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WHAT IS A LASER AND WHY IS IT SO EXCITING?
The laser was first invented in the late 1950's, as an outgrowth of microwave technology. LASER is an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Originally, the future of lasers was seen to be in research and development, manufacturing, communications, and defense. But, the physical characteristics of laser light set it on a course to be a spectacular visual medium. Two of these characteristics are its narrow beam and concentrated brightness.
Unlike incandescent light, as from a light bulb, which diverges as it moves away from the light source, laser light maintains a narrow beam, simulating a "finger of light." Since the light does not spread out, the brightness is maintained -- even over long distances. Just like an incandescent light, the brightness of a laser is determined by the power in watts it emits. The lower the wattage, the dimmer the beam. Conversely, the higher the wattage, the brighter and visually "fatter" the beam.
WHAT IS IN A LASER SHOW SYSTEM?
A laser Show System consists of a controller, a projector, and a laser. Usually the projector and laser are enclosed in one unit. We already talked about the laser. Now lets discuss the Controller and Projector.
The Controller is typically dedicated to creating certain effects, such as beams, patterns or graphics. The Controller sends signals to a projector's telling it how to move the laser beam right, left, up, down, etc. For some systems, such as our Laser Choir, a DMX unit provides sufficient provides control. More advanced systems, such as our Clubcat, use a dedicated CPU or computer controller to provide the facility to handle complex graphical imagery.
The Projector contains a scanning system that allows you to "direct" the laser beam. Scanners, or "galvos" as they are often called, are mechanical devices that move at high speeds. A mirror laser is mounted on a scanner and the motion of the scanner is what directs the beam. For basic applications, you'll need a single scanner or a pair of scanners for X,Y positioning. Sometimes a third Z scanner is added if you want to add "blanking".
Blanking refers to blocking of the beam. If you wanted to write a word and not have a connecting "line" between each letter, you would blank that line so each letter (or object) appeared to stand by itself.
LASER BRIGHTNESS AND LASER SAFETY
Laser systems can have a wide range of sophistication, programmability and output brightness. You might think that the more power (brightness) the laser has the better, but as the individual lasers get brighter the risk of accidental eye injury increases. In the united State laser systems are classified by their output power brightness. Simply put, lasers systems which use lasers under 5mw of power (brightness) are considered "eye safe" do not require a license to operate and lasers over 5mw of output power do require a license to operate. For a full discussion you can download and read the following pamphlet: (Download). Beware, imported laser systems not manufactured in the USA, as typically sold on EBAY and the like, DO NOT meet US safety and legal requirements and can emit very dangerous laser power levels.
DO I NEED A HIGH POWER LASER FOR GOOD EFFECTS?
Simple answer, NO. You will get dramatic effects with laser systems that do not require a license if you follow this proven approach:
If you feel you need the brightness of a high power laser. Get one of our USA certified systems, learn how to use it and get a license (variance). Here is information on getting the necessary license. (CDRH) We can provide you with paperwork assistance in this process for all of our systems.
WHAT EFFECTS CAN I CREATE WITH LASERS?
A laser in itself is so brilliant that by just turning it on and using it as a pointer is interesting. To give the illusion of multiple beams, mirrors can be positioned so when the beam hits them, it ricochets around your room. But when we speak of laser effects, we're referring to those effects generated by the two types of primary controllers styles each having varying amounts of flexibility, versatility and power: Beam/Fan/Abstract Controllers and Graphics Controllers.
BEAM / FAN / ABSTRACT CONTROLLERS
By far the most dramatic and spectacular laser effect is "Star Wars beams." The magnitude of your Star Wars display is determined by the flexibility and versatility of your beam controller. The controller repeatedly "shoots" or sweeps a beam to a set number of targets. If those targets are mirrors, the beams bombard throughout your room, creating a cat's cradle of laser light. If your controller allows it such as out Laser Choir, you can create dramatic theatrical lighting effects including fans and solid shapes like cones.
Controllers vary in the number of actual beam targets, repositioning of those targets, automatic chase sequences and the degree of manual control. The most advanced systems like Laser Choir are under DMX control allowing for fully programmable beam positioning.
This type of controller lets you accurately reproduce artwork, logos, text, animations and display them in laser light. Simple systems like our Clubcat Laser Server allow the playback of extensive pre-loaded images libraries. When additional images are needed, the system can be reloaded. More sophisticated systems like Clubcat with Merlin include the ability to create your own graphics. Our systems allow a wide variety of special effects while images are being displayed. Images are created by drawing them in on a special tablet called a digitizer and a wide variety of artwork is available. Lissajous capability is included in Graphics Controllers.
Lissajous (lis-ah-ju) / "Spirographics" are captivating abstract patterns. The complexity of the patterns is determined by the sophistication of the controller. Consider lissajous patterns as visual music. Like music, the complexity and sophistication of the laser "song" depend on the number of different instruments and the ability of the musician. In lissajous controllers each "musician" is an electronic oscillator and the instruments are the number of wave shapes available. The number of oscillators and the number of ways they can be combined, determine the sophistication of the patterns. The digital nature od the systems allow instant recall of the presets required for the complex patterns, as well as special effects such as dissolve, animation, etc.
HOW DO I KNOW WHICH LASER SYSTEM IS FOR ME?
Laser Choir DMXThis is a services of low cost DMX controllable projection units. There systems use US legal systems and a designed to be used with multiple projectors heads. They create fantastic beam/fan/sky/abstracts and targeting effects. Refer to the Laser Choir page for full information on the those system.
ClubCat with Merlin or Pangolin
The most comprehensive choice including powerful Merlin or Pangolin graphics controllers that also includes beam, fan and lissajous capabilities. Professional level effects. These sophisticated systems generally are purchased with high power and colors and generally require a license in the US. However a low power license free version is available. Refer to the ClubCat page for full information on these systems.
LS Series with Merlin or Pangolin
These systems are similar to the Clubcat systems above but are more suited to large permament installations or large touring systems. Refer to the LS page for full information on the those system.
HOW DO I KNOW WHICH LASER SYSTEM IS FOR ME?
Please contact us and we will be glad to help you in all facets of acquiring a Laser System. Our systems are built around the concept of building blocks that are interchangeable at any time. There is no chance of obsolescence and the modular designs make customization easy. Remember, all of our systems are available for sale or for rent. We look forward to working with you.
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