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Balloon Special Effects

It's so easy to deploy (pull down) a balloon drop that I've let bartenders do it, as well as DJ's. It's a pretty good ego trip for them and is great (word of mouth) PR for you.
- unknown

*LIGHTING
LIGHTED ARCHES
LIGHTED COLUMNS
LIGHT SETS
INTERNALLY LIGHTED BALLOONS
EXTERNALLY LIGHTED BALLOONS


*INDOOR DROPS
NETS VS BAGS
STITCHING THE NET / BAG
GENERAL ADVICE
HOW MANY BALLOONS?
DROPS GONE BAD

*INDOOR RELEASES
BALLOON BANNER INDOOR RELEASE
GLO-STICK INDOOR RELEASE
DISSOLVING 4-PACK GARLAND

Confetti Drops

*EXPLODING BALLOONS
Conwin's Pneumatic Exploder
SHOCKTUBE
STINGER
A SEQUENTIAL EXPLODING BALLOON PROBLEM
STUFFING EXPLODING BALLOONS
EXPLODING CENTERPIECES

--

Note:
Some of the following comments include amounts of money in the imaginary unit called "C-shells." These units are used to avoid any hint of illegal price fixing in the balloon industry.

LIGHTING LIGHTED ARCHES

Lighted Arches



We use miniature Christmas tree lights all the time.  They are really 
cheap after the holidays - buy all lenghts 35, 50, 100, and 150 lights.  
You need to pay attention to how many strands can be strung 
together without  blowing a fuse.   I usually pay $2 for a 50 light set; 
sometimes even lower.

At the start of the Christmas season, you can find the white wire sets 
too. They are also available year round from floral wholesalers - nice 
if you are working with light colors.  Floral wholesalers charge more 
than places like Franks, Michaels, etc. - - like $8 for that 50 light set.

Remove all the tags before putting into place on your design because 
they will show up.  Also check them out before insertion so that you 
know they all work.  Sometimes I have dabbed each light with cool 
glue to make certain  nothing is jarred in  transportation.  It's also 
better to buy sets that stay lit even if one bulb goes out.  Also 
remember to account for the gap at the ends of the lights if you're 
using more than one set -  keep the lights  spaced evenly by using 
tape.  If there's a light where you don't want one, just cover it with 
black electrical tape.

I only use the sets once - then bring them home and have one heck 
of a  free Christmas display the following year.

We use regular twinkle lights, aka Christmas lights, for most of our 
work. For additional effects such as chasing or dimming, we 
occasionally use "light ropes", available from a lot of places; we get 
ours from American Lighting Company in Boulder, CO.  Because we 
find that many of our sculptures are lit every time that they are sold, 
we make the light rope a part of the sculpture, eliminating the hassle 
with the loose strings of lights.  Clear packing tape in a few spots 
holds the ropes to the frame. Another advantage to the ropes is that 
if the lights cannot be hidden within a sculpture such as on a stage 
front, the clear tube is virtually invisible from a distance.  Oh, and 
the lights are always perfectly aligned and spaced.


? How long do your battery lights last on.  I tried them out a couple of 
? months ago, and they did not last too long.
? And due to that I am very wary on using/selling them again.

The whte-corded single light strands that we buy from Advance Creative 
Products usually last from 5-6 hours IF you use alkaline AA batteries.  We 
have found the ones you buy at Costco for about $9/20 to work every bit as 
well as other name brands.  The important thing is to buy ALKALINE batteries. 
The 5-6 hours is usually plenty long for any party or reception as long as 
you don't turn them on until just before the guests arrive.


INTERNALLY LIGHTED BALLOONS
To put a light inside a 3 foot balloon, go to Home Depot and buy the black  
rubber light figures (it's for inside or out and has 2 wire
coming out of the bottom.) Buy a standard extension cord ( I used a white
15 foot to make sure it will go all the way down my pole). Cut the female
end of the extension cord off (not the part you plug into the wall.)
Pull the 2 wires on the cord apart then strip each wire about 1/2 inch.
Take the light figure and twist the black wire to either one of the wires
from the extension cord. Use those wire caps and twist on (also
available from home depot). Do the same with the other wire from your
fixture to you extension cord. Put your light blub in. Plug it in the
wall and it should come on (if not check your connections). If everything 
is working tape over connection. Now to get the light in your
balloon... I'm lucky I have a stuffing tube, but if you don't then you're
going to have to stretch your balloon over the bulb and half way down the
rubber fixture. Then blow up your balloon by blowing air in the side of
your rubber fixture. Pull out your air supply and the balloon will seal
around the rubber fixture. This works with 16 inch balloons also. So
don't be afraid to give it a try. It's to easy. Just do it.




GLO-STICKS
Chuck Guberman entertained us with a magic act at Unique Concepts 
Open House in June 1986. At the end of the act they did a 
balloon release in the ballroom. This ballroom had a ceiling over 25 feet high. 
The balloons had glowsticks in them, and it was quite a sight to see them 
rising in the ballroom. Then as the event approached midnight the balloons began 
to slowly drift down. What a sight. I'll never forget it. I'm not sure who was 
responsible for this effect... I always wondered if the falling of the balloons 
was planned or just a surprise to all involved.


Glow stick in balloons are awesome!  There are a number of ways you can use 
"glow-sticks" in latex balloons for a cool nighttime effect.  Here are a few:

    [A]    You can preload the small glow -sticks inside round balloons you
plan to inflate with helium.  On site, crack the lights to activate them and
inflate the balloons with helium.  Be sure to test  ahead of time to make sure
the 
        (1)    balloons have enough lift to carry the lights for a significant
amount of time 
        (2)    balloon colors chosen are transparent enough that the lights
show up in the level of darkness you will have on site.  
        (3)    which light colors show up best with which balloon colors

    [B]    You can do an "apple twist" with a glow-stick inside the inside-out
portion of the balloon.  
        (1)    This can work with apple balloons, even better with bee body
balloons.  For longer glow-sticks use #524 balloons.  These specialty balloons
are traditionally fairly opaque, however, so test before using them
commercially.
        (2)    The apple twist concept can also work with the long, 22",
lights by using #260, #340, #344, #350, or #360 balloons.  Successful apple
twist maneuvers can be made easier for such long balloons by inserting clear
plastic tubes first and then simply and quickly sliding lights in when you
have a crowd.  It is still important to test light, color, and opaqueness
combinations.

    [C]    Lite-Sculptures(TM) offer a third possibility.  They are patented
devices that allow glow-sticks to be inserted and removed from inflated
balloons at will.  They also allow for easily adding or removing gas from the
balloons any time you like.  Generally they are too heavy to float in the air
with helium.  I originally designed them for table decor, but they can be used
like Japanese lanterns for room decor, or in other forms for individual play. 
           
        Check with distributors of the glow-sticks for related chemical light
products that may not include balloons but which might go well with out door,
night vending.

Check out the following company.  The sticks are $32.50/tube
of 50...and all are 22" long.  They also have super jumbo at 20% thicker
size for $42.50/tube.
And for those of you interested in novelties, giftware, electronics and
party supplies, this company has over 500 products (similar to Oriental but
much much more!) for really great prices.  Ask for a catalog..it's free!
Rhode Island Novelty (in Johnston, Rhode Island)
Tel 1800 528 5599 or 401 274 1818
fax 1 800 448 1775


EXTERNALLY LIGHTED BALLOONS

What are the best balloon colors?  We want the colored gels to really 
enhance the balloon walls.  They are using all different colored
gels.  And, which type of balloon would you recommend - Latex or Foil?

It depends on how the client is planning on lighting the wall...From the 
front or back.
Black lighting works best on white latex, but you will get a wall that glows 
mostly gold, so soft colors will be lost.  Lighting with gelled stage 
lighting from the front... you must remember that there is a wash out effect. 
(thus why actors wear such heavy makeup).  Don't use really pale shades or 
anything too dark (ie pastels, onyx, purple, saphire) because the lights are 
too intense and you won't see them.  

With front lighting, I love to use the 9" mylar squares.  Colors just SHINE ! 
Now I know this sounds really bland but, I just did a stage back drop that 
was entirely silver mylar (slight design created by leaving spaces empty and 
the shape of the piece was triangular)...what a wild effect.  they shot that 
thing with magenta and blue gelled stage lighting and faded in and out with 
the colors on a timer...Whoa!   Now that I think of it, we could have even 
taped some of the lighting gels in those empty spaces and back lit those 
areas for even more color effects....


Jewel tones glow as well as clear microfoils.  The Jewels will probably 
oxidize though if the environment is not clean and dry... then you have a 
softer look but not as soft as a pearl balloon.  If the set is being video 
recorded this is a plus for the tech crew since it reduces hot spots.
A good lighting company will blow you away with effects that really can 
transform the set!
If you are looking to project images and color on to the walls, pearl silver 
and white act like a movie screen because they are more opaque, helping to 
reflect light.

Drops

Indoor Balloon Drops and Rigging
Question and Answer Session

Q: Questions using a traditional bag/net on the ceiling.
Is the bag/net tethered on the ceiling, or false ceiling?
I presume the bag/net is attached in all 4 corners of the ceiling.
Where do you usually have the balloons drop from? The center or sides?
Where do you usually have the drop (pull) line?
How do you stitch the bag up?
Where do you usually have the drop (pull) line?
How do you stitch the bag up?
Is it usually a bag that is put in the ceiling?
How long/what size balloons are usually in them?
Is there a formula for how many balloons to drop for a specific sized room?

Q: Questions regarding using the Bruce Walden 3D Heart Sculpture drop:
Stitching. How do I stitch it closed so that it can be pulled by the release line?
Does the release line HAVE to go right under the heart bag? Or can it go in a corner of the room?
Rigging. Do I simply rig it to the false ceiling, with a clip, or do I ABSOLUTELY need to attach it to a stronger point? (because of the pulling on the line to release the balloons.)
A: Answers to these questions...
With all the tech-trouble of doing shape drops (hearts/stars) I'd suggest NOT going that route for your FIRST drop.

Get Balloon Pro, or Balloons Away, created by L. Daniels (around $20.00, call 1-800-285-4000)... one is double the size of the other. The Balloon Pro net have their capacities listed on the package. The netting makes a 'tube' that is around 30 feet long or so (that's conservative) and about 9-14 feet wide. And that's the SMALL one. Get two if you need more coverage. With 600 nine inch balloons the norm, you should have plenty for a 20 foot dance floor.

Just follow the directions (EXACTLY). They answer most of your questions. I did, and the first drop I ever did went without a hitch. The rigging is not 'that' hard (no you don't do all four corners of the room unless you're into some weird tent effects that I've done on rare occasions). It's so easy to deploy (pull down) that I've let bartenders do it, as well as DJ's. If you're confident (but tell them EXACTLY how to do it - it's like raising a flag in terms of pull) let club owners do it. It's a pretty good ego trip for them and is great (word of mouth) PR for you.

Remember, it's stitch, stuff, and rig... not stuff stitch and rig. Don't try to move it anywhere but up a ladder. It's a BIG sausage.

Balloons Away has all the clips and secure ties plus the line. I don't recall the Pro having all the accessories (which aren't much to get yourself... but are a big breather to have the first time around).

If you want to see a loaded one, there are pictures on-line.

You can rig to a wall but the whole length of the Away and Pro systems are for ceiling rigging. The only drops I've seen that use anything smaller than 9 inch balloons are those from exploding 3 foot balloons.

Q: Is the inference that 'it's usually easy to deploy' a statement meaning that I should stay, and pull the cord myself??
A: You can pull he cord yourself if you wish, it's obviously easier than trusting someone else, but the cord isn't rocket science. The stitching is just an interweave every 3 inches or so between the ends of the netting. It's even depicted with illustrations on the bag, so I wouldn't worry about it being that complex. The hearts and star drops - now THOSE are a bit more complex.

Q: Has anyone had much experience with the star shaped drop bags? We constructed two (7 foot) for a corporate client last week. I stitched the bags the way the instructions called for. BOTH bags jammed and did not fall. What an embarrassment. After checking them closely, I found some of the loose ends of the drop bag got caught up in the stitching.
A: I have not used the drop bags you speak of... but I have done several chain stitch bags. You have to be very careful when stitching the bag, (did I mention VERY CAREFUL) to make sure that no pointy bits can get caught in the dissolving stitch. This means you have to trim your bag so that no partial holes or catchy bits are left on the edges. Also (and especially if you already did that) it might be a good idea to use more than one release stitch - perhaps one on each side. The fewer corners your stitching has to make, the better. When going around corners fiddle with them a bit so that you minimize the risk of catching your net in the knot.

A 7 foot star drop seems a bit small anyway, get yourself some round bailer netting and make a bigger one. this way the corners are not so tight.

Low ceilings releases with drop nets.
If you hang a decoration low enough for people to jump up and grab it, to take it home... (and they will!), hang it with 20 lb. mono line so the line will snap before the ceiling comes down!
This is not easy to do, but it can be done. Make the nets 2 feet wide and very long (I use agricultural netting for this and make my own bags). After the balloons are dropped, take the nets down immediately, so they are not hanging in their faces. If the ceiling is 8 feet high, the nets will hang down to 6 feet... and should only bother the tall men!
Bruce Walden taught the 'dissolving balloon garland.' There was no net involved, it was just chain stitching that held the balloons in place. It is really easy to do and a great alternative for a balloon drop on low ceiling. They really add an element of surprise. Once they are in place, they look like a garland swag! Until you pull the 'String.'
In a nutshell, the dissolving garland technique is simply a chain stitch that has balloons attached to it. If you follow the chain stitch instructions included with every Balloon Net kit, you'll get the idea. Simply place a single balloon (for a pearl arch-like dissolving garland), or place duplets (for a herringbone type dissolving garland).
Start by tying your line (dacron is easier to work with than mono, and pulls apart more reliably) onto something solid, and start making your chain stitches, while keeping tension on the line. Have a second person (sorry, can't do this alone!) place the balloons between the line you're holding and the loop you've just pulled through the previous stitch.

I suggest that you practice this first with something solid (6-inch floral picks, dog bones, pens, etc.), rather than balloons. Do about 5 or 10 stitches. Then slowly pull the line, and watch closely as they come apart, and the solid items fall to the floor as they become 'unstitched.' If they don't fall out, you placed them incorrectly.

