Stephen Goldblatt: Use of Helium Balloons

From American Cinematographer, Of Loss and Hope by Jay Holben (March 1999)

...In lighting the sequences, Goldblatt and longtime gaffer Les Kovacs decided to take a rather unorthodox tack, employing the relatively new 12'-diameter HMI balloon as a principal light source in the hotel lobby. While covering a large scene in a relatively short period of time, "Stephen surprised me," asserts Kovacs. "We sent up the 12' balloon, and I thought we were going to anchor it and simply use it for the overall ambience in the lobby. All of a sudden, we started dragging it down, dollying around with it and using it as a key light, because Stephen loved the way it looked on Michelle."

"For close-ups," adds Goldblatt, "we would drop the line and bring the balloon down, still keeping it 30' or 40' away. Instead of being above it would be virtually eye-level, and we got this beautiful light that was very quick to work with. This technique provides a very naturalistic look. Then for reverses, we just pulled the balloon down, moved it over 40', let it float up again and tied it off."

"This was my first experience with the 12-footer," Kovacs continues. "But I own two of the swix-footers, and we put those to good use as well. Of course teh 6' 4k balloons are tungsten, so I had some blue skirts made for them to keep everything at 5600k. Then we had fun with the 12' balloon. For the shot where Michelle walks through the hotel's front door, we covered that with a steadicam and just dollied the balloon along with it-- which is amazing enough, because it's this big 12' diameter thing, but it worked like a charm."

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