BILLINGS – When Super Bowl 50 kicks off on Sunday, Dwan Edwards won’t be the only Columbus product in Levi’s Stadium.
Next FX supplied 17 NFL teams with home-field pyrotechnics this season, including the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers. The Columbus-based company provided the explosive displays for many of the last 15 Super Bowls and will tally another this weekend.
“It’s not about limelight for us, but it’s like anything else, it’s a feather in your cap,” said Ron Walker, president of Next FX. “You’ll have millions of people viewing your hard work, and it’s kind of cool the product comes from right here in Montana.”
Walker said the 36-member Next FX crew started working on the big game’s pyrotechnics weeks ago. But some of the explosives, like the ones during player introductions, relied on the outcome of the conference championship games to determine the team color the effects needed to match.
Next FX produced most of the show’s pyrotechnics from player introductions to the big display at the end of the game. Two different companies are tasked with designing and carrying out the effects on Sunday, but Next FX supplied both.
“They make a precision pyrotechnics. That means it has to do exactly what we want it to do,” said Andy Suehly, vice president of Image Engineering. “I would say there’s probably a handful (of other suppliers). But once you work with a group and trust them, you stick with them.
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Image Engineering is a Baltimore-based firm in charge of much of the Super Bowl’s pyrotechnics, including the “situationals” like the touchdown displays. Next FX supplied I.E. for its work on many of the NFL games the company worked on this year.
Suehly said his company uses Next FX pyros 85 percent of the time, often in displays close to people and players. The product they use has to be precise and consistent to avoid injuries.
Walker said that’s the difference between the pyrotechnics his company makes and fireworks. While fireworks are pyrotechnics, not all pyrotechnics are fireworks. Next FX highlights moments rather than entertains crowds for extended periods of time. Its crown jewel appeared at the halftime show of Super Bowl XLVII in the form of a fiery silhouette of Beyoncé in her “Single Ladies” power pose.
“When I saw that thing pop on the TV screen I just went absolutely nuts because it was perfect. It just popped off exactly as it was supposed to,” Walker said.
Next FX made about 10 of the Beyoncé displays with varying spacing and burn times so the production company could get the display just right before the final show. This year, Next FX sent three times the amount of pyrotechnics needed for the game on Sunday.
“They’ve been shooting product all week, and probably won’t know what the final show looks like until Friday or Saturday when they get done with rehearsals,” Walker said.
He'll watch the final production for the first time on Sunday like millions of other Americans, hoping the camera angles are wide enough to capture the brilliance of his work.