Sim-Fireworks: A Treat For The Fourth

By Timothy R. Butler | Posted at 7:08 PM

Everyone loves fireworks, right? Well, at least most everyone does. If money and a safe place were not considerations and you were free to produce the show of your dreams, what kind of show would you produce? Would you want to plan it down to the minute details or would you prefer just to select the varieties of fireworks? This fourth of July, what if you could do all of that — on your Macintosh computer? Read on to find out how.

Welcome to the Tim's Toys series. While we normally spend our time on subjects dealing with enterprise computing, the periodic series “Tim's Toys” will take some time to look at the lighter side of computing, providing opportunities to look at fun and entertaining ways to break up busy stressful days. Every IT worker needs a break occasionally, and in this series we shall examine some enjoyable “mini-vacations.” Our first vacation destination is SkyRocket Software's Digital FireworX Deluxe package.

According to SkyRocket's web site, work on the forerunner to Digital FireworX, known as the Digital Fireworks Stand, began back in 1992. Over time, the product progressed from a hand drawn set of fireworks to a professionally 3D rendered set complete with digitized sound effects. And let me tell you, the sound effects really make you feel like your in the middle of a fireworks show. Shortly after I installed Digital FireworX, I was talking to someone in a room near my desk and they began to look agitated for no particular reason that I could figure out. As it turned out, they thought some nut was shooting fireworks at the building. The sounds are that realistic because they are the sounds of the real deal. Digital FireworX does not just contain a few loud explosions like many virtual fireworks displays do, it contains real digitizations of real fireworks of the types that are shooting off at any moment.

Of course, a screensaver's primary function is something on screen and not sounds on the speakers and Digital FireworX visual display does not disappoint in providing a visual feast to enjoy. In fact, it surpasses any fireworks screensaver I've seen on the Mac, Linux and Windows operating systems (and I have seen a lot of them). It is truly that good. With 42 beautifully rendered fireworks included in the Deluxe package, everyone will be impressed by the exquisite beauty of SkyRocket's handiwork. You can even see the smoke amidst the sparks coming from the fireworks display. But fireworks connoisseurs will notice something even more: when choosing which fireworks you want to display, the program will show each one in its own realistic looking “packaging” — just like you would see at a fireworks stand. Each one also comes with a short description, again, very much like the descriptions you would find on informational signs at a quality fireworks vendor. The fireworks are named with names that sound just like real ones, such as Bone Cracker, Blizzard and Mount St. Helens. Even the ever popular ground bloom flower makes an appearance in all its low-on-the-ground-goodness. The only thing missing that you might find at a fireworks tent are some colorful smoke bombs.

This is not just a program written by some guy who wanted to demonstrate his abilities to create big colorful explosions. There are plenty of well implemented but underwhelming fireworks screen savers of that type. SkyRocket's Digital FireworX attempts to emulate the real deal and pulls it off with very skillful execution. While we have seen a lot of beautiful fireworks screen savers, none has ever even come close to capturing the experience of setting up one's own fireworks display like Digital FireworX does.

And speaking of setting up one's own display, you really can do that. With the standalone (non-screensaver) version of Digital FireworX that is also included, you can arrange the vast selection of fountains, rockets, spinning wheels and laser lights into your very own show. You can even drop in a background image (included is a city scape at night) and music (Star Spangled Banner comes with the package) to create a masterful fireworks display that you can enjoy for years. Thanks to the ability to save the show in Digital FireworX, you can impress your bored colleagues, not to mention visiting company this fourth of July, with your abilities as a pyrotechnician. If you have a TV out port on your Mac, you could connect it to a large screen television or projector to create a truly stunning backdrop to an event.

It might even pay to carry a disc of your show around with you. Who knows, if you show it to the right people, you might just have a crowd beg you to put on a public display. Just be careful when lighting 'em.

Digital FireworX Deluxe

UPSIDE: Festive and enjoyable for the pyrotechnician in all of us, Digital FireworX includes a vast array of fireworks large and small for one to enjoy as a screen saver or to use in producing a digital fireworks show that can be saved and even exported. This shareware program comes in a free variety that includes five fireworks, a registered variety that includes five fireworks plus support for ala carte purchasing of more fireworks, and a deluxe version that includes nearly fifty fireworks. The deluxe version is also part of the Holiday Screensaver Pack Volume I which we will be reviewing in the coming weeks. ($5 (registered), $15 (Deluxe), $36 (Holiday Pack), www.skyrocketsoftware.com).

REQUIRES: Mac OS X 10.1. If you want to use all of the fireworks at once, we recommend over 512 megs of ram.

Timothy R. Butler is Editor-in-Chief of Open for Business. You can reach him at tbutler@uninetsolutions. com.