Balloon Video Photography

September 06, 2011

Saturday, August 27, 16:00 - There's another J14 demonstration today, and I want to take cool video footage - something I always wanted to do but never got to. Wow, cool idea - I can do aerial video photography! I'll just tie my video camera to a set of helium balloons, secure it with a cord running back to me so I can control the rig's height, and that's it! Let's make some calls to balloon shops…

17:00 - Dammit. All the balloon stores are still closed. I won't have enough time for setting it all up today. Wait a sec. Next week is going to be a massive protest. I'll make the necessary arrangements, and do it next week. Much more people, the effect will be so much better. So it's set.

Sunday, August 28, 14:00 - Made a call to the helium tank guy, we have a deal! Helium tank pick up on Friday afternoon. Also, a much cheaper option than filling up balloons at a shop, plus the 2.5 cubic meters of helium are more than enough for both a test run and for the actual execution.

20:00 - Back home from work, I'm all psyched up about this. Gil sent me some pointers and advice on what to do. I made up a list of all the materials I'll need, and a schedule for this week. Shopping during the week, start the construction of the rig. Friday I pick up the helium tank. Friday evening we do a test run on the roof of my apartment. Final tweaks on Saturday. And roughly 3-4 hours before the demo on Saturday evening, head over to Rothschild Ave. and start setting up the live rig!

Monday, August 29, 14:00 - Made a quick stop to buy some heavy-duty cardboard for the picavet. I'm mostly concerned about the camera stability at this point, and I hope the picavet is enough. I might want to add some more stability measures, but will only be able to check that out during the test run on Friday.

23:00 - Had to bump up the schedule. Just finished working for 3 hours on building the picavet and testing it. Might as well do it today while I have the time. The entire thing feels pretty sturdy, but strings aren't as smooth as I would have wanted them to be. I'll have to add some auxiliary loops to loosen up the whole thing. I hooked up the tripod directly to the picavet, that's the only option that retains some stability for the camera. Did a small test on the roof, and things seem just fine. But I definitely need more work on the rig before the test run.

Tuesday, August 30 - No progress. Interpol were playing live in Tel Aviv :) Amazing show.

Wednesday, August 31, 15:00 - Bought some extra bits and pieces. Namely, smoother loops for the picavet and some fishing line. From preliminary testing the whole rig slides much smoother than the previous string setup. Still need to fasten the loops properly to the picavet body, will probably need to stop by a hardware store again tomorrow morning for some extra nuts and bolts.

Thursday, September 1, 10:00 - I went out to search for a batch of better hooks for the picavet rig. Unfortunately, I couldn't find anything better than what I had already. Looks like we have to work with what we have.

20:00 - Actually, I found a pretty good way to securely hook up the hooks I have, so that worked out fine. I also finished the work on the spacer rig, that also came out pretty good.

Friday, September 2, 12:00 - Let the problems begin. So I picked up some 50cm (18") balloons and a medium-sized helium tank. I immediately went back home to see how my helium calculations hold out in real life - and I'm quite disappointed. I can't say I didn't see this coming, I was concerned about the quality of the helium I can get. One balloon can lift no more than roughly 8-10 grams. This is bad in two ways: first, I didn't pick up enough balloons (I foolishly thought I could reuse them…idiot), and second, I don't have enough helium for two flights. Meaning I'll have to give up on the test run today. I'm also going to pass by another balloon guy and pick up some seriously big balloons - up to 1.5m (48") in diameter. I'm gonna need those since I have no interest in blowing up 50 standard sized balloons. Another concern is that the whole pickavet and spacer rig came out not as light as I wanted. Once I blow up the balloons, I'll have to evaluate how much I can load on them. Worst comes to worst, I'll give up on the picavet and hook the balloons up directly to the camera.

15:00 - Dropped by the balloon guy to pick up the 1.5m balloon - that thing is HUGE. It just might work out. Also got some smaller balloons just in case, but probably won't use them.

20:00 - So no test run today because I don't have enough helium. But I did inflate the huge balloon again and tried to tie it up, it's not as easy as it seems. Tomorrow I'll only have one shot at it, so better be prepared.

Saturday, September 3rd, 12:00 - This is it. Final preparations. Helium inflation begins at 17:30.

17:30 - First balloon has been inflated! And I'm very optimistic. The balloon lifts more than what I thought, I just need to fill it up some more. I think I'm getting around 15g of lift per medium balloon which is awesome.

18:30 - All 30 medium sized balloons are ready. Now for the huge balloon.

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19:00 - Huge balloon is AWESOME! The lift is also amazing, I estimate it at almost 2kg. INSANE. Anyway, we're ready to go!

19:30 - My wonderful roommate helped me transfer the whole rig from our rooftop down to the street. That's it, we're ready!

23:59 - Back home. I am exhausted. But it was totally worth it. Got 2 hours of footage. Just need to edit it.

Tuesday, September 6, 13:00 - Done, enjoy (in HD)!