About this project
As you look through the dust towards the moonrise above the playa you see a faint line disappearing in to the sky. As the night progresses you swear it's getting longer and brighter. You say to yourself, "I've got to know what that is; what's at the end of it? Could it be a leprechaun? Is it a laser? What's controlling it? It must be complicated for sure; perhaps it's radio controlled."
As the line becomes brighter you start to make out dots. You can see where it meets the ground. There's a crowd gathered around the end. Finally you are about to solve the mystery. You see the man with his line of lights projecting outward from his hands. You approach with caution, trying to understand it all, and suddenly you realize what you are looking at: balloons, lots of balloons, simply tied to a string, gently swaying in the wind.
You refuse to take this explanation as the answer and demand to see the technology. A balloon is pulled down for your inspection and you examine the soft glow of the LED light attached to the end of each balloon. The man offers you the string and suddenly you are now all that is holding the line to the ground.
This is a story we see over and over again at every Balloon Chain event. When people finally find out who's running it and how simple it is they can't believe it. It never gets old.
History of Balloon Chain
The project goes back to the artist's second year at Burning Man, in 2006. He and his friend would ride their bikes out to deep playa and didn't want to lose each other. To make it easier for both of them to find each other if they got separated, he had the idea of attaching a few helium-filled balloons to each bicycle.
This idea developed into Balloon Chain. Robert has been bringing Balloon Chain to Burning Man at Black Rock City every year since.
Risks and challenges
Bringing the balloons to Black Rock City year after year is an amazing challenge. Our team originates from the East Coast, so everything (helium, balloons, line, lights, and tools) is flown out or bought in Nevada or California prior to arrival. Like all the great projects at Burning Man, someone ultimately has to front the bill. Our goal is to help offset that cost so we can focus on making the project as mind-blowing as it can be.
Your support will also go towards helping fund the design and fabrication of a new, interactive, and brighter lighting system, which is being developed to make Balloon Chain even more amazing than it's ever been before.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
Sure. The funds raised will be covering the cost of materials, tools and will aid in the development of the new lighting system. All labor, meals, lodging, travel, and living expenses are not included.
Balloons: $500 Line: $500 Home Made Lightweight LEDs: $1,000 Helium: $1,600 Tools: $1,000 Radios: $1,000 Development of New Lighting System: $3,000 Shipping: $500 Kickstarter and Amazon Admin costs: $900
Nope, Balloon Chain not a balloon release. Balloon Chain a very long strand of helium balloons that is held onto, and rises hundreds, sometimes thousands, of feet into the sky.
At night, the balloons have lights attached. At the end of the display, the balloons are pulled in and popped.
Yes, the balloons used are latex and 100% biodegradable.
This answer varries with each line we do based on the weather and what we are restricted to, by the FAA. We have made lines using as little as 25 balloons and with as many as 450 balloons.
Everyone is encouraged to hold the balloons and feel how the wind pulls them. In strong winds, they may drag you across a field, but will not lift you off of the ground.
It's hard to give an exact answer, but we calculated it to be around 6,000 feet, about 2 kilometers or over 1 mile long.
Do the balloons ever get loose into the sky? That seems like a problem. What about environmental issues issues? With it being cold at night does that have any effect on the helium?
Nope, the balloons are always tethered to the line and the line is never entirely let go.
The line may be tethered to the ground at both ends and one end might be released to give the effect that it has been let go, but it still remains tethered to the ground at least one end.
There are no environmental issues. At the end of the display, all of the balloons are pulled down, popped, and thrown away.
The change in temperature at night will cause the gas inside of the balloons to contract and decrease the amount of lift of the balloons.
What is the new circuit going to do for the LEDs? Will you be able to control the color of the LEDs? Will the LEDs be individually controlable?
Amazing things, yes, and yes.
Each "Balloon Board" has its own antenna and can receive data via a radio transmitter. Each board is individually addressable, the colors can be controlled, custom patterns can be written and triggered, the lighting can be live mixed, you can finger paint with it.
Imagine each board being a pixel on a television screen. That is the kind of control the system allows.
The system is now run using a custom programmed iPad app, and can be run via laptop. There are plenty of other potential control options for the future; DMX control for lighting designers, control by sound, brain waves, motion contollers such as Kinect or Leap Motion, you name it.
The current downsides are that the batteries can only operate about 4 to 5 hours per full charge and the new boards are significantly heavier than the cheap LEDs I've used in the past (most of the weight is battery related). In this regards, when we use the new lights, we can only use them for about 4 to 5 hours per night, and after that, we will switch them out with the older, lighter LEDs we've used in the past. We also will need to have less strong winds to use the newer lights, in regards to their increased weight. I believe that once the battery technology improves, we can get around both of these issues (length of use and weight).
The crew has a wide ranging amount of talent that vary from job to job.
In addition to setting up, building the balloon chain, and general balloon wrangling, the core Balloon Chain crew members serve essential roles in making the magic happen. These crew members are:
Robert Bose - artist
Michael Cha - co-artist, engineer
Moonshine Shorey - shaman
Evelyn Fugate - logistics, camp mom
John "Parts" Taylor - lighting engineer
Joseph "JoeJoe The Clown" Martin - lighting hardware and radio transmitter designer
Patrick Barry - lighting software programmer
Support this project
- (59 days)