Beer & Peekles or something?

Greg: Yep, that's basically it. Turns out we had a lot in common, Pyro, Good beer, Flying, and Peekles. For some reason he thought his were better than mine .. He says it has something to do with Clams. But even without the help of Clams, I still manage to make a decent Peekle... IF you can stand the heat!!

HCC: Where and when did you do your first Pyro show?

Greg: My first Pyro show was at the ripe old age of 9. I "invented " a smoke bomb launcher. It worked GREAT. The only flaw was that it would throw them about 300 yards out into the dry grass in the pasture. You should see how much smoke 10 acres of dry hay makes.

HCC: OK, so it's been in your blood from a tender age, and somehow your parents survied your youthful proclivities. What kind of events do you do when not doing monster shows like the MoŽt Cup Fireworks?

Greg: Whatever I can. I like doing the smaller venues also. Our local airport holds an air show each year, and we perform a simulated bombing attack and fuel station explosion. I lead on our local 4th of July show for Laughlin Nevada, and will do football games for the local schools when needed.

HCC: Wasn't there a kind of documentary on one of the cable channels about WinterBlast?

Greg: There was, but instead of showing what the fireworks club was all about, the cameras followed a couple of us around that were doing special effects like you would see in the movies. While that was nice, it didn't show the things that our club is mainly about, FIREWORKS!! I did do a mean job of blowing up a car though. <'GRIN'>

HCC: So how does Joe Sixpack get involved in fireworks, join a club or somethig? There are clubs for people who want to blow stuff up, right?

Greg: There are lots of ways. You can read all kinds of stuff on the internet, and most likely blow yourself up. Or you can join one of the many regional clubs and be mentored.

The pyrotechnic chemical suppliers all carry a variety of good reference books. You can never have enough books. Funny as it may sound, the first book I got as a beginner is still one of my most often referenced books. I don't think Clams has a copy yet.

HCC: Do you have some club or organization you are associated with that you can recomend from first hand knowledge?

Greg: The granddaddy of them all is the Pyrotechnic Guild International. They hold a week long convention every year in August. The location varies each year, but it is always in the Midwest somewhere. There are classes and seminars held all day on the construction and use of all kinds of pyrotechnics. There is even a training course for becoming a pyrotechnic display operator.

I also belong to the Western Pyrotechnic Assn. It is a west coast regional club, and we hold two events a year... The big one is WinterBlast, held presidents day weekend in Lake Havasu Arizona. The second smaller event is held in October at the Avi Hotel and Casino in Laughlin Nevada.

Note from HCC: Links to clubs and stuff are on the page.

HCC: So what is the relationship of In Living Colors with Fireworks Amercia, how do they fit into the picture here?

Greg: Well, a few years ago one of Fireworks America's competitors did a display at WinterBlast. That happened to be the year that I was sight chairman. After the show was done, they went home. You should have seen the mess, it took 8 people 9 hours to clean it up. The next year Kevin did the show. Not only did the show nock your socks off, when I came back the next day to inspect the sight, it was like they had never even been there. In a word "VERY PROFESSIONAL" yah, I know that's two words.

HCC: OK, same question as we asked Mike, now that the MoŽt Cup fireworks show is over, did you have any secret trick or help from another source putting this together that you could share with us?

Greg: That's easy. Pyro Peekles. Eat a jar of them and you see all kinds of things. Sometimes they make you hear things too. One time I thought I heard Clams say "FIRE IN THE HOLE" from inside one of our mortars... And he doesn't have opposing thumbs to light matches with!

Come to think of it, Pyro Peekles gotta be HOT... They don't have opposing thumbs to light matches with either! Note from HCC: Just as well, they're hot enough as it is... But they're yummy!


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After braving the wild and hazerdous world of email, HCC at last managed to ask Kevin of Fireworks America a few questions.

Kevin was nice enough to put a stamp on an email envelope & send me the answers. I wanted to ask more about the party after the show, but all concerned informed me I only got one question about the party.... so if you want more info, you gotta do the asking yourself!

HCC: How did you discover fireworks?

Kevin: Well, I wish I could say I was born into it and it is a great family tradition but I was never allowed fireworks as a kid other than sparklers and snakes. I didn't attend my first fireworks show until age 24, and then left during the show because they let us get to be too close to the mortars and embers were falling on my 9 month old baby daughter. †As a self employed accountant and computer geek, I picked up a fireworks company as a client and later went to work for them. †They mostly put up booths on the corner but they were short handed on a show one night so I went along to help. †It was MAGIC. †I was hooked. Nobody ever cheered a financial statement, a tax return or a SEC 10K filing, I can tell you that.