You build a garland using duplets (or single balloons). Each time you add a set to the line you use a chain stitch -- same as you do in needlework , etc. Start with duplets (as always, sized properly). It is best to trim off the necks. Anchor your line and start with a slip stitch. Bring the 'loop' of the chain stitch over one side of the duplet knot, grabbing the 'straight line' of the chain and pulling it through the loop to create the next--- add your next duplet and continue. It is a little difficult to explain, but it's very easy to master and build once you see it.

Some tips for dissolving balloon garlands:
Lindy Bell says that this doesn't work with 16-inch balloons, although I don't know why it wouldn't...
This technique takes a lot of line, and any garland of length requires a steady but fast pull to get the balloons to drop together, and not one at a time across the length of the arch.
Do not use this technique unless you practice first! It's easy for the tails of the balloons to get tangled in the line, and ruin the whole effect! Nothing is worse than facing a customer who didn't get what you promised!!!
Use air-filled balloons, of course, for drops. I suppose you could use this technique for a decor-release with helium somehow! It requires a little practice, but the surprise is worth it, if your customer will pay for the additional work involved here.
Pricing: Do you include the cost of the drop bag/ net itself?

You can go either way on the cost of the net. I would bill for it, since it's not an item that I would use over and over again, since the netting can get damaged during set-up/tear down. (Although I do reuse nets sometimes for casual/private functions).


Are there any other makers of balloon nets available besides "Balloon Pro"?    
SILVER RAINBOW
attn: JOHN McGRATH
111 Traynor St   
Hayward, CA 94544
1 800 94 CHIMP 
FAX: 510 582 2054



NETS VS BAGS
I personally prefer nets over bags. But if you're stuck with the bags, make sure 
to bring a big can of Static Guard. The main trouble I have found with the bag 
drops is the static buildup. The balloons can get stuck to the bag, causing a 
much smaller balloon drop than planned. Not good.


For my bridal show balloon drops I have used tulle netting - 72 - 84
inch, sometimes you can get it in 102 inches.  I cut two lengths of
tulle netting, laced them together and at each end I tied a very large
ribbon using number 40 or 100 width ribbon with long streamers hanging
down.  It looks very pretty and more wedding-like.  I just hate those
plastic bags and nets (unless they are white).


Two things to be aware of in TV studios.
1.) There is often a lot of static electricity in the studio. Make sure you 
use anti static spray or rub the balloons with those anti static tissues 
you can buy to put in the clothes dryer.
2.) Just in case you think it may be an option ..... Never use plastic bags 
for balloon drops. The static makes all the balloons stay in the bag.   Hence, 
NO Drop!


NETTING
I found a netting used for covering strawberries and
grapes that was the exact same thing as the balloon netting and it is black.

If you're using clear netting it looks fine, and no one is going to be 
staring up afterward saying "look at that unsightly empty net hanging there."

Go to a garden center, and ask for "Bird Netting".  It's the exact same stuff
as the drop net, but in black, which is probably better for New Years
anyway.  Lay it out on the floor, and cut out one any size you wish.  The net
we have is 7' wide, which makes it easier to get the right size.

--
balloon drop where you need the 'attractive net'

The para silk net is reusable it does not necessarily have to have 5000
balloons in it for each drop, it is relatively  flat which makes it very
attractive for low ceilings.


How about buying some tulle (can loosely stitch two sections together if you 
need it wider...or tape, like I did once shhh...) then poke hole in the sides 
and attach a rubber band to it  Next, make a support frame with link-o-loons 
looping the rubberbands over the stems before tying. Fill the tulle carriers 
with the balloons and attach one end to a huge (even bigger that the 3' 
balloons...more like a 4-7 footer) at a center point (creating something like a 
series of hamocks meeting at a spoke).  I would suspend that central balloon 
on a line of its own from the ceiling to offset some of the weight.    
Attach an exploder to the central large balloon and when exploded the tulle 
hamocks would 'drop their loads'.  
After the balloon drop, the link-o-loon edged tulle would remain dropped like 
banners as a new type of decoration for the rest of the party. 


do one with the flap over the opening in my silk holding net, just like 
grandpa's pajama's. Using the same principals of the
chandeliers of IBAC 13.   I would make a ring for the
perimeter to attach the net to.  I could cable tie the material through the
eyelet holes every metre to the ring and perhaps only need 6 or 8 attachment
points to the ceiling.  I would use 6 lengths of aluminium rod which would
naturally curve into a circle when joined end to end.  


put detonators at each of the 12 attachment points around the perimeter and the
silk attached at the centre as well.  I will also have metallic streamers
attached to the roof with tape that will be squashed up in the silk when it
is lifted to the ceiling but when the silk and the balloons fall they will
hang four or five metres from the ceiling along with the silk in the centre
of the room.  


The line cutters have dropped in price to $18 ea 


STATIC
It was very dry in the hall when we put the balloons in the bag and then it started 
to pour outside- the humidity made it worse instead of better.  The bag 
opened perfectly but only 25% of the balloons dropped out- they were all 
stuck inside by static.  


   Regardless of weather, spray the whole bag, balloons and all, with STATIC 
GUARD.  It is sold in the laundry section of any store. it is a little 
pricy, but SO WORTH IT!


spray the balloons with anti static spray or you can even use those tumble
dryer cloths for anti static. 


GENERAL ADVICE
  Use a variety of sizes of the latex balloons in the drop bag. We use 5 
inch to 40 inch - It makes filling easier.  They fill in tighter and when 
they release, different size balloons fall at different speeds so the drop 
is prettier and more interesting. There are also less stuck necks/knots in 
the bag.

As for the balloon sizes, I personally prefer a mixture of 5" and 11"

Large, small, long, short thro 'em all in for a varied effect.


   Use cable ties on the sides of the bags, they cannot come undone like a 
"twistee" and they have no little wire in them to POP the balloons as you 
transport the bag.

    If the drop you are doing is a HEART or STAR shaped bag. Use only one 
color. You cannot really make the shape definition clear with a mix of 
colors. 


recommend height for balloon drop. 
	My experience is that a 16 foot or higher ceiling works best with
the balloon nets (like Balloon Pro type). However, have done them as low as
13 feet by trimming about 3 feet off the width of the Balloon Pro net. Once
you get below 13 feet it is probably not a good idea to use the nets.


   A good, veteran balloon artist you might want to talk to about
balloon drops, releases, or other types of big jobs is Charlie Johnson
of Absolute Value in Denver. He is not on line but you can call him at
303-427-9484. I recently interviewed him for our newsletter, Miss Lily's
News & Shmooz, and I found him to be not only a very experienced veteran
but also someone who is very willing to share his knowledge and
experiences and only for the price of a phone call! Tell him Miss Lily's
sent you!


   And last, but most important, RIG IT WELL and carefully.  I will always 
remember 5 years ago when we did a drop for a High School Prom and the guys 
climbed on each others shoulders and yanked on the bag, then they SWUNG from 
the bag and brought down the whole drop ceiling in the Sheraton Inn. I now 
rig tighter and flatten to the ceiling and use ceiling clips across the 
ceiling to run the line DIRECTLY above the DJ or designated "dropee".  


The greatest thing on the market for hanging the Bags/Nets is the C clamp. I 
use the small size that Sears sells for about 3.50 a two pack. These are 
excellent for attaching to the metal runners in the ballrooms and other 
Secure metal objects (not light fixture or other metal that is not strong 
enough to withstand the weight plus the pulling). These clamps are also good 
for attaching garlands and swags. We also did 6 - 40 foot garlands in the same
ballroom and use the clamps for them too. Also thank goodness for electric
powered lifts.


Oh yeah... and HAVE FUN.  These are really an easy and profitable part of our 
business. I always try to make it " LOOK" like I am working hard, so that 
they keep hiring me, but in reality, they are a breeze :)



?I am making a
? proposal for a New Year's eve celebration in a restaurant that is almost 3
? stories tall. The restaurant will not allow us to use any kind of lift in
? the building but my client is insistent that she wants balloon drops!

You may want to check into lifting your balloon drop with 5' helium filled
balloon/s or a series of 3 footers.



I enjoy the look of Daniels Company's netting for our drops.  Could someone 
explain to me how the heck that stuff is packaged?  We spend hours trying to 
find the ends to fold and cut  so the nets can be prepared prior to being on 
site.  Recently, we made two 80-foot long drops for a corporate event which 
was held in a ballroom with a relatively low ceiling.  I decided to get the 
millennium pack and cut in half lengthwise....then stitch both bags to make 
parallel balloon drops.  It was a nightmare trying to find the ends of the 
netting so that they could be matched and prepared to be cut in half.  This 
happens every time we need to cut the stuff so I believe I'm missing 
something.  I'm going to ask the good folks at Daniel if they've considered 
selling the netting on some kind of roll, or at least give an indication of 
how its folded in the package. 

Can anyone verify that the The Balloon Pro Millenium Bags (C3000)
(holds 2000 9 inch balloons) is actually two x 40' by 14' nets?
   Our experience is that the net is actually 80' long requiring you to cut it 
at 40-feet.  We had great difficulty with this task as our work space was 
limited.  We ended up rolling it on a 4'x8' piece of foam and counted the 
rotations to get to 40-feet.  Since then we have tried working outdoors 
(weather permitting) to measure and cut the nets.  It would be fantastic if 
they already came on a roll for unpacking them and locating the ends is a 
major headache for us...
   The Balloon Pro Nets say that they are 2 nets 14 by 40 and will do a 
total of 2000 balloons (9").  It is really one net 14 by 80 that we 
would have to cut in half to create 2 that are 14 by 40.
   Tried to prepare the nets at home but really did not have the room to do it.
Was much easier on site in the hotel ballroom. Just found one end and put
the cable ties in. Then stretch it out and put the ties in the other end.
Folded net in half and cut it. Then ran the pull thru each  and of course
left one end open. Took little over an hour to create 4 nets 14 x 40.

We had 2 teams of 2 people using air machines to fill 2 at time. One thing
that greatly aided us was the use of what I call Inflatable amusement
blowers. We have several Inflatable Amusements that use blowers to keep them
inflated. We use one of these blowers in each bag right at the opening. As
we inflated the 9" balloons on the air machines and dropped them into the
bag, the amusement blower sent them all the way to the end of the bag. We
did the 4 bags of 1000 balloons in about 2 1/2 hours.


Take a lesson from the man on the flying trapeze - use a net!


STITCHING THE NET / BAG
The debate over the proper way to drop balloons!  The weave vs the
chain stitch?  Having dropped hundreds of thousands of balloons over my
career in this business I have to remain loyal to the weave method. Done
properly it never fails and the nice thing about it is that once rigged, it
can be "tested" to assure that it is going to work! That is a good feeling
especially when you have to rig many drops! 

As June stated about the chain stitch, "One precaution to take is to make
sure that no necks of any balloons get into the stitching.  If that happens
the stitch will tighten around the neck of the balloon and the drop will
fail.  That is the only draw back." 

The word "fail" is not in my vocabulary when it comes to balloon drops! The
chain stitch has its application for things like the star and heart drops,
but when it comes to good old reliability, the weave method is my choice! 
Chuck Gruberman used the weave method for the democratic convention! 


I have found that there is one way for the chain stitch to foul up. 
Recall: You have the loop in your left hand and the single line in your
right hand.
Now ... if you accidently swap hands .... and in doing so pass the single
line THRU the loop line ..... when you release the loop and pull, it will
knot at the net. Thus, you can pull all you like, and they ain't coming
down.
Mind you, it is highly unlikely that a balloon pro would allow this to
happen, but if you leave it to an outsider to pull your lines ...???? ....
who knows what they've done?
Our policy on a failed drop or magic (exploding) balloon .....
Our reputation couldn't afford whispers or bad press. NO CHARGE to the
customer and a sincere letter of appology hand delivered with a balloon
bouquet. Investigate and find the real error so that it can't happen
again.


I have done two balloon drops this week and the chain stitch that Bruce 
Walden teaches is the best way to go.  That is the only way I would ever do 
a drop again since I have had two (2) failures with other weaving.  Tie one 
end of the bag, lace it with the chain stitch and fill the other end with 
balloons then tie the end you just filled.  I always make my last loop 
kinda big so that when the net is suspended I don't have to worry about the 
stitch falling out and the balloons falling prematurely. Then just pull the 
line and the balloons will come down.  One precaution to take is to make 
sure that no necks of any balloons get into the stitching.  If that happens 
the stitch will tighten around the neck of the balloon and the drop will 
fail.  That is the only draw back, but with a few extra minutes of checking 
each balloon around the stitching, you should be fine. 

In his classes, Bruce Walden suggests weaving the bag.

I know several top notch balloon pro's
who swear by the chain stitch.  Bruce Walden, in particular, one of the
smartest people in the business, preaches and teaches it.  I used it once and
it was a disaster.  I believe a large piece of
confetti or a deflated balloon got stuck in one of the loops.  Here's a
simple experiment which will illustrate why i don't use the chain stitch.
Prepare a foot or two of chain stitch in a net.  Pretend one of your fingers
is the neck of a balloon.  Insert your finger into one of the loops of your
chain stitch.  Have your partner try to pull the stitch out.  When it gets to
your finger, feel what happens to your finger.  If your line and your partner
are both very strong, your experimental "drop" was a success and you will now
be able to count to nine on your fingers.  Otherwise your experimental "drop"
failed.

I was fortunate to be re-hired by the same client the following year, (I had
very good rapport and a string of successes prior to that drop).  There were
three extra meetings with various top brass at which I had to grovel and
explain to them how absolutely sure I was that I would not embarrass them,
and that the drop would go flawlessly.  I went back to the running stitch.  I
installed a second line as a backup, so I actually had a foot-wide piece of
net attached by running stitch on both sides.  If for any reason the first
line failed I could pull the second line.  The best part about it is that
with a running stitch you can leave a couple of feet hanging down on the far
side and test the line by pulling a foot or two of line through as soon as
your drop is hung, and then again at any time prior to the drop.

I have never had to use my second line, and I always demonstrate to the
client that the line is working well before the drop happens.  I use a simple
twisted nylon line that you can buy in any hardware store and it works fine.
i like the balloon Pro net because it is pretty sturdy and clear, but I've
also used Bird netting from Agway.  It's black, but otherwise about the same
as Balloon Pro net.

