Special effects provider Strictly FX of Chicago, IL, was an integral part of the Super Bowl XLVII Halftime Show, working closely with executive producer Ricky Kirshner of RK Productions, and production designer Bruce Rodgers of Tribe Design. “For this one, I think we were able to give them a lot more ideas than they were given in the past—they were accustomed to dealing with firms that only did pyro. We do all the effects—not just pyro—we can provide flame effects, CO2 effects and lasers. We’re also able to visualize our concepts, show them renders, as well as show them animations of all our cues,” notes partner and effects designer Mark Grega of Strictly FX.
The use of effects was part of the discussion from the beginning of the design process. Rodgers explains, “One of the ideas Beyoncé liked and agreed to early in our process was our idea for 'dirty pyro.' She liked the concept of anarchy and the ‘danger’ of fiery, smoky flames in, around and behind the stage and Strictly FX helped us find that vibe perfectly.”
The effects from Strictly FX began within the first minute of the Pepsi Halftime Show, starring Beyoncé and Destiny’s Child, when the silhouette of Beyoncé’s face within Rodgers’ stage broke into fire during the introduction number. That effect was accomplished using 100 custom-fabricated flame projectors. Within moments, a massive 50’ tall by 25’ wide flare and pyro silhouette of the singer appeared, and then almost magically disappeared—at least on camera. The effect, which was originally envisioned as propane flames, morphed into a flame and spark device that featured 178 charges; the charges we called ‘fire and ice fountains.’ The unit was storied in the ceiling, and loaded from a window-washing platform. Artistically, it was paired with four liquid propane Venom Cannons shooting massive 30’ flames upstage. “The background combination of the Venom Cannons and the 48' tall Pyro Girl effect was actually my favorite effect moment in the show,” Rodgers admits.
“Crazy in Love” also included a wireless controlled custom guitar-triggered during the show by Grega, that spewed silver sparks from either end, which was based a gag that Beyoncé had seen in the past that the firm was able to put their own spin on. “Guitar gags have been done since KISS in the 70’s but the true magic is finding a unique way to make it look fresh,” notes Grega. The song concluded with comets shooting dramatically in the air. Grega says, “Everything we used on this show was either custom made with low smoke output or it was a nitro cellulose product that is inherently low smoke.”
Effects from Strictly FX came to the forefront gain during “Bootylicious,” when Destiny’s Child joined Beyoncé’ on stage. Pyro accents, in the form of 30’ silver gerbs burst up from the toasters when Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams popped onto Rodger’s stage. Not be outdone, Beyoncé’s electrifying entrance was accented by the use of eight CO2 cryojets located upstage.
Flame was one of the stars of the song “Independent Women.” Thirty-two linear feet of red hot, 2’ tall fire flickered in front of the ladies, thanks to two Mini Venom Flame Bars downstage. “Destiny’s Child loves fire, and when you see the low shot from the handheld camera of the girls, it looks like the audiences hands are in it, which was very cool,” notes Grega. There were also massive flame accents upstage, courtesy of the liquid propane Venom Cannons that provided a consistent –and impressive- 30’ flame.
Finally, for the finale, “Halo,” Strictly FX brought in lasers- specifically four brand new 30 watt RGB diodes that were used with two massive pieces of white, flowing fabric, to create the illusion of hair. In the end, the show came off flawlessly, thanks to all of the workers behind the scenes. “Strictly FX brought their ‘A’ game to the production, performed above and beyond everyone's expectations, and I look forward to working with them again,” concludes Rodgers.
The Strictly FX team included Grega, special effects designer & wireless guitar operator; John Lyons, crew chief & pyro operator; Eric Gorleski, FX operator; Scott Allen, player intro pyro operator & pyro tech; David Kennedy, laser programmer/operator; Richard Brisson, laser tech; Matt Schlager, pyro programmer; Tony Alaimo, Ron Bleggi, Adam Biscow, Wes Fiske, Robert Ehrlich, Brook Bloomquist, Shane Johnson, pyro techs.