Happy 2011! I am spending Christmas break at home in Los Angeles. Life here is good. The weather isn’t the only reason; in fact, we had a miserable freak week before Christmas of record-setting, non-stop rain. But the sun’s out now, and every time I go outside jogging in shorts in the heart of winter, I feel like I’m cheating Mother Nature and can’t help but grin. The killer combo of the weather, the food, and the lifestyle here are why I love L.A. so much!
Today I want to share a New Year’s Eve (NYE) fireworks viewing tradition that I started a few years ago. I am perpetually annoyed by how at midnight the Los Angeles TV networks show nothing but recordings of the New York City Times Square countdown. How about some love for the live West Coast celebrations? Or acknowledging the rest of the world?
So after 2008 New Year’s Eve, I decided to do something about it. I scoured the Internet for high quality videos of NYE fireworks from around the world. Although HD recordings of TV coverage were ideal, they were hard to find so I also looked through amateur live recordings on Youtube/Vimeo, some of which were quite excellent. I downloaded my favorites and then held a viewing party, playing the videos on a 60″ HDTV using my PlayStation 3 as a phenomenal media player.
The viewing was a success and I’ve been doing it every year since. This year was the biggest viewing yet with 8 cities in total. I’m sharing my 2011 playlist below for all the other fireworks enthusiasts around the world!
To download videos off Youtube, my favorite plug-in to use is Easy YouTube Video Downloader, available for both FireFox and Chrome. This plug-in is appropriately named and also lets you download 720p and 1080p quality videos. Of course, you could always just watch these videos on your computer screen, but for the full experience, seeing the fireworks on a big HDTV is optimal.
Lucky for me, this year HD recordings of televised fireworks were relatively easy to find on Youtube. I much prefer the televised versions over amateur recordings because they offer multiple viewing angles and higher production value. Plus, if the fireworks are synchronized to music, the TV broadcasts will include the music while fan recordings rarely do.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find HDTV broadcasts for all the cities below. For the rest, I picked out the best quality fan recordings I saw. I was in a bit of a rush so I’m sure I missed some great videos. There are many cities around the world with amazing fireworks — I chose these 8 cities because of personal interest. If you have a favorite NYE fireworks display that’s not on my list, I would appreciate if you left a comment letting me know about it. Or even better, a video link! I want to make this tradition grow bigger each year.
London, United Kingdom – [HD Video link]
Sydney’s fireworks have consistently been my #1 all the previous years, but London absolutely killed it in 2011. Filmed by BBC One in 1080p, no less. If you can only watch 1 video in this list, make it this one (Disney California Adventures is my close runner-up). Hopefully this is a good sign that London will deliver with the rapidly approaching 2012 Summer Olympics.
Sydney’s fireworks are launched not only from the Sydney Harbour Bridge but also from multiple points around the big harbour as part of the big 10+ minute show. Without a central focal viewing area, I feel that a TV broadcast recording is essential to catch all the big moments at the best angles. However, much to my dismay I have never been able to find a HD version of the Sydney TV broadcast so I reluctantly watch the low-res. This year, I added a fan recording filmed at a great angle for the entire show.
Seattle, Washington – [HD Video link]
Maybe the tamest fireworks on the list, but I got a kick out of the Space Needle “ignition sequence” and enjoyed the colors as well.
Disney California Adventures, Anaheim, California – [HD Video link]
The brilliant World of Color water fountain show was just added to this Disney theme park in mid-2010. That’s the only excuse I can make for why none of the Los Angeles TV networks were airing this spectacular display on New Year’s Eve. Featuring fireworks and a special water fountain routine custom-designed for NYE, this would easily have been my #1 show for 2011 if London hadn’t been so breathtaking. It will be a travesty if this gets no air time for NYE 2012. But a disclaimer: I am very fond of water fountain shows (see: Bellagio or the Las Vegas CityCenter water fountains
Las Vegas, Nevada – [HD Video link]
With fireworks launched from casinos all along the Strip as well as celebrations in Fremont Street, a TV broadcast is the only way to catch everything. Cam recordings off a TV screen almost always end in disaster but this one turned out almost perfect.
Burj Khalifa, being the tallest building in the world, presents a special challenge for filming fireworks. My playlist has a pretty good fan recording with lots of panning up and down, but I was also forced to include a low-res TV broadcast for the wide shots and best angles. But there’s a bonus: the TV broadcast includes a pre-fireworks Dubai Fountain show by WET Design, most famous for creating the legendary Bellagio Las Vegas fountain.
Hong Kong, China – [HD Video link]
Considering that Hong Kong boasts one of my all-time favorite skylines and night views, I always expect more from its NYE fireworks. Still a good show, but I would suggest taking a page from Sydney and launching a lot of fireworks from its big harbor.
Taipei, Taiwan – [HD Video link]
January 1st, 2011 is especially important in Taiwan because this date marks the centennial anniversary of Taiwan’s founding. Cities all over Taiwan held lavish celebrations. Being Taiwanese-American, I have particular interest in this country so I was very delighted to get my hands on a 1080p TV broadcast recording. Sure, the Taipei 101 fireworks didn’t go exactly as planned (the CG target render showed really cool dragon designs circling the skyscraper that fizzled in reality), but overall Taipei presented a great show. Happy 100th birthday, Taiwan, and happy new year to everybody!