If you check the archives I think there was a discussion awhile back about
chain stitch vs. running stitch.  As I recall, Rocky Toomey, also one of the
foremost balloon pro's around, is also a proponent of the running stitch.

Wow, a "redundant release mechanism that allows verification prior to
release."

Danny made an important point with his "chain stitch finger drop" warning:
"Pretend one of your fingers is the neck of a balloon. Insert your finger
into one of the loops of your chain stitch.  Have your partner try to pull
the stitch out... you will now be able to count to nine on your fingers."

And being that he kindly professes that I'm "one of the smartest people in
the business" I wanted to share that the reason I switched to the chain
stitch was also an unfortunate bloody story:

I was doing two very long balloon drops over a giant TV studio stage and we
did a test - stitching one of the nets with a running stitch and the other
with the chain stitch. I stupidly forgot to tell the union person pulling
the running stitch cord to wear gloves - and he came to me after the
"successful" drops to show me his bleeding hands - the net had gathered (as
the running stitch is want to do with any material) and he had to pull so
hard to get it out that the cord cut into his hands. He specifically asked
me if the bags were stitched differently and told me never to rig one the
way his was again. I haven't and I've never regretted that decision.

Yes, the chain stitch has the potential drawback that if something (like a
balloon neck or Danny's missing digit) gets caught in the chain it can stop
the chain from releasing. To keep this from happening, stitch the bag on a
flat taut surface to get an even stitch. Make sure the bag is packed tight
with balloons, then visually check the opening to ensure there are no errant
balloon necks - if so, either cut the necks off or rotate the balloons in
the net. Following this system I've had hundreds of successful drops.

If you are using the running stitch, ensure you use heavy monofilament
(usually 80 - 120 lbs.) and make the line as slippery as possible by coating
it with soap, silicone or wax. Many good balloon artists use the running
stitch - the IBAC producers and Danny prefer it. Regardless, the running
stitch always has the potential drawback of gathering the net and not
releasing either.

So, there is no question that both techniques usually work well if done
correctly and that unfortunately both have a small potential error factor
built in. We all need to weigh those error factors for ourselves. However I
feel the chain stitch method has many additional advantages that tilt the
scales in its favor:
1. The cord can be pulled from a myriad of places making it much easier to
secure safely away from party drunks prior to the drop (the running stitch
must be pulled along the same line as the net).

2. The cord is tied onto the net in a chain stitch, so the rip cord can not
fall down on the guests once the bag is open.

3. Since the cord is tied onto the net, the completed drop can be shaken
until every balloon falls out (important because some clients feel that
stray balloons stuck in the net are an eyesore for the remainder of the
evening, and I personally feel it makes for a more professional effect).

4. It's much easier to pull out the chain stitch - no gloves or special
strength are required.

Mastery of the chain stitch also allows many other types of balloon drops -
like the duplet square packed garland drop, the Japanese quilted balloon
drops and releases and the Sculpture Drop hearts and stars.
-Bruce Walden

Regarding balloon drops and releases ... I would like to add some extra
information about straight stitch pull lines. 
We have found that "Weed trimmer line" works very well because:
        1.      It stretches a lot less when you pull on it... if any
        2.      When you pull the line for the release the line will recoil
and contain itself better then Monofilament.
        3.      it's color coded!
        4.      ****
In addition, it was pointed out earlier that a straight stitch is harder to
pull do to the friction created with the net and balloons.  To cure this
situation we have had the most success with spray cooking oil, yep, stuff
like PAM.  We found this out, (as we find out so many other things), in
desperation when the traditional solutions don't work as well as desired!
Some people bill this knowledge as experience ... at the time it was a gift
from above.  I was able to pull 3 - 40 ft. bags at one time and the four
remaining bags were pulled by first timers!

Oh yes, No. 4****, you can recycle the trimmer line back to your Weed
Eater!!!!


   I know that a lot of people use a lot of different techniques to close the 
bags. At IBAC they soap the line and run it straight thru.  That works 
well, but they wear gloves to avoid "line cuts." I still use the old tried 
and true chain stitch. It may be the "old"way but it has never failed me 
and I have a tie on spot on the bag, that allows the "droppee" to shake the 
bag a little as they drop so that nothing stays up in the bag upon completion.


I have done a few drops, and the 
secret is not to pack them too tightly, otherwise the drag line will pull 
really hard.  I like the idea of two lines, when you sew it up, sew it 
up in two places, in other words , add a piece of pronet about 12 inches 
wide, and sew it on both sides, then if one fails, you can always pull the 
other line.


ANTI-RUNNING
Don't use the running stitch!!
A running stitch will not go around corners and your drops would fail!

Do the chain stich as in the directions (practice one first) and then once the
bag is fully stiched, keep making the chain stitch for at least one foot.  This
will give you a bit of safety so that if the line gets snagged, you will have
that foot of chain stitch before the bag opens.  Also this extra chain stich
will help keep the weight of the monofil  line from pulling itself open.  Also
be sure that once the bag is full and stiched, you must put your fingers in the
holes and turn the knots toward teh inside of the drop bag.  Not only does this
make the drop look better but it prevents a balloon knot from getting caught in
the line and keeping the bag from opening fully.

I know that most running stich drops use a nice heavy weight (80 or 100 pound)
line, but I have had the best luck with a 25 or 30 pound mono line on a chain
stich because it is softer and easier to work with.  Don't worry about the line
breaking because a chain stich will almost unravel itself as you pull.  You'll
find this out when you practice.  Practive this with the star or heart drop
before you do the big ones, nothing beats experience!


PRO-RUNNING
We have used a running stitch on these with no problems!!   Just pack it 
full  and plump and do not skimp.... they need to be filled to look and work 
correctly !!  The only other suggestion.... Have a slow steady hand do the 
pull cords... they sway easily and you need to have a good ,steady ,hand over 
hand pull action.... no quick ,over excited. jerky movements !! 


DROPS - PULLING THE CORD

Has anyone ever used a kite string winder? 
I am thinking of the one I once saw that has a handle like a fishing reel to 
twist the cord on easily and smoothly.


GENERAL ADVICE
a) Buy a net.
b) Practice the chain stitch until you can do it in your sleep.
c) Determine where your rigging points in the room are.
d) Have someone QUALIFIED rig the bag after it's stuffed onsite.


Use a Compact Pro or something like it to stuff a tee shirt
inside of a balloon.  Then throw a few of these into a balloon drop.


Flowers, Inc. Balloons has a nice heart shaped net with instructions for your
drop.  I used this net this past summer for a wedding reception using 11", 9"
and 5" balloons inside the net to drop.  It was beautiful and made a big hit
with the bride and groom and their guests.


Drops tend to scare people until they do one. They are a lot easier than you 
first might expect. Here is some instruction on doing one.

Balloon Pro and others produce a plastic netting (squares are about 1/2" or
1"). Open net entirely. Then fold in half the long way. Use cable ties on
one short side  about every 7 " or so (you do the  other short side last). 

Run your pull line thru the open (long) side by putting it thru a square
about the 4th or 5th down from the opening and go thru the opposite piece of
net. Now go up about 7 " and go back thru both pieces and continue until you
have done the whole net. Make sure several extra feet of line extends out of
the end of the net so you can test pull the line later. Now you have one of
the short sides finished and the drop line going thru the long opening where
the balloons will drop out. 

Now blow and load balloons thru the short side that is still open. As the
end of the net fills use an air blower to blow them to the other end of the
drop net. You may need to push a few and shake the net but it will work.
Once the bag is nearly full start putting cable ties on the short open side
leaving a small opening so you can a few more balloons and then close it
with more cable ties. Test that the line can pull thru the net. It might
take some effort to do this. 

Now put a few cable ties on the top of the net so you can tie off the net to
the ceiling. 

There are several ways to do release nets and this was the easiest to
explain in this forum. It may not be exactly the way we do them now but is a
good method to begin with. 

Also your distributor can tell you what size net to buy for the quantity and
size you want to drop. If the net is too big you can cut off some.


DROP IDEAS

We stuffed money, real money and play money, one bill per 11 inch CLEAR balloon. 
We rolled the bills up, stuck them thru the neck, inflated them with air and had a money drop!! 
The salespeople then scurried all over the place popping the balloons and 
having a blast while grabbing the money... think children and pinata... same 
effect !! They LOVED it and we do it for them regularly now!! 


HOW MANY BALLOONS?
Q. Is there a formula to figure out what size  (in square feet) net I need in 
order to create a bag for one thousand 11" balloons, assuming I fold the net in 
half?

Mark writes:
There are lots of formulas, but before you can use them, your question
needs to be more specific.  When filled with balloons, what is the shape of
the "bag" that you wish to create?
It is roughly elliptical in cross section?
Is it roughly rectangular in cross section?
Is it roughly a shallow rectangle in cross section with just one or two
layers of balloons in the thickness direction?
Is it circular in cross section?
Is it something else?

Each bag shape has a different surface area to volume ratio.  Therefore,
each will require a different size net to hold your thousand balloons.

(For example, one layer of balloons arranged in a 27' square, and wrapped 
top and bottom would require a roughly 28' X 56' net.  If you want to use 
the smallest amount of netting, try a roughly 11' diameter spherical 
disco-ball of balloons, made from a roughly 35' x 35' net.)


Danny Magowan writes:
You must approximate, because you can't tell exactly how much space there
will be between balloons - it depends on just how they are packed into the
net.

This is a simple geometry problem, and you will never have to ask if you know
how to think this type of problem through.  It is simply a matter of knowing
the name of the shapes you're using, and then looking up (or memorizing) the
formulas.  You can't be receiving this message unless you've got a computer,
and even the crudest computers these days have some sort of spreadsheet
software on them, so set your spreadsheet to figure out the math and punch in
whatever numbers you want.

We are dealing with VOLUME  

OK, an 11" balloon, for our purposes can be considered to be a sphere.

The formula for the volume of a sphere is "4/3 pi times r cubed"

"Pi" = 3.14  ,  r is the radius, which is half of the diameter, so the radius
of an 11" balloon is half of 11", or 5.5", and to cube that, it's "r times r
times r"

So take out your calculator, and enter 4 / 3 * 3.14 * 5.5 * 5.5 * 5.5 = 696.5
(approx)

696.5 WHATS?????  well, cubic inches, which is about 0.4 cubic feet.  If you
blow the balloon a little bigger, it's about 0.5 cubic feet, which you should
know because "everyone knows" that an 11" balloon holds about a half a cubic
foot of helium.  we won't get into a discussion about pressure or teardrop
shape or over & under inflation.

OK, let's leave 0.5 cu. ft. per 11" balloon plus 0.25 of empty space between
balloons

1000 - 11" balloons will occupy approx. 750 cubic feet.

Now for the fun part - what shape of net do you want to use?

Well, one usually makes a net that is roughly a cylinder.  Think of a beer
can vs. a can of Dinty Moore beef stew.  Long and skinny, vs. short and fat.

The formula for the volume of a cylinder is just like the formula for a box.
You remember the volume of a box is l * w * h where l = length, w + width,
and h = height.  Well the truth is, what they really mean is the area of the
base (l * w) times the height - that's how they get l * w * h.  (If you
really want to know, that formula is for any 3 dimensional shape that is made
by extruding or stretching a two dimensional shape - whether it's a prism, or
a toblerone chocolate bar - which is just a triangle shaped tube, or if it's
a toilet paper roll, which is a circular tube inside another, or a box, 
which is a rectangle shaped tube)

If you start with a rectangular piece of net, then one axis (let's call it
the length) will be the length of your tube.  (don't forget to allow for
stitching, and of course both ends of this tube will really be crimped like
the end of a tube of toothpaste if you stitch a straight seam)  The other
axis (the width) you will fold over, and it will become the circumference of
your tube when the tube is full.  Now the width of your net, or the
circumference of the tube directly affects the length your tube must be.
 Let's figure it out.

Supposing you're working with a net that's 15' wide.  You'll fold it over and
it will be 7.5 wide, and stitched along the length (as yet undetermined)  15
feet is actually the circumference of the tube (think of a slice of bologna)
 You must determine the area of that circle by finding the diameter (divide
your circumference by pi) so 15 / 3.14 = 4.75' (approx)  Your diameter is
4.75, take half of that to get your radius, oh let's say 2.4'.  Now get your
area using "pi r squared" (3.14 * 2.4 * 2.4 = 18 sq.ft.)

And now, ladies and gentlemen, the moment you've all been waiting for:

18 (the area of the circle in the cylinder) times WHAT (the length of the
cylinder) equals 750 (the volume of the cylinder which will hold 1000 11"
balloons)

well, 750 / 18 = 41.66 so we now know that a net 15' wide and 41.66 long
(let's say about 40' long, and let's say about 1000 balloons and let's say
about 11" diameter)

Now, just for fun (fun??) let's fold the same net along the other axis, so
it's 15 long and 40' around.  First of all, it's about 12' in diameter,
because 25/3.14 = 12(approx)

so the area of that circle is 3.14 * 6 * 6 = 113 (approx)

113 times 15 = 1700 (approx), so the same size net sewn short and fat instead
of long and skinny will hold more than twice as many balloons - about 2200 - 11"
balloons.

Now in real life the precision of your stitching and your inflation may
greatly alter your actual results.  you can always make your net a little
long and then roll up the end when you've put your 1000 balloons into it so
it looks snug.  Make sure you don't roll your release cord up into the rolled
up part of the net!

Of course you could look at the label for a Balloon Pro net.  I've got a 13'
by 50' Balloon Pro net here that says, (according to instructions written by
our own dear Rob Rishmawy) it will hold approx. 1300 - 9" balloons or 700 -
11" balloons.  My math actually gets 900 - 11" balloons, Rob has allowed 1
cubic foot per balloon while I allowed .75 cubic foot per balloon.  Of course
when you stitch and hang the net you lose some of the volume, and a lot
depends on how tight you pack your balloons, and exactly what size you
inflate them to.

drop advice

Know your math is the best advice I can give.  If you have done a CBA or
have the tapes etc and are in the process there is information on - volumes
of balloons - that you can use as a guide.

You will need to know the volume of each balloon size you are planning to
use eg 5" .06 cu feet, 9".25 cu feet,
11" .5 cu feet.  These are rough guides only.

