Balloon light

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Maintenance SNCF. Professional lighting by Airstar. 2015.

Balloon lights (also called lighting balloons) are a specialized type of luminaire used primarily for lighting in the motion picture industry, night highway construction, incident management, and public security applications such as police checkpoints. These luminaires typically consist of one or more high-intensity lamps surrounded by a translucent fabric balloon. The balloon acts as a diffuser to soften and disperse the light. The upper portion of the balloon sometimes has a reflective inner coating to direct more of the light downward. Some commercial products use a blower to expand the balloon, while others have an umbrella-like internal wire frame. The device is essentially an industrial version of a Japanese paper lantern.

The lighting balloon was first patented in Germany on October 26, 1924 (patent #427894). Until the 1990s, several patents were issued, although the application was utilized very little in Western countries. The lighting balloon industry has been greatly modernized by the company Airstar.


Airstar is inventor and world leader in lighting balloons. Airstar manufactures lighting balloons of variable sizes, high powered, inflated with air or helium. Their concept was totally innovative : homogeneous light, glare-free, shadowless, high-covering power at 360 degrees, mobile and 100% diffuse light. The balloons are made of envelopes custom designed fabrics coated with specific treatments. Foldable, easy to transport and set up, the balloons do not require many technicians. Airstar is currently working on all markets : events, rescue, law enforcement, construction, road works, architecture, sports, fashion, etc.

Forum-des-Halles. Paris 2016. Crystal by Airstar.

Founded in 1994 by Pierre Chabert, Airstar immediately worked on the international markets, giving to the company one of its main distinctivenesses: the international vision and the open-minded attitude. Today, Airstar is represented by over 120 distributors and 13 subsidiaries in more than 40 countries all over the world. Definitively, Airstar is a network that never sleeps. Thanks to the creativity and the visionary mind of our founder, the permanent awareness of markets needs and the colossal budget dedicated to R&D, Airstar has satisfied thousands of professional customers, whom several are the most requiring of their respective markets: James Cameron for the Titanic (Motion Picture Industry) who was the first big customer, and in any order, Audi, BMW, Disneyland Resorts, the US army, French firemen, Rescuers, Dior, Schneider, Quiksilver, etc…

Titanic Movie Cinema shooting. Airstar Lighting balloons.

From the shooting of the feature film Titanic, to the construction of the subway in Seoul, from the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony in Sydney, to the rescue at Ground Zero, Airstar balloons continue to be seen everywhere providing the necessary products for these types of major events.

Rescue. Train accident. Professional lighting by Airstar.

Airstar is able to manufacture and distribute tailor-made inflatable structures all over the planet. Airstar didn’t satisfy with only being a lighting manufacturer; our aim has always been to provide products as good as possible. Only 10 months after its creation, Airstar received thanks to Pierre Chabert an award for technological innovation for its Lunix. 3 years later, the Motion Picture Industry as a whole recognized the contribution made by Airstar to their industry with the Cinec Award 1998. Pierre Chabert is on a regularly basis quoted as one of the main personnalities on Grenoble’s industrial field. In 2001, he was elected personnality of the year by Intermedia event magazine for its contribution to the event industry. In 2003, the Motion Picture Industry recognized again that the introduction of the lighting balloon in the industry was a great progress and Airstar received an OSCAR Academy Technical Award® for ” Innovation in the Film Industry “. In 2004, Siemens recognized Airstar as an innovative and quality company due to the introduction of a new balloon, the Pixocom. As a reward of 12 years of hard-working and innovation, Pierre Chabert was elected man of the year by the Press Club of Grenoble and Isere in 2006, confirming that Airstar can be recognized as a trustworthy company.

Fashion show. Grand Palais. Paris. Crystal by Airstar.

Today, Airstar is world leader in designing and producing inflatable technologies for all industries, from Lighting to Aerospace or Architecture. Regarding the Aerospace Business Unit, Airstar Aerospace produces tethered balloons for intelligence and surveillance, stratospheric balloons, airships and all inflatable technologies. Over the years Airstar Aerospace acquired a strong expertise in the design and production of aircraft systems. The know-how lies in the assembly of tight helium woven complex, payload integration and optronics as well as the related services: engineering, operating on site, operational maintenance, etc. The aerospace activity is ISO 9001 certified. Airstar Aerospace is one of Airstar’s subsidiaries.

