For aerial shells, the prefire time is defined to be the lift time of the shell, to avoid accidental inconsistencies. The prefire of cakes is defined to be the prefire of the first shot of the cake (details here). Thus cakes of comets or other ground effects will generally have a prefire of zero, but cakes of shells will have a prefire equal to the lift time of the first shell. It is impossible to change the prefire of a cake of aerial shells to any non-zero value without simultaneously changing the lift time of its first effect (zero prefire is a special case, which doesn’t affect the lift times). So some people ask, “How can I create a cake of aerial shells with a prefire that I specify without affecting the lift times?”.
Would prefire = 0 work?
The value of zero is a special case for the prefire of an aerial shell cake. Since aerial implies a non-zero lift time, the zero prefire time clearly cannot apply to the lift times, so it doesn’t. The value of zero results in “normal” lift times and a firing pattern for the cake that begins immediately when the cake is ignited.
Would Fuse Delay work instead?
Before exploring lift times, let’s see if the “Fuse Delay” field in Finale 3D is better suited to your purpose than “Prefire“.
The Fuse Delay field in Finale 3D is a delay between the ignition of the e-match and the ignition of the effect. The fuse delay is not part of the VDL itself.
The Prefire field is the delay from the ignition of the effect to its first break, if it is an aerial shell; and has no effect on the simulation for other types of effects. Prefire is a field in Finale 3D and can also be included in the VDL. In Finale 3D the Prefire field affects the times in the script an on the timeline. In the script, the prefire is the delay between the “Event Time” and “Effect Time” of the effect. On the timeline, the effect’s timeline bar blip is offset from the bar’s left end by exactly the prefire delay. So, if you are trying to set the prefire time to be different from the lift time for an aerial shell cake, would the fuse delay suit your purpose? In Finale 3D, you can set the fuse delay for cakes to anything you want, without affecting the simulation.
No, I really want to change the prefire without affecting the lift time!
It is possible to create an aerial shell cake with an arbitrary prefire time and yet “normal” lift times with a little finesse, using a variety of VDL features. Say you wanted a 1 inch, 2-second, 10 shot, fan-right slice cake of blue peonies, with a prefire of, say, 0.1 seconds. If you didn’t care about the prefire, you could write the VDL as,
1" 2.0s 10 Shot Blue Peony FNR Cake
Getting to set the prefire without affecting the lift times requires this more complicated VDL:
1" 2.0s 11 Shot Cake (a) Red Comet R180 + (b) Blue Peony, 2 Rows, Row 1 (a), Row 2 (0.0/bbbbbbbbbb/FNR)
This second VDL employs a trick of creating an 11 shot cake instead of a 10 shot cake, adding an extra shot at the beginning, aiming straight down into the ground to make it invisible. The extra shot is a comet, and it is the first shot in the cake. Thus it defines the cake’s default prefire to be zero and it makes the lift times of the aerial shells unaffected by changes to the prefire.
The remaining syntax sets up the following 10 shots to be the blue peonies in the correct pattern and with the correct timing. Specifically, this VDL contains two effects, (a) and (b). The (a) effect (the comet) is rotated 180 degrees (R180), causing it to aim straight into the ground. The cake has two rows. The first row consists of just the comet (a). The second row follows the first row with a zero delay (0.0), having ten shots of the blue peonies (bbbbbbbbbb) and shooting in the firing pattern of a left-to-right fan (FNR).