You will need to know the volume of the cylinder (alias the net) you are
planning to use. I am assuming that you are doing a drop bag, but there are
so many different shapes and sizes and styles you can do.

I use to have a lot of trouble with the volume and surface area thing until
I wrote down all the formulas and then applied an example  and did the
experiment.  I have worked all of mine out in metric.  Thanks to a guide I
found in a magazine from the UK  I believe that Ian Mc Gregor from Capel
Manor College in England did these.
And I would like to thank him profusely.  Anyhow.  My example was I have a
client that wants a drop of 500 balloons.  If I use 9" balloons whose volume
is .25 cu feet how big will the net be?

What is the volume of 500 balloons?
500 balloons x .25 cu feet = 125 cu feet is the volume of the net.

I have netting material that is 10 feet wide and can be whatever length I
cut it.
The width of the net is the circumference of my cylinder. How long is the
net???

Formula for circumference is 3.14 x diameter.
To find the diameter of my cylinder  divide the circumference 10 feet by
3.14 = 3.185 feet.

I know that the formula for the volume of a cylinder is the Surface Area of
the end of the cylinder x the Height.
Volume = SA X H
The formula for the Surface area of a circle is 3.14 x radius squared.
Radius is half of the diameter.
3.185 divided by 2 = 1.5925 feet
Surface Area of the end of my cylinder = 1.5925 x 1.5925 x 3.14 = 7.96 feet
We know what the volume of 500 balloons is and we know what the surface area
of the end of the cylinder is so how long is the net?
SA X H = Volume of Net
7.96 feet x H = 125 cu feet
H = 125 cu feet divided by 7.96 cu feet
H =  15.7 feet
The net needs to be roughly 16 feet long.
If you want to know how many of each size balloon you will fit into the net
all you need to do is work out how many 5" = 9" = 11" or how much volume
each of these has.


Costings.
How long to inflate and fill net? Do you know how long it will take you to
blow up say 100 5", 100 9" or 100 11". Use this as your guide.  I would
double this time or allow for an extra person for the same amount of time,
as it is the filling and constant pushing of the balloons to the other end
that takes up just as much time as inflation.
So if you allow for two peoples wages this should more than cover it.
When we set up at the venue we use two heavey base plates with poles in them
and stretch the end opening of the net between the two poles and tape in
place  This means the opening is at the right height for us to work
comfortably and the balloons fall into the net.  If you have a job site
where you can work with the net hanging over a balcony  to the floor below,
even better other wise we've found it's just as easy to load the plates and
poles into the van and we know we can work fast and efficiently with out
having to worry about finding things to tape the net to.  You only get one
good back so I think its a good idea to save it from any excess bending.

Flutter fetti is best loaded in the same way you do a banner drop.  I have
found that the new Qualatex #40 wide ribbon is the perfect width for
wrapping up the flutter fetti "pellets".  I would allow one Flutter fetti
"pellet" every 4 feet.  Once you net is full and you have the pellets
wrapped up in about 6 - 8 inches of ribbon, go to the top of the net
(opposite to where the balloons will fall out)  and cut a small opening to
place your pellet inside.  Make sure you position it so it is wedged between
a balloon and the net.  You can even tape the end of the ribbon to the net
to ensure the Flutter fetti pellet does unravel out of the ribbon.  This
does not take very long and should be done just before installation.
Believe me I have experienced the mess that Flutter fetti can make if the
net has to be moved to much.

So the net is filled with all you balloons and Flutter fetti and it weighs
next to nothing.  How do you hang it?  I would figure this out before hand.
How high is the roof?  Do they have ladders or a scissor lift to access it
or do you have to organise that? Do you have a license to drive a scissor
lift and are you scared of heights? Maybe you could organise for someone else
to hang it for you - a professional or staff at the hotel/function room.

Depending on the size of the drop and all these other factors it could take
YOU any where from 30 minutes to two hours. You really need to have all of
this sorted out before you take on the job.  And don't forget removal of the
net?  Who's responsible and when does it have to be done, like what time?


--

In the middle of an excellent post full of good advice for drops, I read:


>You will need to know the volume of each balloon size you are planning to
>use eg 5" .06 cu feet, 9".25 cu feet, 11" .5 cu feet.

>You will need to know the volume of the cylinder (alias the net) you are
>planning to use.

>If you want to know how many of each size balloon you will fit into the net
>all you need to do is work out how many 5" = 9" = 11" or how much volume
>each of these has.


This equation sets the volume of 500 balloons directly equal to the volume
of the net.  This is like saying that since each 11" balloon is 0.5 cu
feet, you could put two of them inside a box that measures 1 foot x 1 foot
x 1 foot.

Clearly, this can't be done.

The problem is that your method neglects the air spaces between the
balloons.  Predicting net size using this unrealistic 100% packing
efficiency will give you an unconservative result for net size: in other
words, the net size your method predicts will be too small to hold your 500
balloons.

To find a better estimate of net length which accounts for the air spaces,
divide your 15.7 foot length by 0.66 to give 23.8 feet.

This is explained in greater detail in the "Indoor Drops" section of the
"Balloon special effects" chapter in the Guide (on the Balloon HQ web page):

     http://www.balloonhq.com/faq/deco_effects.html

Under "Indoor Drops," look for the "How many Balloons" subsection which was
mostly taken from a post written by Danny Magowan.  Danny recommends a
packing efficiency of 0.5/(0.25+0.5) = 0.66 = 66% or 2/3).  Further down in
that chapter, under "Stuffing Exploding Balloons," you'll find another
discussion of the "packing factor" concept (from a post I wrote in response
to one of Danny questions about gumballs).  It mentions that the most
efficient packing method for spheres yields only a 74% packing efficiency
(approx 1/4 of the volume between spheres is air).  Since balloons aren't
really spheres, they won't pack quite as tightly, backing up Danny's 66%
figure.

For an illustrated explanation of packing efficiency in two dimensions,
read the "Doing the `How many Balloons' Calculation" section of the "Large
balloon sculptures" chapter of the Guide:

     http://www.balloonhq.com/faq/deco_sculptures.html

and do the coin-arranging experiment it suggests.

--

   Maybe I am a haphazard balloon Artist so please bear with me on 
that... But I think Balloon Drops are one of the easiest and most profitable 
skills we have. I do not measure "space" inside the bag, nor do I stress 
over its success.  They ALWAYS go for us!  This is our simple Balloon Drop Strategy:
Buy the big Balloon Pro Nets.  I take the net and pull it all out and get 
it straightened up.  I can get 4 or 5 bags out of the balloon pro net I use.
I then use cable ties to close up the side of the 
bag, cutting off the excess. I take a 80 test mono line and "soap" it up. 
Dial works great and smells good too :-)  I take the bottom of the bag 
and fold it up about "three squares" (the bag is a series of little squares 
in a mesh formation so that is how we measure the "squares".) I then run 
the mono line back and forth like a zig zag across the bottom of the bag to 
close it - like a fish swimming from side to side.  Once I 
get about four foot in I start to fill.  We use 5 inch, 9 inch, 11 inch, 18 
inch, 24 inch and 3 footers as well as 260 Q's to give the bag a really 
interesting fill.  The big ones fall faster, the 260's kind of zig zag and 
twirl as they come down, the 11, 9 and 5 inch move a little slower, so we 
get a " show" instead of a " dump" and that is what the client really 
wants... a "show!"  I do 250 or 500  balloons, all sizes and types 
count, and then push and shove and shake and condense the bag.  Once I 
have the latex in I finish sewing up the bag in the same zig zag, back and 
forth pattern.  Then I go about 4 inches up the side.  Finish the sides off 
by rolling the mesh to make the bag tight and cable tying it shut.  Once I 
have it all done ( about 40 minutes) I rig and test.  I pull the line to 
make sure it is "sliding" thru the mesh The one end has a piece of mono about 
3 feet long dangling and the other end is the rip cord. Once I know it's 
fine I hang it and secure the line for the DJ or whomever is assigned the 
fun task.  I leave a note that says to pull it in a slow, steady hand over 
hand fashion, Sometimes folks get so excited they just Yank and Yank.  A slow 
steady hand over hand approach gives a steady and fun drop.  WORRYFREE!  
There is also a GREAT article by Rocky Toomey about this in images.  
Check that out as well. 


--

 Can anyone verify  that the The Balloon Pro Millenium Bags (C3000)
 (holds 2000 9 inch balloons) is actually two x 40' by 14' nets. I
 purchase two for New Years Eve and want to make sure I am getting a
 total of 4 nets. I opened it up as much as I could and still couldn't
 tell if it is one bag or two.  I only have small rooms to open it in. 

First, invest in a driveway, street, or backyard.  Then you can make an 
empirical observation as to what you have in your posession.  If it were me, 
I would much rather be able to say, "Golly, this is only one 14x40 net!" than 
to have someone on the internet tell me what they think I have in my 
posession based on how I described it to them.
Secondly, here's some geometry for you.  
Assuming you are rigging this net as a cylinder, or tube by sewing the long 
edges of the net together, you will have a cylinder that is 40' long and 14' 
around (so the circumference is 14').
To figure the volume of the tube, it's pi x R(squared) x length.
(If you have trouble remembering this, think of the volume of a box, which is 
L x W x H.  which amounts to the area of one face (Length x Width) times the 
other measurement (Height).  The cylinder is the same thing - the area of the 
circular face (pi x R-squared) times the other measurement, in this case, 
length, or if you hold the tube vertically it would be height).
Now, how do you get the "pi x R(squared)" thing from a circumference of 14'?  
Well, the circumference is pi x diameter, so divide 14' by pi and you have 
your diameter, roughly 4.5'.  This is a good number to have because it tells 
you how fat the tube is going to be, or how far down from the ceiling it will 
hang if you can keep it perfectly circular when you hang it.
Now that you have the diameter, cut it in half and you get the radius, 
roughly 2.25'.
At last!  R(squared) is 2.25 x 2.25, = 5.06 times pi (3.14) = 15.88, times 
length (40') = 635.5 cubic feet. (Are you still with me?)
So, we have a net which has a volume of 635.5 cubic feet.  We have 9" 
balloons, which have a volume of roughly .27 cubic feet, (or .29 depending on 
whom you ask, and who is inflating), so yoou can get 3 or 4 balloons per 
cubic foot, which means ONE 14' x 40' Balloon Pro net will hold approximately 
2000 9" balloons.
Which means if you had taken your net out to your driveway, or gotten a 
friend to help you unroll it out in the street or in your backyard, or your 
local school gym or church basement, you would probably find that you'd 
better buy two more nets if you want 4 nets 14' x 40'.  Of course if you want 
4 nets of about 1000 balloons each you can probably cut the two you've got in 
half to make 14' x 20' nets.  Of course, you need to allow for lost volume 
when you gather the ends of the nets, and overlap to stitch the net.  But of 
course a little over- or under-inflation will throw another variable in, as 
will the fact that there are little gaps between the balloons that take up 
some volume outside of the balloons.

--
rigging a star drop
I followed Bruce Walden's instructions enclosed with the 
drop net to the T. I used ceiling hooks to rig it to the tracks in the 
ceiling.  If I remember correctly there were some enclosed in the kit. I 
tied dacron line to three points on the top of the net and then tied those 
to the ceiling hooks that had already been installed. Be sure you secure the 
dacron cord, or whatever you use, very securely to both the net and the 
ceiling hooks.


We've used these star-shaped drop bags successfully, both the 4' and the 
larger.  I would make the following recommendations:
-they look best done in a solid color--darker looks better
-be sure to cut the necks off the balloons near the stitching (I'd do all of 
them), so nothing snags the release
-we used three metal ceiling clips to attach to a drop ceiling grid, adding a 
loop of monofilament to each side so that the "arms" are supported at the 
right height
-stuff it tight on the floor before hanging, if not, there will be some 
settling, causing it to lose some of its shape
-may want to use slightly smaller balloons in the "points" of the star
-most tweaking (turning necks inward, adjusting the pack, etc) is best done 
before you hang it, particularly if you are up very high

They come together very quickly and nicely, but hanging anything always takes 
me longer than I expect... allow yourself time!


  I have hung the 4 foot star using only one line but I would recommend
3. One at the top peak of the star. Then one line on each side, attached
to the other ends of the peaks. We also have helium filled the balloons
and put the seam across the top. Once the cord is pulled, it makes a
great balloon release.


  With the dissolving heart you will have the same worries as any
balloon drop. I have found that the chain stitch works best with this
type of drop because of all the turn. Make sure to keep the necks of your
balloons away from your seam. 
--
Three questions to drop experts who use the chain stitch;  do I still have
to lubricate the line if I'm using the chain stitch or is that just
necessary for the running stitch?  What is the best pull line to use?  I
have ordered Dacron arch line, if it is like fishing line I don't like the
stiffness, would like something more flexible.  Anybody know what Bruce
Walden uses in his video on drops (vol. 3)?  It looks much more flexible.

--
>I have some questions about using nitrogen in a balloon drop.
>1-Is there a problem when using nitrogen in 5" balloons for a balloon drop?

no.

>2-Can they be filled a day or 2 before the job and have them last?

yes.  to keep them fresh the entire filled net can be stored in a 
plastic mattress bag (huge plastic bag) if not hung.


>3-Is it necessary to use nitrogen or is air fill better?

Good questions.  The answer depends on the magnitudes of the competing
diffusion rates.  In other words, in her efforts to make all concentrations
and pressures equal, does Mother Nature want to dilute the nitrogen (by
forcing the other components of air (oxygen, argon, CO2, etc.) into the
balloon) faster or slower than she wants the nitrogen to leave due to the
pressure differential across the balloon wall?  I haven't run tests of air
and nitrogen filled balloons and measured the diameters each day, but my guess
is that a nitrogen-filled balloon should last a bit longer than an air
filled balloon.


>4-Does the air filled or the nitrogen filled fall faster?

Air-filled 5" balloons will fall faster than equally-sized nitrogen-filled
5" balloons, but the difference will be very very subtle.  You'd get a much
bigger variation in fall times just by using balloons of different size.

If you want equally-sized balloons to fall at noticeably different rates,
fill some of them with Sulfur Hexafluoride, a colorless, odorless,
non-flammable, inert gas that is five times heavier than air (by contrast,
helium is seven times lighter than air).  Mix different air/sulfur-hexafluoride 
ratios in some of the balloons if you really want a bag full of equally 
sized balloons that will fall at a variety of speeds.

