In 2018, some social media users were surprised to learn about the existence of “silent fireworks”.
One town in Italy is taking a big step to reduce the fear of fireworks in their non-human population. The local government of Collecchio made a law that fireworks in their town must be silent. It’s a way of reducing the stress that the loud noises cause to animals–not just pets, but wildlife, as well. There’s a company called Setti Fireworks that makes these silent explosives and can customize them for each event.
The phrase “silent fireworks” however, is a bit misleading.
Many readers seemed to come away with the impression that these “silent fireworks” would appear just as big and bright as traditional fireworks, but without the loud explosive booms normally associated with them. That’s not the case, however: No matter how advanced pyrotechnicians may be at developing fireworks, they haven’t quite yet figured out a way to remove noise from these large explosions.
In fact, these “silent firework” displays (which are probably better described as “lower noise” displays) don’t typically include the big aerial explosions found in traditional fireworks shows. Such “quiet” displays mostly make selective use of existing non-loud forms of fireworks.
Quiet fireworks are not a new invention. In fact, they are used routinely in classic firework shows as visual effects to accompany the loud bangs. Think of the “comet tail,” which shoots into the sky with a trail of sparkles before quietly fizzling out. Or the “flying fish,” which features tiny tadpole embers scattering away from a silent burst. What is new is the emergence of a genre of low-key, quiet fireworks displays for audiences that want the fanfare of fireworks without the auditory disturbance.
As such, these types of displays are generally more appropriate for smaller crowds rather than for large, national celebrations.
From a strictly visual standpoint, there are pros and cons to a quiet fireworks show. Because they do not include big aerial explosions, quiet shows cannot entertain a large audience, says Illusion Fireworks show designer Karl.
Although many readers may have only recently learned about the concept of “silent fireworks,” most of them have probably already seen forms of these relatively noiseless displays, such as roman candles and sparklers. Thus, reports about “silent fireworks” are less about the development of new noiseless products and more about how some towns are focusing on putting on quieter displays. These shows range from nearly silent displays featuring large sparklers, fountains, and roman candles, to aerial shows that employ most everything other than the massively loud aerial shells.
Karl also said that his quiet pyromusical firework displays are typically softer than the accompanying music and are well below the 120 decibel limit placed on fireworks sold in the UK.
For people, loud fireworks can lead to hearing loss. The World Health Organization lists 120 decibels as the pain threshold for sound, including sharp sounds such as thunderclaps. Quiet fireworks are not completely silent, but they are nowhere near the 120 decibel cap placed on consumer fireworks in the UK.
This video of one of our displays shows just how quiet (or loud) these “silent firework” displays can be. This footage was taken at a wedding fireworks display at Rivervale Barn near Sandhurst, and Karl explained that they used “low-noise” fireworks because the venue was surrounded by farm land and they didn’t want to scare the livestock.
Although other companies may bill these displays as “silent” or “quiet,” the fireworks can still generate a good bit of noise. In fact, when the Birmingham Botanical Gardens advertised a quieter fireworks show in 2015, a number of parents still complained that the “silent” explosions were far too loud!
So, the term “silent fireworks” does not refer to a new form of firework that produces huge explosions with little or no noise, but rather to shows that selectively utilize existing forms of relatively quiet fireworks.