Airlight Industries[edit]

In 1995, entrepreneur Julian Del Valle of Newport Beach, California discovered AIRSTAR lighting balloons at a private event demonstration in Los Angeles. He created Airlight Industries to become the first distributor of Airstar lighting balloons in the United States with the intent of using them in the film industry. Del Valle represented Airlight Industries with Airstar products at Show Biz Expo 1995. At the show, he met director of photography and gaffer Tony Nakonechnyj, and supplied him with AIRSTAR balloons for Disturbing the Peace. That was the first use of a lighting balloon on a motion picture set in the United States. It was immediately followed by supplying all lighting balloons on the set of Titanic, aiding Russell Carpenter [1] in winning the Academy Award for Cinematography.

Available Light[edit]

In 1996, Available Light[permanent dead link] becomes the first company to introduce lighting balloons to the film and television market on the East Coast of the US. Available Light also decided to require operators for their balloons, becoming the first company in the United States to do this. In making this decision, Available Light created the category of Lighting Balloon Technician. They choose Airstar balloons, and introduce them to the East Coast market in film, television and commercials. The business is a perfect compliment to the company that is an industry leader in specialized lighting for these markets.


Tripod-mounted balloon light in a construction application.
Tripod-mounted balloon light with generator at a railway construction site.
Tripod-mounted balloon light in an incident management application.

In 1998 German based Noelle IUT GmbH developed (next to its air-inflated systems) a patented spring-loaded 'umbrella-style' balloon light called Powermoon® [2]. Looking to serve industries which are known for their tough work environments and rough treatments of tools (Construction, Fire Rescue EMS, Military, Law Enforcement, Farming etc.), Powermoon® mechanical balloon lights differ from air-inflated system in that the balloon inflation is realized with springs that open and close the balloon cover strictly mechanically, making it a reliable solution while offering the same glare-free and shadow-diffused light quality known from air-inflated systems. Quickly becoming a real alternative and eventually market leader in the European market, Powermoon® [3] Enterprises Ltd incorporated in the US in 2005, distributing its technology from Atlanta GA to all of North and Central America.

With its focus on reliability in rough work environments, Powermoon® in 2012 also was the first balloon light manufacturer to offer balloon lights equipped with high-powered LED (light-emitting diode) lighting systems which were able to compete with traditional bulb and lighting technologies in the ability to cover large areas. Not only was LED technology much more reliable and durable in rough work environments, but it also offered higher efficiency, better light quality and closer to daylight color rendering (5500K). Since LED allowed for usage on DC (direct current) and AC (alternating current) systems, Powermoon® decided to introduce a shift in paradigm by offering high-powered lighting systems on AC as well as DC, making LED balloon lights available for usage on all types of DC battery-supported systems (trucks, construction machinery, EMS vehicles) as well as all AC power systems (main outlets, generators etc.). Offering availability of this amount of area lighting for DC supported vehicles and machinery earned Powermoon® in 2014 the award "Asphalt Contractor's Top 30 Editor's Choice Products" [4]

Sourcemaker, Inc.[edit]

Peter Girolami purchased Airlight Industries in 2001 and reopened as Sourcemaker, Inc with the goal of creating custom lighting balloons for the film industry. Girolami rented the purchased lighting balloons but experienced difficulties purchasing replacement parts from Airstar because of bad payments. Girolami then began to manufacture his own replacement parts. He researched new materials and laminates to create a softer quality of light that is UV protected to prevent yellowing of the balloon envelopes. He also developed the cube and rectangle-shaped lighting balloons with new durable materials and the first helium-tight internal reflector to help control ambiance on film sets. The new shape allowed the cinematographer and gaffer to black out any side by attaching lightweight materials. Gaffer Russ Engels used the first cube-shaped lighting balloon.

Novo Lighting Ltd.[edit]

Novo Lighting Ltd was founded in 2012 by Dylan Paul and Joern Novotny in Vancouver BC Canada. Novo Lighting provides balloon lights in tube, spherical and cloud shape to the local film industry in Vancouver and British Columbia. The balloons are manufactured by TEXXOCOM owned and operated by Fabian Friedrich.

Balloon shapes[edit]

  • Spherical and near-spherical is the most common variety. The shape of the units demonstrate wind resistance
  • Cubic - cuboid balloons with rigging points at the corners, "Diamond series by Airstar", "Ceilair by Airstar", useful for cutting the light with reflector panels.
  • Tube - cylindrical shape, with a more "directed" light. AIRSTAR.
  • Cloud - Grip balloon, low profile tuboid. Intended to semi-block the sun. Used by grips.

Alternative lighting sources[edit]

Light types[edit]


External links[edit]