By the way, if you take a breath of Sulfur Hexafluoride, your voice gets
deeper.  Of course, BHQ does not recommend inhaling any oxygen-displacing
gas, whether it be He, N2 or SF6.  BHQ recommends that everyone sticks to
breathing air.  Well, except for fish  :-)



Your trap door for the balloon release could be a round or square flap
released by pulling one string, allowing the balloons to pour out over 
the crowd, then the 'flap" could have a new years greeting printed on it.

I'd make sure that the 'holding cloth' that your stretching over the opening
is of a very light material and that it is shaped like a bowl allowing the
balloons to roll to the lowest point thus falling out the 'hole when you
want them to. Make sure that you have a 'JIGGLE LINE' attached to give those
slow falling fellas a bit of a nudge.


consider doing the 'holding cloth in RMS. Why do you ask? 
you might also be able to incorporate a pattern in a stained
glass ceiling effect.

If that's out consider Link-O-Loons. They to would allow for a pattern to
be incorporated and then leave a neat ceiling behind. They would be cheaper
to install (stock wise) and allow you to make a bigger profit intead of the
(sailmaker?) Another suggestion would be if you'e using RMS or L-O-L to
have a cheap material over the top of them to allow for the
drop balloons to freely flow or have a large dip in the design to make sure
none of the balloons 'snag' on the way out of the trap-door.



DROPS GONE BAD
Yesterday (10/8/98) our local Wal-Mart (Toms River, NJ) had a charity event where 
there was going to be a balloon drop and inside the balloons were prizes (printed 
on paper to be claimed).  It seems that the drop did not work very well and only 
some of the balloons came out.  Parents at that point got involved and 50 people
(adults and kids) were injured and 8 had to go to the hospital.  The manager
of the store got punched in the face by one of the parents and was one that
had to go to the hospital.  The story said that there was blood on the floor,
and the scene was a mess.  Wal-mart has stated that they had done these kinds
of drops in the past and will now reconsider this in the future.  There was no
mention of which balloon company (if any) did the drop.  What a great idea for a 
charity event - too bad it went bad.

     Promotional contest turns into free-for-all at N.J. store
     
                Associated Press, 10/09/98 05:26 
     
     BRICK, N.J. (AP) - Forty-eight children and an adult suffered minor 
     injuries when a balloon-popping contest for kids turned into a melee 
     at a Wal-Mart store. 
     
     About 200 children had gathered at the store Thursday evening for the 
     promotional event, in which about 1,000 prize-filled balloons were 
     dropped onto the floor, police Lt. Nils Bergquist said. 
     
     ``The kids started jumping around, then the parents started jumping in 
     to get the balloons, not caring about stepping on kids,'' said Starla 
     Weiss, who brought five kids to the event.``There was blood on the 
     floor.'' 
     
     Authorities were called to the store 10 minutes later. 
     
     Aja Shepherd, 16, an employee at the McDonald's restaurant inside the 
     store, said several ambulances were called to the scene. 
     
     ``The parents started getting involved,'' she said. ``They were 
     fistfighting.'' 
     
     Store manager Joe Herron could not be reached for comment. 
     
     Thirty-six people declined medical treatment, five people were treated 
     at the scene and eight were taken to hospitals. 
     
This mess was caused by stupid, greedy parents. Adults. People who are supposed 
to demonstrate good judgement and guidance to their children.  Was it children 
stomping on other children who caused it to get out of hand? No. Only when the 
adults jumped in to try to get their "bonus balloons," did the children get hurt.  
We once did a balloon drop shaped to look like an Easter Egg to welcome the Easter 
Bunny at a local mall.  The different colored balloons represented diffferent 
"routes" to take to pick up prizes.  The kids had a great time -- UNTIL the adults 
rushed in and the small children were "overlooked".  A solution we offered 
(besides never doing it again), was doing the drop in a confined area where only 
children under 7 were allowed in.  If you leave the kids alone, they will have 
fun. It takes an adult to ruin it.



INDOOR RELEASES

BALLOON BANNER RELEASE
Bruce Walden does a surprise balloon banner which is lifted out of a box by 
a 3 foot balloon.  I've done this often and have used the empty carton from 
Frances Meyer bags - there's a PVC rod the perfect length in the sturdy box.
The box can be sprayed or covered with paper or mylar or at times I've even 
inserted it into another container.
Place additional weight into the base of the box - we use pancake-like
sandbags made from deflated 4" or 9" mylars.
Most often I use wedding aisle runners cut to size for the banner because
they're lightweight, easily available and easy to cut.  We have used vinyl
letters for lettering - and at times the holographic or mirrored mylar 
that's adhesive on the back. You can also get Tyvar(?) at the fast sign 
places which will cost more, but be cut to the exact size you need and 
be printed on both sides.
When we haven't had a Frances Meyer carton, I've simply used an empty gift
wrap carton, but then have had to fit the rod, etc. into it.
Hope this helps.  It's a wonderful effect, especially appropriate for domed
or high ceilings like malls.


make a banner, maybe with a message on it,
and place confetti it.  Then when the banner 
unrolls, the confetti drops out and the message appears.


GLO-STICK RELEASE
Chuck Guberman entertained us with a magic act at Unique Concepts 
Open House in June 1986. At the end of the act they did a 
balloon release in the ballroom. This ballroom had a ceiling over 25 feet high. 
The balloons had glowsticks in them, and it was quite a sight to see them 
rising in the ballroom. Then as the event approached midnight the balloons began 
to slowly drift down. What a sight. I'll never forget it. I'm not sure who was 
responsible for this effect... I always wondered if the falling of the balloons 
was planned or just a surprise to all involved.




DISSOLVING 4-PACK GARLAND
The pasta method works well for small to medium sized arches.
Basically you take 2 lines and feed them through tubes of pasta.
Color code the ends of the lines (e.g. one red line and one black line).
I tend to use ziti or rigatoni.
The tubes don't have to be pasta, but they do have to be biodegradable to
use in a release. Indoors (with an air-filled balloon drop) you'd want to
find something that would be soft and eye-friendly to use.
Please DO NOT be tempted to use short pieces if plastic balloon stick.
Not good for the environment and not good for the professional reputation
of our industry as a whole.
After you have the tubes on your lines, attach your balloons (helium-filled
for a release) by tying or twisting around the tubes. (Note: If you twist
the balloons on, make sure the tubes are long enough so the cluster won't
slip off... this could trap the tubes on the line). When the arch is
completed, secure both ends of both lines. When you wish for the garland to
dissolve, have one person at each end of the garland release/cut one cord
and pull the other (e.g. one person pulls red, the other black). When the
cords pass by each other (hopefully at the top of the arch) the arch
separates and becomes 2 columns... which dissolve cluster by cluster as the
cord is removed from their center.

Hope this helps! If you'd prefer a different method, there are 2 other
techniques for dissolving garlands that I cover in my advanced balloon drop
classes, or on video #8 in my Balloon School series. -Bruce Walden



Q. how do you attach each cord to make it stationary while it is only an arch 
for decor?  Also since the quads are being attached to the pasta, it makes 
them very loose while backing the rest of the spiral.  How do you ensure 
that the quads end up tight and in the spiral rotation that is desired?  
Also, how do you keep the last rows from sliping to the ends of the line 
and loosening up?

A. You are right about using pasta--I think I used zitti from the McFrugal's (like 
a 99 cent store).  You string the line with the pasta first with how ever many 
pieces you need equal to the number of quads you need.
Then you just put the quads on as you normally would but each quad is its own 
pasta tube.  I only used one piece of arch line and then had it weighted on 
each end.  I got to cut the line when the time came and the quads, pasta and
all go flying away because the helium lifts the quads off the line.  It's 
similar to when a necklace breaks and the beads just slide off, but the balloons 
go in the opposite direction.  None of the quads came off the pasta either. 
I have sequential pictures of it dissolving and flying away--it resembled 
molecules floating off into the sky.
 


disappearing garlands...here's a few things to consider:

Never re-use your line as it can develop a "memory" and kink up.

Ensure the necks of all balloons are cut off so they can't get tangled in
the chain stitch. Similarly, only use 14" and smaller balloons with small
tight knots.

I'd suggest using duplet garlands (rather than quads) since there are fewer
balloons to get caught in the stitch. I'm not sure why you had trouble with
the duplet packing... have you used it before without the chain stitch? The
secret usually is to ensure the balloons are not too fully inflated (like
11" to 9.5") so they have enough "grab" to hold onto their neighbors, and
then pack them with a very even tension. Packing evenly while chain
stitching usually entails having one person making the chain while a second
person places the duplets in position.


Bruce Walden in one of his videos( and I'm not sure which) demonstrates a
great method for doing this fun and creative arch.  He used Penne pasta
tubes to tie the quads to.  Then he strings the pasta tubes together using
two lines.  When the time is right, pull one line from one side and the
other line from the opposite side and you will have a beautiful dissolving
garland.  The best thing about the pasta tubes is that they are
biodegradable so they can be used for outdoor use if that is your fancy.



HOW TO GET BALLOONS OFF THE CEILING:

Just have a big roll of balloon ribbon with a 16" attached to the end.  Add loops 
of clear packing tape (with the sticky side out) and you will be able to get down 
every single balloon that goes toward the ceiling. In addition, you'll have a 
grateful mall staff, impressed customers, AND you'll probably even retrieve a 
few that you didn't sell.

Confetti Drops

When we add confetti to a balloon drop, we place the confetti inside a piece of window shade fabric. I am sure other materials could be used but the shade fabric works great for us. The fabric is cut to in varoius widths and lengths depending on the drop shape and size. The top is reinforced with matching color duct tape and holes are punched along the top. We duct tape a piece of thin alum. rod at the bottom of the fabric for a weight. Then place the tissue confetti on the fabric and roll it up like an enchilada. Then tie it in the center with ribbon to keep the roll closed. Use a color of ribbon that is not in your drop so that the ribbon color with stand out and you can easily find it once your drop is stuffed. Form your drop net and then place the confetti rolls inside the net at the top of the net. Tie the confetti rolls through the holes in the rolls and the netting. Then stuff your drop. Once your drop is ready to hang, go back and cut the ribbon that is holding your rolls closed. The balloons will hold the confetti rolls in place. When your drop is pulled and the balloons start to fall out, gravity will take place and your confetti rolls will unroll and out comes all the confetti. The shade fabric can be decorated to match the decor or a message can be added to the fabric making the fabric a banner as well. As for adding candy, I personally would not add anything hard to the drop. The most exciting part of a drop is being under the drop as the balloons come down. Children under the drop certainly would look up to watch the balloons and get hit in the face or eyes with the candy!!! Even you you put the drop in front of them, they may run towards the drop as the balloons come out. I feel sure that it you explain this to your customer, they will back down on adding candy to the drop. Maybe you could place some special balloons in the drop and those balloons could be redeemed for the candy. Be sure to put in enough of these "special" balloons so every child can get the candy. I hope this information will be helpful to you. I am sure that there are many different ways to add confetti to a drop but this system works very well for us. In Bruce Waldens tape, he explains that you roll up a banner with some type of paper or other material, and place the confetti inside it, and when the balloon drop is let go, the banner usnrolls and the confetti drops out. Another effect is to actally make a banner, maybe with 2000 on it, or some other wording, and place the confetti it it, and then when the banner rolls out, it actually has a message as well. Drop Ideas: fill the balloon drop net with twisted sculptures for the end of a children's party or magic show.

Confetti Cannons

EXPLODING BALLOONS

EXPLODING BALLOONS

A great way to surprise your guests is to explode the 3 foot 
balloons during the party! 


Exploding balloons are one of my favorite and most profitable effects. 
(I charge anywhere from 125 to 150 C-shells each.) 


IDEAS

Make a column and top it off with a large 3 foot balloon filled with 5-inch 
balloons. 

Weddings - first dance explosion! 
    For an outdoor wedding I fill a 6' color latex balloon with 11" helium and
explode on the kiss of the bride and groom for an easy release!  What a
decoration with bows and trails before wedding as guests arrive!

Grand Openings - give-aways!
    I use them on columns for store give-aways. Attach paper punched index
cards with prize certificates to each 5" balloon in a 3'er.
(about 40-50 5" balloons)

Prom Gymnasium - floating drops!


Here's an absolutely WONDERFUL idea for New Year's Eve.
Take 11"-15" balloons (she had used round balloons that had decoration on 
them.) and put confetti in them.  Attach a 260 to the bottom.  (Tie nozzles 
together, then ear twist 3 lengths of the balloon so the round balloon sits 
on the 260...kind of like you do for a flower.)  At midnight, have the guests 
pop the balloons above their heads... Voila, a Shower of Confetti.  Really 
neat effect and they make a great decoration for the party as well.


Any manufacturers listening?
A Jumbo "sausage shape" 6ft long x 30" diameter latex balloon would be
great to have as an exploding balloon in venues with 12ft to 14ft ceilings.
If this balloon had a small Bee Body "nipple" it could easily be rigged
horizontally. Imagine that with "Celebrating 2000" printed along either
side!  Use the Conwin Insider to stuff it with confetti, flitter and 300
x 5" latex. A hot seller guaranteed!  I think I could use the "sausage type" 
balloon for weddings... There are many local venues that have low ceilings 
and this would be a great alternative to offer.



FILL THEM WITH...

3 foot balloons can be filled with lots of great things... smaller balloons, 
confetti, or whatever you think would look great at the party when this 3 foot 
(or 4 -or 5-foot) balloon is exploded. 

Sell your Bride on a "First Dance" balloon drop.  Fill a 3" balloon with 6"
hearts. Suspend it over the center of the dance floor. Then, during the first
dance, have the balloon pop. They will be "showered with tiny hearts", and it
makes for a great photo. 

explode 3 foot balloons filled with balloons and confetti.

add garland between large 3 foot dissolvers 

I use my stuffing machine (Balloon Wrap) to put 40 five inch balloons, and
my inflator to add 60 eleven inch balloons, plus confetti into a 6' Balloon. I
transport in its un-inflated but stuffed condition. I hang with air, or float
with helium on site.  I use telephone wire to run lines. (red, white green, yellow)
You only need one continuous loop! Pick a color and untwist enough of one to go all 
the way around and back!  I think the best tip I can give you is leave slack.



