Monday, 15 June 2009

Production War Story of the Month

Does anyone even use balloons these days? Here's a story from a few years ago when they were really popular.

A beautiful and highly creative balloon wall was installed in front of the band stage that would magically burst and reveal the band once it was time to dance. It would be an incredible ending to an evening of good food, fun and camaraderie. Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell Mother Nature. The room was fully encircled by floor-to-ceiling windows looking out to the west and this event was held late in June near the day when sunlight lasted until very late in the evening. The event day was quite hot and the sunlight beamed through the windows, eventually making its way to shine on the balloon wall. Just as dinner was underway, we heard the first explosion, followed in fairly rapid succession over the course of the next 20 minutes by a periodic, unrehearsed exploding balloon wall that was soon left in tatters, ragged pieces of balloons hanging from the wall supports like broken flesh. Although somewhat comical while happening, this premature balloon wall explosion did not make our client very happy. The balloon experts were called in and the remaining pieces of the wall were dismantled to leave a clean look, but the damage had been done.

In this case, communication with the client was immediate and consisted of an apology and an explanation. This was a situation that could only be described as a true Act of God. It may have been avoidable but we were never sure exactly how. During the site inspection days before, the weather was cloudy and an estimate was made of where the sun would be at a certain time and whether it would strike the balloon wall. This was only a guess and even with this, nobody – even the balloon experts – expected or anticipated that the sunlight would overheat the balloons and their tethers, which we could only surmise expanded at different rates and caused the premature explosions. The client was not charged a penny for the wall and seemed to be happy with that settlement, but nothing could bring back the planned excitement that had been lost.
What lessons were learned? This was a difficult case. The most obvious one that we learned was not to use a balloon wall or any balloon structure in situations where weather - or excessive heating or cooling of any sort - could be a factor.