HCC: Why did you want to start a fireworks company?

Kevin: . . . †Actually, I didn't want to. I always said I never wanted to own a fireworks company. Too many headaches. †After Pyrospec bought San Diego Fireworks, where I was the GM, it became obvious Rialto had no use for me so I decided to pursue a career in movie special effects with some contacts I had at the time, but all these pyrotechs I had worked with over the years came to me and said "This is the window of opportunity, the time is now." †So we put together a little business plan and all invested money together and the rest is history. †Fireworks America is unique because of our ownership structure. Our 10th anniversary is in February, 2004.

HCC: So how much work is running a fireworks company?

Kevin: Well, there is an old saying in our business . . . it is called fireWORKS for a reason. †Otherwise it would be called fireEASY. †It is tons of work. †Like any business. †We are FAR more regulated than most other businesses, our insurance costs more and our operations are unique in some respects. †In the early days it was 70 - 80 hours a week. †Now we're down to 60 - 70 hours per week with 2 hours off for golf. †And we're lucky because we have some really great shareholders that take a hands on approach and help out and some really terrific and dedicated employees.

HCC: What kind of criteria did Mike and Greg give you about the show?

Kevin: They said, 'Hey, give us a miracle in the next 3 weeks, would ya?' Actually, they let me do my thing with some direction. They were very specific about the demo stuff and would ask about looks I was trying to create. Obviously I knew the inventory and in my first life in college I was a music major and I had the scripting software, so those decisions were left pretty much to me but I asked for their input. Greg would call and check up on me and report back to Mike. I don't think I talked to Mike the whole time other than to correspond with his Palm Pilot, the only working internet connection in Gillette, Wyoming during the PGI convention.

HCC: What did you think of the choice of music for the show, and what was your input into the soundtrack?

Kevin: At first, I HATED it because I had a different version of what it should be. But they were the clients and I didn't want to tear down what they had created and it forced me to be creative in their framework. And I think it made it a better show. †And now I love it and will probably burgle some of their tunes for other shows. Their choice of music really lent itself to creating looks and tableaus. Like this is DANGEROUS was really a lot of fun. †How much noise can you make? I made some minor changes to it for flow and feel based on my 20 years of experience doing this but tried to honor their vision and it worked very well.

HCC: Why is it such a big deal that you guys used 43% American product?

Kevin: Did you see that show? Let any of our competitors try to replicate that with their 'Cheapest Chinese Stuff we can find' inventory.†That is the reason our slogan is 'The Difference is Quality.'

HCC: Mike and Greg made some shells for the show, how would you rate them, as compared to similar (if there are any compareable) commercially available shells?

Kevin: They did very well. Their brocade was good and their blue is excellent. Maybe a little harder break for a bigger spread in the sky? They looked good. Can you two whip out about 50 of them for next season? †How much?

HCC: Assuming you would you work with them again, what would be the single most important "perk" you would ask for the next time around? A lifetime supply of Pyro Peekles? A personal interview with Clams? A warmer jacket for being out on the barge? Or something else?

Kevin: Assuming? Now THAT is funny. Lets see, a copy of the video tape and photos for our Calendar. Maybe a tour of Larry's yacht. Wait, forget anything else, I know: †A dinner date with Mike's assistant! †*LOL* †And what is a Pyro Peekle for heaven's sake?

HCC: OK, same question as we asked Mike and Greg, now that the MoŽt Cup fireworks show is over, did you have any secret trick or help from another source putting this together that you could share with us?

Kevin: Well, I guess our secret trick was carrying a great inventory with lots of high end product and having good people to put it all together. †Great technicians are the true secret. †No matter how good the product is or how much work you put into the design, if the guys in the field can't translate that to a show it is for naught. Great technicians take an average show and make it great. Bad techs take a great show and make it bad.

HCC: OK Kevin, just one last question; So .... I hear there was a party afterwards ....... ?

Kevin: I heard that too . . . The wine was REALLY good and even the rollaway beds at the Fairmont are more comfortable than your average Serta. Mike and Greg and family were very kind to me that night in spite of my rusty piano playing. They'll have it nailed shut for sure next time.