LEARNING HOW TO DO IT

Bruce Walden has a "Special Effect" video out. It shows how to rig
and explode balloons. 


With all the new wonderful 
tools on the market anyone can be a professional. I would like to recommend
purchasing Bruce Walden's "Special Effect." I believe it is number 4 in
his "Balloon School" video collection. He shows you how two systems work and 
gives some very helpful hints. Watch the video and then decide for yourself.


There are several ways to pop the balloon (squibs,
electrical devices, conwins new system), but my favorite is to give the Father
of the Bride a VERY long (and decorated to the teeth) stick with a pin at the
end, and let him do the popping. 

Each method has it own merits and faults, so you need to look at your comfort
level, the size of the job and how much the client is willing to spend. 


For more info on either the Stinger or the nomatch-shock tube, see
http://www.thoseballoonpeople.com/disolvingsales.html 
or e-mail (Ron Levine) at balloonwiz@aol.com 



COMMERCIAL PRODUCTS FOR EXPLODING BALLOONS

There are many ways to explode balloons: 

The new Balloon Viper, call Balloon Depot
1-800-264-8684 


The Destroyer, call the Balloon Outlet
609-653-4499 
 

There is a new exploding device which has been developed in Australia.
You can view details at:
http://www.balloon-express.com/exploder.htm

Conwin's Pneumatic Exploder
Conwin Carbonic Company
(800) 877-8889
(213) 245-2842
FAX (818)246-6862
Contact them for a catalog and information on a distributor in your area. Here are my initial observations on Conwin's starter kit (Price --- $ 128.00).
It contains:

1 special regulator/switch with an outlet for 3 tubes
1 gross of adhesive balloon tabs
1 roll of clear tubing (250')
1 roll of dacron line
4 inline exploders (blue)
2 end of run exploders (yellow)
Absolutely no instructions (!)

As usual, Conwin has done a quality job. The regulator is just what you'd expect from them, and the exploders (about 2.95 each) are of high quality plastic, with large tabs for easy fastening to the balloon.

I used a small piece of tubing to seal off the 2 extra outlets on the regulator and attached about 5' of tubing between the regulator and an end of run exploder. The demo worked flawlessly. Push the switch, and a little gust of gas pushes the pin through the balloon.

Unfortunately, I also found that on this very short run, the air pressure blew the tubing out of the exploder, because the fit isn't very secure. The tubing fits INSIDE the exploder rather than outside. Please note that the neither the tubing nor the exploder were secured to the balloon for this demonstration

This raises two questions:

  1. How does one secure this tubing into the exploder so that ' blowout' doesn't cause a partial failure to occur on a long run of, 10 or 20 balloons?
  2. On a 'standard' run of 50, to 250 ft, would the reduction in line pressure be sufficient to prevent this blowout from being a significant problem?

All in all, this looks very promising as a simple, cost effect way to provide exploding balloon effects. Someone with experience in SFX felt that shock tube might be a more reliable solution, but I feel that for those of us who chose to let our customers 'push the button', leaving a small tank with the regulator is a safer, more assured method!

Conwin's new Pneumatic Balloon Exploders are now available. Non-electric system is powered by any size helium or nitrogen cylinder. Easy installation requires only a pair of scissors, adhesive rigging tabs, dacron rigging line, and clear packing tape. Reliable and safe, non-pyrotechnic system is ideal for both large and small jobs. Economical system is reusable.

How to stuff 5-inch balloons into a 3 footer
For stuffing a 3 footer with 5 inch balloons, the method of using a pipe coupling has worked OK for us. We use 3 foot jumbo balloons, an ABS --- 4 1/2-inch pipe coupling, a pre inflated bag of 4 1/2 inch balloons, and an air inflator.

The 3 foot balloon must start with the balloon about 1/4 to 1/2 of the balloon filled with air, and the coupling in place.... To inflate this balloon with the coupling in place we use the pipe attachment that comes with our balloon stuffing machine.

Then using 5-inch balloons ..... SIZED to 4 1/2 inches, remove the air inflator and fill the hole with the 4 1/2 inch plug. The 4 1/2 inch coupling has an inside opening of only 4 inches. Therefore, it is a must that the balloons be sized to 4 1/2 inches to make a great seal when used as 'the plug.'

Now, just repeat the process of pushing 'the old plug' into the 3 foot balloon and pushing 'the NEW plug' into the ABS pipe coupling. It must be noted that a little air from the 3 foot balloon will get out each time a new balloon is pushed though the coupling... therefore you might have to re-inflate the 3 foot balloon as you perform this technique.

The Conwin system can explode a lot of balloons with
one box. For a separate room it would  be more cost efficient to have
a second box. Conwins must be attached together by an air hose. It does
not have a remote advantage  ( bummer ).


Essential Tips for Best Results when Using Conwin's Pneumatic Balloon 
Exploders.

1.  Pre-test exploders with a pressurized line prior to rigging.  Make sure 
that the exploder pin is fully retracted and the base of the exploder is 
smooth to the touch prior to attaching it to the balloons.

2.  After rigging the air line, use 11'' balloons to test the system.  This 
will insure that the air line has been properly rigged and that all the large 
balloons will pop on cue.  

3.  Fully inflate the large balloons.  The surface of the balloons must be 
taut where the exploders are attached.  If the balloon is soft or 
underinflated, the exploder pin will not pop the balloon.  

4.  Use 2 exploders per balloon, one Continual Exploder and one Elbow End 
Exploder.  Attach the exploders to the center section of the balloon.  This 
is the weakest part of the balloon.  

5.  Use high quality, 2" wide, clear packing tape (3M works well) to attach 
the exploders to the balloons.  Use only 2 pieces of tape, one on each tab of 
the exploder.  Do not tape over the sides or the top of the exploder.  Do not 
coat the outside of the balloon with Balloon Shine or Hi-Float - this will 
prevent the tape from sticking.  

6.  Use Conwin's Insider Balloon Stuffing Tool to fill large balloon with the 
maximum number of small balloons.  

7.  Make sure the cylinder has a minimum of 800 psi. before detonating the 
balloons.  

8.  Hold the detonator button down continually until all the balloons have 
popped.



> did anyone have problems with the pins on the Conwin Pnuematic exploders
> completely coming out( by this I mean actually separating from the device)?
> Also, has anyone ever had a tee fitting break from the pressure of the 
> line or for any other unexplainable reason? 
I personally used them for two different events, and almost all of mine
either broke at the tee or came apart totally. (although none of the needles
actually came out i think)

    We too have had problems with the Conwin Exploding System.  Although we 
purchased it about two years aago, we have yet to use it because we can not 
get it to burst more than one balloon at a time at less than 50 feet.  We 
even spent several more hours last week trying to ready it for a small, last 
minute New Years Eve job.

    Using clear packing tape helps keep the the pieces from blowing apart, 
but there does not seem to be enough pressure to activate the pins or to 
activate them hard enough to burst the balloons.  


I am one of the folks that complained about the conwin exploders.  The
pieces did come apart, and I do wish that the ends were more durable...
BUT I rigged 12 three foot balloons over 100 feet and they all went off
without  a hitch.  I was unhappy with the ends, but not with the effect!


  I have discovered that like any other balloons once your 3 foot 
balloons have been on display, they will lose some air. If your balloon
loses enough air (or is not full to begin with) the
balloon surface will be soft.  When the pin is pushed in and
then retracts, the pin hole will almost instantly seal up. Leaving you
with a very slow leaking balloon in place of the exploding one you were
planning on. With luck sending a second or more air spurt will cause 
the balloon to explode. To help avoid these problem. Put as
much air in your balloon as possible. Always place 2 detonator pins
toward the upper center side of your balloon. This is where the latex is
weakest.
  The length from your tank to your balloon should not effect the
pressure. I have exploded 10 balloon over 100 feet away at once with no
problem. Just make sure all your connections are air tight and those
balloons are full. P.S. Always have a pin on a pole for back up, just in
case.   Some of those balloons can take a beating and
still hang around. I had one Qualitex balloon that even held up to a
steak knife, (ended up using a lighter)


I own the conwin system and used it one time....  I now use the gage to 
check the pressure in my tanks and the rest sits in a box in my workroom.  

Everyone from So Cal remember the installation Dinner at Swiss Park when the 
system didnt work and the boys were running around with pins on a pole?



SHOCKTUBE

The NoMatch Shocktube, is a thin hollow tubing with a light metal dust 
evenly distributed along the core. You punch a small hole in the tube to allow 
powder out to explode the balloon when you send a shockwave thru it. You punch 
the shock tube and tape it to the balloon. You continue running the tube to
the next balloon and so on, and then you bring the end of the tube to one
location and insert a Sure-Shot Shock Starter. When its time to detonate, you
use a low voltage hand blaster to start the starter, initiating the shock
wave. The balloons will all go off at once unless you have run different
lines. For multiple lines to detonate at different time, separate lines must
be run and each must be hooked up to its own hand blaster.

Shocktube works best in situations where there are lots of balloons in a row
(i.e. a Wall or for a whole string of balloons on a ceiling with streamers
inside that all go off at once and the streamers come down). 

A file describing shocktube, our most advanced product for exploding balloons,
can be found at:

http://www.theatrefx.com/shocktube.html

We also carry the old-fashioned "balloon squib" detonators.

http://www.thoseballoonpeople.com/shocktubeinfo.html


Rocky Toomey came up with an idea that was used Final
Night at IBAC 14. The ceiling was covered with 16in balloons all filled with 
Flutter Fetti and with nomatch-shock tube run to the balloons. On cue, the shock 
was sent thru the tube and the balloons "instantly dissolved" (I find these 
words make client less nervous) and dropped Flutter Fetti on the crowds below 
(nice effect, takes a while to rig). 


I am a devoted
Conwin exploder user, but I have to admit the shock tube (which is a
wire with gun powder in it, you punch holes in at the location you
attach to the balloon that you want to exploded, one small spark at one
end and BOOM). The big boom plus the easy set up makes it impossible
not to check into it.  




STINGER

The Stinger is a completely safe and reliable battery-operated detonator
which works with a radio remote control. The way this unit works is you attach
a Stinger to the balloon,  plug the stinger to the receiver, install the
balloon and the receiver where you want them, and that's it. There are no wires
to worry about or to run. When it's time to detonate, you press a button on
the radio remote transmitter and the balloons explode. You can set them off
all at once or separately by having them on different channels. 
The Stinger is best for one or multiple single balloons (i.e. a stuffed
balloon with confetti and smaller balloons on a ceiling).

I have had great success with electric balloon exploders.  I always use two
match head detonators per balloon (just in case one fails) and the placement of 
these should be on the equator of the balloon (in the middle) as this ensures the
balloon bursting as apposed to going down and not releasing it's contents.


What I (Bruce Walden) state, both in classes and on my videos, is that squibs or 
electric matches are unsafe. The concept with these devices is to burn a small
hole in the side of the balloon so it pops.  Unfortunately these methods can 
(although rarely) cause the balloon to catch on fire. There indeed have been a
few fires in the industry, including one of my own.  


When I first saw the stinger my initial reaction was: if it's hot enough to burn 
a hole, it's hot enough to catch it on fire. However, the stinger is a much more 
controlled device, and tests done by a government agency here in Canada said it 
was safe to use. Personally, I believe there is still a remote chance of fire... 
but there is risk associated with everything we do. My first choice for exploding 
balloons would be one of the pin systems. But if I needed a remote-controlled
device, I would give the stinger a try.


I personally use the Conwin system. But the remote detonator that the
stinger offers sure would save a lot of time.



SQUIBBS

    I use the squibs exclusively. I detonate with a 9 volt battery charged
hand held detonator that I bought from One Balloon Place back in 1989. I have
never had any trouble with fire.
    I tape (with clear tape) the head to the side of the  3' or 6' and I leave
an air passage under the head of the squib, because once I had a squib go off
but the tape sealed the hole.
    Another time a dancer took a swing at one of the balloons and loosened a
squib from the balloon.  So now I secure the wire with a 2" square piece of 
tape to act as a strain relief for the wire, and then leave leave slack in the 
last few inches of squib wire before that I tape the head.


Most of us who have been around for a while have used squibs to explode 
jumbo balloons in past. But (soapbox time) we NEVER use them now.

Squibs work by burning a small hole in the balloon. Most of the time the
balloon just explodes and that's all. But, once in a while (and the kicker
is nobody knows when), the squib can actually catch the balloon on fire.
Latex burns for a long time (think tire fire) and is not something you want
to be involved with.

To the best of my knowledge it has nothing to do with the amount or type
(battery vs. electricity) of power used to set it off. If the squib can burn
the latex, it can catch it on fire. It's unfortunately as simple as that.

Squibs have been responsible for fires in the industry - including one my
company was responsible for - and there have been lawsuits (luckily all it
cost me was a major client's annual business).

Please, for the health of your customers, your business, and especially the
industry, DO NOT USE SQUIBS (or any other method that employs heat) to
detonate balloons. There are other methods out there - Conwin's pneumatic
system, shock tube, destroyers (although these have been discontinued), the
Stinger, the Viper, and several other homemade methods (including a
promising new one in Australia that may make it over to North America). If
budget is tight, a long stick with a pin on it is foolproof.



>Squibs work by burning a small hole in the balloon. Most of the time the
>balloon just explodes and that's all. But, once in a while (and the kicker
>is nobody knows when), the squib can actually catch the balloon on fire.

Nobody knows when?  I thought I (Nathan Kahn, Theatre Effects) did, 
maybe I'm wrong...

Squibs don't catch balloons on fire when they're fired according to the
squib manufacturers instructions, i.e. with a battery, or with a
"hand-blaster", "detonator box", or whatever you prefer to call those
little battery powered capacitor-discharge boxes.  

Squibs can catch balloons on fire when they're fired with 120V AC.

If anybody knows of a case where battery-powered squib ignition caused
balloons to catch on fire, I'd like to hear about it.



This year we used squibs for the New Year.  In one hotel we ended up doing 
30 balloons this way.  We were there at midnight just to make sure that 
everything went off and they went off perfectly.  The best part was the 
rigging.  We went in on the 29th and rigged the balloons and they still went 
off without a hitch on the 31st.  It took us about 2 hours to rig to the 
ceilings of all the areas that the balloons went into and then it took Ted 
another hour to make little boxes to plug them into.  The boxes cost about 
$10.00 to make, looked professional and had little buttons and switches on 
them.



