Need a Balloon Light for Your Next Film? Build Your Own and Save

You’ve got a great idea for a UFO Abduction film. You really want to make that close encounter realistic. But the problem is, that the overhead ultra bright balloon lights can be pretty expensive, even to rent. So one filmmaker decided to go the DIY route, and for around $300, he made his own. And all it took was a few LED lighting strips, and some shower curtains.

Image Credit – Shutterstock

Balloon lights can cost over a thousand dollars, and certainly several hundred just to rent for your project. But Todd Blankenship, over at ShutterStock, came up with the idea that he could use some ultra bright LED strip lights and a few shower curtains to create his own. First, he went small scale to test it out. He got a shower curtain, and cut it into fix different rectangular pieces and then literally “ironed them” together to seal them. Before putting the top piece on, he placed some LEDs into it and then sealed it. Adding some air, and aside from a slight leak from an errant seal, the concept proved doable.

From there he scaled up with the following parts:

  • 2x quad row LED strip lights
  • 2x 350 power supplies
  • 4x extra-wide frost shower curtains
  • 2 power supply cables
  • 50ft of lamp cord
  • 2x pool floaties or inflatables (for the air valves)
  • helium
  • clothes iron
  • scissors
  • screwdriver
  • hot glue gun (and glue)
  • wire strippers
  • electrical tape
Image Credit – Shutterstock

You’re going to need a lot of room to work here, to lay out the ultra wide shower curtains and cut them into the pieces recommended. Blankenship also recommends cutting off the grommet strips, but keep them for later, when you’ll re-attach them in order to tie your light down. You’ll also need a hard, flat area to seal the pieces together, and a common clothes iron, and a thick towel will do for applying heat to melt the pieces together.

Leave the top of the balloon off though, as you need to put the LED lights in before you seal everything up.  You’ll need quad row LED strip lights, and they can cost about $100 each on Amazon. You’ll need two to get the right brightness, and you want to be sure the shower curtain doesn’t bunch up as you strip off the adhesive backing and then affix the lights to the balloon. You’ll also need power supplies and cables, plus as much lamp cord as you need for how high up you want the balloon light.

Blankenship also used the air valves from a few cheap inflatable toys, which you can glue into place to hold in the air and route the power cables into. Todd used hot glue, but a better choice is BARGE contact cement. It’s very popular with the cosplay crowd and can do a great job sealing the value without burning your fingers. You just have to be sure to apply the cement, to both sides, and then let it dry to a tacky feel. Once done, you put the valve in and it’ll seal on contact.  You’ll need two valves, one for air and the other to route the lamp cord through. Once you’ve run the lamp cord in and attached it to the LED light connector, you can seal up the valve with some hot glue in order to prevent a leak.

Image Credit – Shutterstock

Finally, you’ll use the same ironing technique to attach the grommet strip at key points around the balloon, and then you can tie the balloon light off to prevent it from floating or moving. Then it’s just a matter of blowing it up and turning it on. And while you can use helium without fear of catching fire, there is a shortage going on right now, and it takes several bottles to fill. There’s a lot of volume there. So if you don’t need it to really float up, you can just blow up your balloon light with air and tie it up high over head. But we all know that watching the balloon float up is half the fun.

Total cost of the project … Blankship  says it was around $300, which is a great deal for the amount of light the balloon light will throw out for that UFO vibe.


About James DeRuvo 801 Articles
Editor in Chief at doddleNEWS. James has been a writer and editor at doddleNEWS for nearly a decade. As a producer/director/writer James won a Telly Award in 2005 for his Short Film "Searching for Inspiration. James is a recovering talk show producer from KABC in Los Angeles, and a weekly guest on the Digital Production Buzz with Larry Jordan.

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