'Lectronic Latitude Photo of the Day

Photo Latitude/JR

Here's an excerpt from the 'Lectronic Latitude web site:

"Today's Photo of the Day is from last night's long and dazzling MoŽt Cup fireworks show - courtesy of Larry Ellison of Oracle BMW Racing - on the San Francisco waterfront. For those up close and personal at the St. Francis and Golden Gate YCs, it was spectacular. Even an observer from the Sausalito Headlands spoke in superlatives: "It's was the best fireworks I've ever seen, looking like New Year's, the Fourth of July, and the KFOG Kaboom all rolled into one. And even from the Headlands, it sounded like the battle of Midway."




These great pictures are from the MoŽt Cup web site.

© Bob Grieser
© Bob Grieser



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  Harry E. Gilliam of SkyLighter.com described Greg Boyd and the MoŽt Cup Fireworks event in the following post:

About 5 years ago, Greg Boyd of Needles California started buying pyro supplies from Skylighter. He self-taught himself to make fireworks, weathered some ups and downs with his local gendarmes, got ATF manufacturer licensed, secured a place in the desert to build stuff legally, and started shooting some displays in and around Havasu, AZ and Laughlin, NV.

Jump to last Thursday in San Francisco. Greg put together a $250,000 musically choreographed show that by most accounts was the best ever seen there in memory. This show was donated by Larry Ellison of Oracle fame as the kickoff for a sailboat race (which he won). Altho the few pics referenced below surely can't do justice to a musically choregraphed show, they do show the dramatic backdrop of this display.

A few stats: Show time was 24 minutes; 43% US made (by Greg's company, In Living Colors; Precocious; Tom Mattrocce; Starr Pyrotecnics, Rudy Schaffner); 5800 shells (78 twelves, 60 ten's, 180 eights, 350 sixes, and some 4 and 5-inchers in the main body; finale included 1300 3-inch salutes; 400 4-inch color shells; 400 multi-color 4-inch; 4 6-inchers; 6-8-inchers, 4-tens, and 4 twelves in the finale) total plus 100 20-50mm roman candles, 40 assorted cakes, 400 2-inch comets; 300 3-inch comets; 26 Spanish girandolas; 30 3-inch fountains; strobe pots; loaded on 3 barges. A three minute narrated demo preceeding the main body of the show demonstrated 3 through 12 inch shells with different effects from plain to fancy, single to multi-breaks, ending with custom made 12-inch Brocade to Silver Tip with Brocade to Blue Willow inner pistil. Shells, makers, effect and country of origin were all explained during the demo segment, all set to "What do You Do With a Drunken Sailor" sung by the Irish Rovers all to many hoots by the sailors in attendance.

There were 58 Pyrodigital modules per barge, show choreographed by Kevin Brueckner, Greg Boyd, and Mike Workman in 5-1/2 weeks using Pyrodigital software. The show originally got set up on the barges on Monday, towed into place, test shells fired going into the clouds and cancelled. They then moved the show to Thursday, drug the barges back out, were told to move the whole thing 500 feet further away from the shore which they did, but damned if the current didn't bring the barges right back to their original permitted location. Ain't nature grand?

It took Greg and crew two days to set it up including 35,000 feet of wire, 53,000 pounds of sand, 20,000 pounds of wood; 2 miles of mortars; and 35 warm bodies. The show was shot 500 feet from shore near the San Francisco Yacht Club.

"Report from Magnus Wheatley: Larry Ellison doesn't do things by half and last night he put on a fireworks show that can only be described as Cowes Week times three! The Oracle Corp boss blew over $250,000 on a 24 minute display that had the crowded docks whooping for more. The grand finale was an ear-splitting barrage of white bangers beneath Rastafarian style falling showers of light. I doubt whether I, nor the thousands watching will ever see another display quite like it in our lifetimes and the show was befitting of a state or national celebration."

I think it just goes to show if you really want to play with fireworks, have a good time with it, and go to the top, and that anyone who sticks to it really can do it. My hat's off to Greg and all who participated in the display.

Harry E. Gilliam  


The HCC spy cam caught Mike & Greg at their secret desert fireworks site actually in the process of making some of those fireworks. Proof that they are the "hands on" sort of Pyro-Techs.

Greg Boyd
Mike Workman


Someone said it sounded like the battle of Midway, well HCC managed to get a few shots of one of the barges and from this perspective it also looked something like the battle of Midway.

These pictures were taken via the ORACLE BMW Racing web cam, located at the Golden Gate Yacth Club. It is a spectacular web cam, but the public link does not seem to be up at this time, so I'm not linking to it until I get some word on it being OK to do so.

Click on a picture to open it full size in a new window.


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