Alar Kivilo: Helium Balloons

From American Cinematographer, The Root of All Evil by Jay Holben (December 1998)

"We used a helium balloon light for the night exteriors on the roadside. It was logistically tricky location because we were on a small road with two snow fields on either side, so there was no place to drive in a crane or a Condor. The balloon seemed to be a perfect solution. We could fly it up so that it would hover just above the road, and then hide the black cable in the night sky. What I didn't expect was that it got really windy during the night we were shooting. I was operating the second camera, looking at the wide shot of the sheriff's truck approaching, and as the wind was gusting I kept seeing the balloon getting lower and lower in the frame. It never quite dropped into the picture area, but it made me very nervous. Then, at one point in the middle of the first take, the wind blew the balloon into a power line and it made a huge spark. Thank God no one was hurt and there was no damage, but we did lose quite a bit of time. We really hadn't factored the wind into the equation, and because of the white snow surrounding the area, we really couldn't attach extra lines. I thought the light that the balloon provided was perfect-- a nice ambient glow and a beautiful night softness-- but I was very uncomfortable with it after that first night. On the second night, when we returned to shoot the reverses, I went with a more traditional approach."

- Alar Kivilo, CSC

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