Here, we use electrical squibbs exclusively. This is why: For long
runs of rigging and any multiples of latex over 3ft they deliver the
needed power to burst a giant latex wall, taut or not. Lacey's
recent post pointed out this very important consideration.
Pneumatics, as they exist now, just don't cut any serious
application of exploders. No-match shocktubes sound interesting but
until we can field test it with 10 or more jumbos on long runs, I
won't trust it to deliver when the cue calls for power.

Late last year, Bruce Walden, expressed concern about a fire he had
experienced using squibbs. Nathan Kahn responded to his concerns and
pointed out that used correctly and rigged properly with the right
power source they are safe and do not require any permit by the fire
marshal. Although they are "exploding balloons" (yes, we will always
call them this), they are not regulated explosives. They pose less
threat than a candle, cigarette or a lighter and even a balloon
light socket in the neck of a 40".

That being said, no matter what system you are using the desired
effect is not always a concurrent detonation. More often than not we
have requests for
consecutive or delayed detonations. Nathan at Theatre Effects has
promised a versatile sequencer but we have yet to see it.

Here's a way we have found to get any instant random detonation
sequence. Theatre Effects sells a UFK ignition system which will
power up to 2 squibbs at up to 150ft run length using 22 AWG cord.
These systems require only 2 AA batteries and cost far less than LV
Handblasters. Moreover, the firing switch is a single switch and has
a convienent mounting plate. We have taken these switches and custom
mounted 20 of them on a portable wood panel. When all the leads from
your separate circuits are set, you can control the sequencing
combination to your own custom fit. People love the "rat-a-tat-tat"
firework effect of consecutives.

Always use fresh squibbs. Some hand held blasters tell you that
batteries should last through multiple detonations... don't chance
it, always use a fresh set of batteries whether 9 volt or double AA.
I remember my former employer, years and years ago, sweat dripping
down his head, pushing and pushing "fire" at the cue but an old
battery just couldn't power up his squibbs.



A SEQUENTIAL EXPLODING BALLOON PROBLEM

We need help figuring out a job with exploding balloons.  The customer wants
12 three foot balloons stuffed with confetti to explode one after the other,
I'm not sure how far apart but I think about 10-15 seconds.  They have to be
detonated from the floor, and they will be approximately 20 feet in the air.
I have the old Conwin detonaters, but not enough and I only have one box to
detonate them with.  I know that there is a way to do this, but I don't know
what it is.  With the new Conwin system I would have to attach each balloon 
to a seperate tank to have them explode separately.  And did I mention that I
won't be there to detonate them, so any system has to be easy to operate?  I
didn't say it was an easy question, did I?

This sounds like a job for good old fashioned Balloon Squibs.  I still
recommend them to my customers if they are only exploding one or two
balloons.  (I recommend our shocktube system for exploding a bunch of
balloons.)

Some people are afraid to use Balloon Squibs.  Here's why.  1) If you run 120V
through them they catch on fire.  2) Some people (including local fire/police
officials) think that you need a BATF explosives license to use them.

Here are your solutions.  1) Don't use 120V to set them off.  (Use 12 volts or
less like you're supposed to.)  2) Carry a photocopy of a letter I have from
the BATF explaining that these are not regulated explosives.  (They are
"common" explosives, which are not regulated by BATF, and do not reguire a
BATF license to use.)

We make a $100 12-shot firing box.  It's not in our catalog because we rarely
sell them.  You hook it up to a 12V lantern battery, and then run zip cord
from the firing box terminal strip to your squibs (one or two taped on each
balloon).  You will need to run a separate zip cord wire to each balloon.  On
the firing box, there is a 12 position selector switch and a firing button.
Select #1, press fire, select #2, press fire, etc.

This is how I would do it if it were me.  Feel free to call me at
1-800-791-7646 ext. 203 if you need more instruction.  Please excuse this
shameless plug, and now back to your regularly scheduled program . . .

Nathan Kahn at Theatre Effects writes:
We are working on a sequencing controller with a speed control, where
you press one button and then it goes bang-pause-bang-pause-bang up to 25
times. We'll probably introduce it at IBAC 1999.


I just taught a class on exploders with Conwin's new system.
You can do this with the Conwin system.  All you need to do is run a separate
tube to each balloon.  Attach one tube to your detonator box, (which is really
just a regulator which, when you press the button, allows the gas to flow).
On cue, press your button, and the balloon will pop.  Now you have 10 to 15
seconds to detach tube #1 and attach tube #2 (label the ends of your tubes).
It takes about 5 seconds to switch tubes if you practice.




ALTERNATIVE METHODS

At a recent wedding, the bride wanted an exploding balloon during the first 
dance.  Since I don't feel comfortable with any of the exploding deviscs out on 
the market, we opted to fill 36-inch balloons with 5-inch balloons.  The parents 
of the couple all came out on the dance floor to congratulate them, and the mother 
of the bride carried the wand and broke the 36 inch balloon.  This was a total 
surprise to everyone except the bride and her mother.  Who knows . . . we may 
just start a tradition. 


It is not extremely high tech, but I had a job which needed a remote control 
exploder.  I rigged a RC Airplane servo to a sharp needle and attached the servo, 
receiver and 9 volt battery to the electrical conduit with duct tape.  Servo 
had about 3/4 inch throw.  Needle popped the 4 foot balloon just fine.  It was 
in among a lot of crepe paper decorating the hall so there was no worry about 
FIRE, Extra tubing or Nitrogen pressure from the system.  Quick simple, not 
cheap but then I already had the servo's, transmitter and receiver since I 
fly model RC Helicopters as a hobby. You can make do remotely with a lot of 
hand built stuff, especially if most of what you do is special effects as 
opposed to traditional decorating.


Here's a neat and cheap way to explode balloons. Drill a hole in the bottom of
your pole (the one you use for your columns).  Run your fishing wire thru the
pole and tie it to the 3 foot balloon. Tie your other end of your line to
a weight. (If using more than one column, put some straight pins through a 
velcro strip and tape it to the ceiling above your 3 footer.  Also, make sure 
you take into account any wind that could blow your balloon away from your pins.) 
When it's time to explode your balloons, cut your strings. Up the balloons go, 
as high as they can and then bang. No one has figured my trick out yet.
You also can do this down a church aisle. Take those screw in o-ring
hooks (tape them of course).  Hide them under the runner,one in each
location you want an exploding balloon.  Run your line through the hooks,
looping the line twice at each hook.  Wrap your line (do not tie) around a brick 
at the front end of your aisle and one at the back. Then tape a second o-ring hook 
to the side of the bench. Put your balloon bouquets on each o-ring hook as you 
normally would (as always making sure your hooks are covered).  Tie all balloons 
except the one balloon you want to explode. Run that balloon line through the 
bench hook, and tie it to the fishing line you have running under the runner. 
Line up those balloons with straight pins on the ceiling. ( I make an  X style 
out of pins and out of those paint sticks you get free when you buy paint, painted 
the same color as the ceiling). As the bride and groom kiss, start to pull the
line.  The front brick will turn over and release your line. As they walk toward 
you, pull your string, so that the balloon just in front of them slides off your 
line and lifts to the ceiling and bang. One right after another. I did this at a 
Bridal show Sunday and every was in awe. It sure is messy, but it is just so much 
fun to watch. I even impressed myself. Give it a try, and spend that $250 (that 
you would spend on a exploding kit) on yourself. You deserve it.




TOMATO CAGE
The original "tomato cage" system by Rocky Toomey is still probably the 
most classic and most reliable of all the existing systems out there.


Rocky writes: Debby Levi asked for a way to explode 12 balloons at different 
times! AND feel that it is safe enough for an amateur (non-balloon person) 
to do the exploding!

Here is one solution that is very easy and safe. I thought this one up
back in the early 80's before I started to experiment with other
techniques.  I call it the "Tomato Cage Exploder"

I am not going to go in to great details, but if you are creative enough I
think you can figure out this method pretty easy.

Go to your local garden shop and find the round tomato cage. These are used
to grow tomatos and most are made from a heavy gage wire. They stand about
4 ft tall and are in a cone shape. Four long pieces of wire connected by
four rings of wire. You will need one for each balloon you want to explode.

At the small end of the cone use a wire cutter and cut your four straight
lenghts of the cage just below the third ring. Cut these at an angle to
make four very sharp points.

With the four points pointing down, and two rings holding them together
figure a way to attach these to your ceiling.  I have used many methods
depending on the ceiling. 

In the middle of this contraption secure a small ring, carabiner, or pully.
(Often I have used the discarded part of the cage to make an X and tape it
to the small ring and secure the ring to the cross section of the ring.

Attach a line to your 3 ft exploder.  Thread this line through the ring in
the center of the cage and take this line the whole way over to where you
want to detonate the balloons. (You may want to add an additional ring,
carabiner, or pully on the ceiling just above where you will detonate from
so you have a straight pull.)

Like I said, its simple.  When the time comes, pull your line which pulls
the balloon UP towards your tomato cage. The balloon reaches the cage and
one of the four sharp points on the wire will pop the balloon.

Some Tips
        1. Add some weight to your 3ft balloon, like a sand weight attached
to the Knot. This will give tention to the line and take out the slack.
        2. Make sure your cage is secure!  You don't want it coming
down!!!!
        3. Be creative, decorate your cage to make it look attractive, but
be sure your four points are exposed. 

In the early days I did as many as twenty of these at a time. Still today I
use this method when the situation dictates the need. 

I hope this simple discription stimulates some creative thought on the
alternatives to other methods out there!



STUFFING EXPLODING BALLOONS
Here is a method I developed for stuffing a 6' balloon. I don't know if any one 
else is doing it this way or not.  This is quite a long process to do each one.
First, stuff the 6' balloon with (40) five inch balloons in your stuffing machine.  
Then take the balloon out and add the (60) eleven inch balloons one at a time
by holding the 6' balloon over the nozzle of your air inflator and poking the 
uninflated balloon in the nozzle of the big one just like you were doing a double 
bubble. Inflate the 11' balloon to about 10" and tie it off by grasping the 
nozzle of the balloon you just blew up inside and poke it in after tying it. 
Repeat 60 times while adding air to the big one once in a while.  Stay away 
from sharp objects or you will have to start all over. Buy extra 6' balloons to 
be safe.  People interested in this exploding balloon thing should push the 
exploding balloon button near the bottom of this site:
http://wizzie.artist.webjump.com  



>I have an insider and I must be a real ditz because I cannot get the hang of 
>it.  I finally gave up.  Do you have tricks to make it easier? 


here are some tips for best results with Conwin's Insider Balloon Stuffing Tool.

INSERTING ACCENTS: Add accents, such as confetti, silk flowers, feathers, etc.,
after the large balloon has been filled with small balloons. Remove the large
balloon from the Insider holding tool and insert the accents directly in to 
the neck of the balloon. Make sure that you remove all sharp edges from anything 
you insert into the balloon.

TYING TIP:  When tying the smaller balloons stretch the neck straight out (not
upwards or downwards).  Place 2 fingers above the stretched neck and rotate
your hand one full revolution to create a loop.  Tuck the neck roll into the
loop and release the neck of the balloon into the yellow flap of the insider. 
The instruction sheet has easy-to-follow pictures to show you how to use the tool.


I use the "Insider" regularly for filling 3' latex, and have a wonderful time with it.

For a 3'  I put the first two finger of each hand inside the neck and roll
it down a bit and then stretch it around the disc.  It is important to
stretch the balloon evenly so that the bulb of the balloon is centered to
the center of  the disc.  So that the flap can open and close without
obstruction of the neck.

Use the hose over a powerful (red bell) air blower to inflate the 3'  (this
process must be repeated several times during the stuffing process so keep
it handy)

I take the inflater/gun and hook it up to my dual sizer and set it on .03 ?
(I think) and put a 5" on holding it with one hand with the other hand
holding the gun, then insert it into the 3' step on the pedal, inflate, pull
the neck of the 5" balloon so it pulls back and shuts the flap on the
inflator disc. 

Then the hand with the gun puts it down and comes back to twist the neck of
the balloon and do a knot. Then I pull back on the 5" just a bit and release
it and it "pops" into the 3' and the flap shuts and I am ready for the next
one.

It takes a little getting used to but should be able to be mastered within
the first 20 or so balloons.  The Insider lets me stuff a full gross of 5"
plus confetti in a 3' .  When I"m done I just open the flap on the disc let
the remaining air out (if not working with helium) then carefully roll the
neck off the disc and move 3' to a good bag for storage until the event.

If working with helium for the 5" as soon as you have inflated all your 5"
you must inflate the 3' and seal.  If the event is still not for a bit I
just clip the neck shut so I can open it once we are on site to refill. (
After I clip the neck shut) and shove it in a bag carefully and attach the
bag to a dobi weight for storage/transport.

for confetti I take a smallish stack and fan it and then poke it inside the
flap.

The only thing is the opening on the disc is small so you can't get silk
flowers in and feathers are tough to get in too.  Maybe a second disc can be
made to work with this so you can get a little bit bigger stuff inside.



    I explode 6' balloons now and then. I put 40 five inch balloons in the 6
footer with my stuffing machine. Then I add 60 more 11" balloons and confetti
with my air inflator one at a time. This makes 100 total balloons and looks about
1/2 full.  I add a big bow at the bottom and inflate with helium or fill with air.
What happens to the 6 footer?  I hardly ever see more than two pieces. 
Some times only one piece with a hole in it.
These 6' balloons can be purchased at Granger Balloons USA in Mooers Forks,
NY  518-236-7044   Canada 514-273-3000


 The risk is if it pops prematurely due to vandalism 
or manufacturing flaw you've lost a day's work and "Blown" the event.



Does anyone know a formula for the maximum number of spheres of diameter X which 
will fit inside a sphere of diameter Y?  Applied, this means how many gumballs 
in a gumball machine, or how many 5" inflated to 4" latex fit in a 3' inflated 
to 30" latex.  It involves how they pack.  Let's assume we've optimized the 
packing matrix.  It also involves, I'm not sure how, the fact that an 10" sphere 
and a 15" sphere will hold the same number of 9" spheres (one).  We will also 
assume a perfect inflexible sphere for calculating purposes.
Good Luck, and show all work.

Crystallographers deal with packing of atoms (usually thought of as hard
spheres for this type of thing) and so you can borrow what they've done
when it comes to optimizing the packing.  The most dense way that nature
has found to pack equal size hard spheres is a configuration called Face
Centered Cubic where there is a sphere centered at each corner of an
imaginary cube, as well as a sphere centered at the midpoint of each side
of the imaginary cube.  The (volume-based) Packing Factor for this arrangement 
is 0.74 which means that 74% of the available volume is occupied by the spheres.

I thought about your question for a few minutes, and quickly realized that
while the bulk packing is simple, it's the "edge conditions" will kill you
- fitting the hard spheres in at the periphery of the bulk packing which
fills the sphere, and locating the bulk packing in such a way that the
space taken up by little spheres is optimized, is a mathematical nightmare.

Crystallographers have a standard answer for what the packing structure is
at any crystal _surface_ (where the regular packing structure breaks down);
they usually say  "Surfaces are very complicated"   :-)  

I emailed your question to a mathematics PhD friend who I used to teach
with.  His reply (translated for normal humans) was that:

a) mathematicians can tell you a formula (here I'm using "formula" to mean a
general, closed-form solution you could plug any set of numbers into and
get an immediate answer using only algebra) for the best way to pack
smaller circles inside a big circle (an area problem), but

b) no one has ever been able to solve the problem of the best way to pack 
small spheres into a big sphere (the volume analogue).  

(Also, though it may be just semantics since no one knows of a more dense 
packing method, my friend said it's never even been mathematically proven 
that a Face Centered Cubic arrangement is the most dense method for bulk 
packing of spheres!)  The only way to approach it would be to write a 
(VERY involved) case-specific computer program that would have to be 
re-run each time you changed sphere diameters.

It's good that you phrased your question "Does anyone know a formula..."
According to my friend, the answer is "NO!"  (That's probably why they
always run guessing games for how many gumballs are in the jar  :-)

Of course, a high estimate (upper bound) could be calculated from this 
formula:

                       0.74 * (volume of big sphere)
# of little spheres = -------------------------------
                        volume of one little sphere


HANGING 3 FOOTERS 

At a QBN meeting, we were shown the new 3' Qualatex balloon 
with the 2000 printed on it upside-down!  I just wanted everyone to
know that this is available for those exploding balloons!  
Simply tie the neck of the balloon to the ceiling


The majority of the halls here are "commercial buildings" and don't have a 
nice ceiling.  A suggestion for those of you who suffer with these wacky 
20-30ft "ceilings" with metal cross bars etc.-  if you have the cross bars, 
I've found that using a plastic cabinet child-lock (the things that keep the 
kids out of the pots and pans) work great for hanging balloons etc.  They 
are cheap (I get "tough" ones from the Dollar Store for about $0.75 CAN) and 
easily removable- push the button and slide off.


Another way is to use the Conwin "Adhesive Balloon Holders". Apply after
inflating the 3ft balloon. As an added precaution, get your cool melt glue gun
and apply liberal amount around the edges of the holder where it touches the
latex. Not as dependable as the belly button technique.

Another pretty good adhesive product ..... AJ Ganz "Balloon Stick'ems".

Finally .... Cut off the neck of a deflated 16" latex. About 2 inches of it. Same
colour as the 3 footer.
Make 4 vertical cuts towards the rolled lip with scissors about 1.5" long. Tie
mono around (or through) lip of latex piece now. After 3 footer is inflated,
apply liberal amount of cool glue to end of 3 footer. Now glue on the latex neck
piece to the 3 footer. The 4 pieces or flaps of latex will spread to give plenty
of glueing surface. You now have a false neck at the other end of the 3 footer
with mono already tied.

All 3 methods mentioned would cause me to worry a little. You are relying on
adhesive in all cases. I sleep best when the belly button technique is employed.
In fact, in the instance that originally raised this question .... I would have
tried my best to have the 3 footers specially printed neck up rather than try to
make the most of a balloon printed for helium fill.

some of the printed 3 footers available with the print reversed.
That is they are printed so they can be hung by the neck.


for the belly button method, what do you suggest i use as the "button"? 
Use a one cent coin or a shirt button


we go to the local fabric store and buy actual big plain white 
buttons (but in a last minute pinch I have used a "washer" and a small air 
filled latex (a five incher blown to 1 1/2 inches). The most important 
tip I can offer is this:

When you stuff the button into the balloons, before you wrap the mono 
line, take a 11 inch latex of the same color, cut off the neck and stick on 
top of the 3 footer to offer extra padding.  That way if the mono line cuts 
into the latex (from air conditioner blowing it , fans, etc..) it 
will cut into the extra piece of latex and not your 3 footer. 
Remember to use thick wired ribbon to complete the look!


When hanging the 3 footers I would suggest using the clear packing
tape. Certainly it should hold a 3 footer with no problem. If not then use
duct tape. Use some ribbon if the tape will show.


I used two adhesive balloon holders (without using extra glue) 
and placed them about two inches apart.  I placed the balloon in an area that 
has a pretty good breeze going when the windows are open so that it sways 
constantly.    Its been hanging for over 24 hrs and still counting.



>Anyone out there with suggestions on how to tie a 3' and 5' balloons.

G'Day from Downunder,
We have the staff use rubber bands. Two reasons ...
1. Should the balloon be filled with helium, (and accidentally released) the rubber band
is biodegradable.
2. The rubber band is easy to remove in the event the balloon can be reused later for a
sand weight or otherwise. A Knot is difficult to untie.




EXPLODING CENTERPIECES
GLITZZZ Super Sparklers by J-Tech 800-321-6221 out of Boca Raton, Florida.
This is a wireless exploding device that is a giant sparkler. I had the 
pleasure of seeing it in action at Event Solutions Expo Gala Dinner in 
Baltimore this summer. A picture of it is on the cover of Event Solutions 
November 1997 issue.
Each giant sparkler was placed in about 35 floral centerpieces and all ignited 
simultaneously (and can be programmed in sequence, too) with one command from 
a hand held remote. The huge sparkling emission lasted for about 40 seconds at 
every table and completely lit up the large darkened ballroom. It was a VERY 
impressive display that did not do any damage to the table cloths (spandex 
material), the flower centerpieces, paper programs on the table or the guests. 
It is also a very expensive undertaking, as I believe each wireless and 
reusable detonator is about $100 and the sparkler cartridges are about $12 to 
$17 each and the remote is several hundred dollars, too. I also believe the 
setup is available to rent, as well. If you have a customer with some $$ 
to "burn" this would truly be a "dynamite" effect for them. 



EXPLODING WALLS

> I want to attach
> exploding devices to the balloons, and at the magic hour mash the button,
> pop the balloons and reveal a second panel of balloons displaying "2000",
> backlit by a flood light.  I can see two possible was to do this.
1. Two layers of SDS frames (my summary)
2. One precision wall 1999 & 2000 wall of SDS behind (my summary)

Linda, there are quite a few workable scenarios for your explosion and
switch from 1999 to 2000.  Here is a dozen of them plus one just for fun and
to stretch your imagination a little further.  Be sure to test your
favorites before you commit to one.  Then be sure to test/train your crew
with that one before the event.

(1)    Use only one SDS framing layer, but attach the 1999 layer to the
front of the frame instead of placing the 1999 balloons in the frame. Put
the 2000 in the frame.  You will save a lot of money on framing and
eliminate the view of an empty 1999 frame as well.  It will also be a lot
less work than doing all those garlands for a precision wall front layer.
    You could attach the 1999 balloons at the intersections of the frame. If
you push the 2000 balloons a little extra distance toward the front, they
will help nest the 1999 layer and keep them from blowing around too much.
Test your explosion system to make sure the exploding 1999 balloons will not
set off balloons in the 2000 layer as well.

(2)   If you like this general idea but want a little more security in the
front layer, use one of the Rouse Matrix System grids for the front layer.
The switch from the honeycomb RMS to the square grid SDS will make the 1999
to 2000 switch even more dramatic. If all your balloons explode as planned,
you can simply allow the RMS to collapse. If they do not all explode you can
simply pull the Matrix, with any remaining balloons, off stage or lay it
down flat on the floor.  This approach will be less work and require fewer
balloons than the precision wall.

(3)    You could use RMS instead of the SDS suggested in (1) or in (2).

You could also achieve your explosion and switch other ways.



DISSOLVING WALLS

(4)    You could use one or two graphic layers made of strings of
Link-O-Loons.  You would need outer framing, but the balloons are tied to
each other to form the graphics.  When they explode, there is no inner
framework left to show.

(5)    You could use Marvin Hardy's Jiffy strips to create similar vertical
strings of balloons for your graphics.  You would not have to worry about
one balloon breaking prematurely and disrupting a whole string of balloons.
You could have the strips fall to the floor after the explosion. (That is,
drop the front layer, if you choose to use the same system for both layers.)

(6)    Depending on your situation, (indoors or out, high ceilings or low,
high winds or low, etc.) you might make the front layer of balloons float
away (after some explosion?). Or you might have the bottom of the 1999 layer
float (or be lifted) up to a horizontal position, like a page turning.

(7)    In another variation, you might have the  2000 fold or slide down in
front of the 1999.

(8)    In still another related variation, have 1999 in balloon letters as
an overlay on a solid balloon wall background.  Explode and/or drop or raise
the letters.  Switch from front lighting to back lighting on the wall.
Directly behind the balloon wall have colored, translucent silhouettes of
the numbers 2000.

just to stretch your imagination a little further, here are some
exotic approaches you might try if you are feeling really adventuresome:

(13)    Create a wall of columns of balloons, in which balloons are stacked
on each other to make the columns.  Pull very tight strands of monofilament
between a bottom frame and a top frame.  You will probably need six lines
per stack of balloons.  Pull two of the lines apart far enough to insert one
balloon at a time.  Instead of exploding all the balloons you could cut some
of the lines or let them go slack and have the balloons fall to the floor or
float away.

(14)  I have done a similar effect using helium filled 4 pack
garland (attach your 1999 with being part of the wall or attached).
First if you can't screw into the platform then run a board across the
full length of the platform where the bottom of your first wall will be.
Screw a hook into your platform at one end (where one side of your wall
will start.). Knot mono line to this hook. Then you start to attach your
garland. 
Take your first garland (again the piece designed for that side) 
and tie a loop at the bottom of its center string. 
Run the mono line through this loop. 
Screw a second hook into the platform at the outer edge
of the garland and run the mono line through this hook. 
Take your next garland, put the loop at the bottom of its center string, 
put your mono line through the loop then add another hook and run the 
line through that.
Be sure to keep your mono line tight. 
Repeat these steps until you have finished your front
wall. When you reach the final hook do not tie off.  Instead run the mono line away
from your wall and knot it to something. At midnight, just cut the mono
line. Your wall will float away leaving your 2000. Once it floats up it
lays flat on the ceiling.  So if you feel you need extra support for your
wall you can tie the garlands together just like any other balloon wall.
   I have also attached air columns to the ceiling and raised them to
reveal a second item. This works great but you need really high ceilings
in other to not distract too much from your finial presentation.

(15) We did a Releasing Wall once where a mono line was stretched across the
floor of the stage. We made up about 15  bunches of 12 balloons with 2 in
each layer, helium filled of course. The ribbons all had a loop at the end
which the mono line was threaded through (instead of tied to an anchor). When
the mono was tensioned really tight and the bunches were pushed together it
created a nice wall.
The mono line was cut and the bunches came apart and everything floated to
the ceiling and the product behind was revealed, just like magic. Most ( I
stress most) of the ribbons didn't tangle so there was now a ceiling full of
ribboned balloons, all with little loops at the end.

It takes a bit of prep work to get the loops on the ribbons at the right
length and set up for it to all look neat but it is simple method which
creates a smart look.



LIGHTED WALLS
(9)    If you use a aperture frames like SDS or RMS you could do something
as simple as projecting the graphics onto the balloon wall from the front or
the rear with special templates in front of spotlights or with slide
projectors.  Explode something else, like large balloons that surround the
graphics or large balloons with confetti over the stage or audience.
Simultaneously switch projectors or spot lights to 2000. Maybe project
different color/s around the 2000 as well
    If you have the budget, you could even do this with animated projections
through moving lights, video projections, or film projections.

(10)    You could do something similar with a balloon wall made of strings
of balloons like Link-O-Loons or Jiffy Strips.

(11)    If you are willing to consider this general approach of lighting for
the switch, you might use a solid backing for your single layer of balloons.
    Foam core, corrugated plastic sheets like Coroplast and Corex, regular
cardboard or even the old Rouse Designer Panels (if you can find them) can
be used to hold your balloons in place.  Some of this backing material will
be less expensive than some of the framing systems suggested earlier, but
will require more effort in planning and installation.
    Project from the front or use strings of miniature Christmas lights
(beside and/or behind the balloons) to spell out your numbers.  Use separate
strings of lights in different colors for the 1999 and the 2000. Switch
power to the 2000 string along with the explosion.
    There are a variety of techniques for attaching balloons to these solid
surfaces.  The Rouse Designer Panels are corrugated board panels with
special holes and slits for attaching balloons.
    On the standard corrugated board, corrugated plastic and foam core
panels there are several options for attaching balloons.  You can use Velcro
type (hook and loop) fasteners.  You can use adhesives like rubber cement,
pan glue, or spray glue.  You can pull the neck of the balloon through the
board using a knitting needle.  You can use double sided tape or rolled up
circles of tape with the adhesive side out.
    The strings of lights can be taped to the front side of the backing
sheets.  The three sheets mentioned, however, are soft enough and thin
enough to punch holes through them and push the lights through from the
rear.
    You could even switch to pegboard and pull the balloon necks through the
predrilled holes.  Use Kwikie Klips, balloon tying discs or even paper clips
to keep the necks from pulling back through the holes.

(12)    Strings of lights will also work well with RMS or SDS frames.  Just
pinch the lights between the balloons and the frames.  I only had one string
out of hundreds of strings of miniature lights I have worked with that got
hot enough to pop balloons in such a situation.  But, you might be wise to
test yours before the event.


MB 12/13/95
MB 12/22/95
SKB 01/13/97
SKB 12/23/97
MB 7/20/99

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