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Thread: Just starting the hobby, anything i need to know before buying my first laser?

  1. #1
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    Default Just starting the hobby, anything i need to know before buying my first laser?

    Hello my name is John and i am from San Diego, California in the United States, i have just recently gotten very interested in laser shows and i am hopeing to make it my hobby! i have a couple questions.

    1.)what are some abreviations and what do they mean?(DMX,ILDA,closed loop scanner,USITT...)
    2.)What wave lengths/nm/mw are good for how big of an area?
    3.)what colors show more than others?
    4.)would it be easier for me to start off with just a 1 colored laser?
    5.) do i need some sort of program to use the laser if it says "auto sound active"
    6.)what other things do i need to buy besides just the laser projector to get the projector running?
    Any other things that i didn't list and you think are important please tell me!
    Thanks guys! you have been a great help

  2. #2
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    Default

    Hey John, welcome to PL. If you're serious about getting into this hobby, one of the best things you can do, aside from reading thru this website, is to go to one of the Laser Enthusiasts Meetings. As it would happen, the biggest one in the U.S. is going to occur next month. It's on the other side of the country, but it would be well worth it. See here for details: http://www.photonlexicon.com/forums/...t=11052&page=1

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    Quote Originally Posted by johnpoe12 View Post
    Any other things that i didn't list and you think are important please tell me!
    You'll need a new wallet (or two!)
    - There is no such word as "can't" -
    - 60% of the time it works every time -

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    Default :!

    great thank you!

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    Quote Originally Posted by DZ View Post
    Hey John, welcome to PL. If you're serious about getting into this hobby, one of the best things you can do, aside from reading thru this website, is to go to one of the Laser Enthusiasts Meetings. As it would happen, the biggest one in the U.S. is going to occur next month. It's on the other side of the country, but it would be well worth it. See here for details: http://www.photonlexicon.com/forums/...t=11052&page=1
    Another opportunity to learn a bunch about lasers will be at the Optics & Photonics conference exhibit the first week of August in San Diego. I'll have about 40 from my collection of vintage lasers there at the Laserfest booth, along with many other lasers from the past 50 years, and there will be lots of laser things there to see.

  7. #7
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    Default thanks

    really helpful! and i will definitally try to get to that exhibit.
    Last edited by johnpoe12; 07-14-2010 at 13:43.

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    Quote Originally Posted by johnpoe12 View Post
    Hello my name is John and i am from San Diego, California in the United States, i have just recently gotten very interested in laser shows and i am hoping to make it my hobby!
    Hi John! Welcome to PhotonLexicon. Plenty of good info here to feed your hunger for laser knowledge.
    1.)what are some abreviations and what do they mean?(DMX,ILDA,closed loop scanner,USITT...)
    DMX is a digital control standard used for lighting. In some cases it can be used to control a laser projector as well, assuming that the projector has an internal controller of some sort with pre-programmed patterns saved on it, and assuming that the projector also has a DM interface port. Obviously, this also means that you will need a DMX controller to send commands to the projector. Wikipedia has lots more information on DMX if you're curious.

    ILDA stands for the International Laser Display Association. This organization has developed a few standards for laser show software and laser show projectors. Thus, an ILDA port is a DB-25 connector that has certain signals on certain pins, in accordance with the standard. ILDA ports are found on laser show controllers (as an output) and on ILDA-compatible laser projectors (as an input). Also, an ILDA cable is a 25-pin cable that is used to connect the controller to the projector. (Basically, it's the same thing as a 25-pin Parallel-port extender cable that you'd use on a PC - except for the fact that it's carrying different signals.)

    An ILDA file is a computer file format for describing laser artwork. Laser artwork is vector art - that is, they are described as a series of points connected by straight line segments. There are other file formats besides the ILDA format, but just about every laser show software package will allow you to load (and display) ILDA files. Many will also export data as ILDA files, allowing you to share your artwork with other people who may be using a different software package than you are.

    Closed-loop scanners are the ones used for graphics shows, and also for advanced beam shows. They have a position sensor inside the scanner that sends a feedback signal to the scanner amplifier. This is used to ensure the scanner is always at the precise point it's supposed to be at.

    Closed loop scanners are essential for good images. Without the position feedback, scanners will overshoot their positions, distorting the image. If you don't have position feedback, then your scanners are "open loop", and are really only good for simple beams and abstract patterns. (Like lissajous patterns, for example, which look like mathematical rose curves, or "spirograph" patterns.) Open loop scanners were more common in previous decades because of the high cost of closed loop scanners. But today, you can buy a set of closed loop scanners for under $300. Thus, almost all modern laser projectors use closed loop scanners today.
    2.)What wave lengths/nm/mw are good for how big of an area?
    If you are just getting started, and only plan to do private shows in your home as a hobby, then you will be quite pleased with a projector that produces less than 500 mw. A good start might be 100 mw of green (532 nm), 100 mw of blue (445 nm), and 200 mw of red (642 nm). Or, if you want to use a more affordable red (660 nm), then you'll need around 400 mw of it to get a good color balance. (This is because the eye is not as sensitive to longer wavelength reds, so you need more to approximate the same brightness.) But either solution will be more than bright enough to start with.

    Before you think about building anything more powerful, remember that in the US you need a variance from the CDRH for the projector and for the show itself before you can do a commercial show for the public. Even if the commerce is indirect (that is, you do the show for free, but it's in a bar and they're selling drinks), then you still must follow the rules. And those rules are fairly strict, so it's best to do some research before you try to jump in with both feet.
    3.)what colors show more than others?
    The human eye is most sensitive to green light. However, in darkness, the peak of our color vision shifts towards the blue part of the spectrum. Either way though, red is the hardest color to see, and as a general rule, green shows up the brightest.
    4.)would it be easier for me to start off with just a 1 colored laser?
    Many, many people start out this way (including me), and I agree that it's a good way to learn. But since prices have come down a lot recently, it's not unheard of for someone to start out with a full color rig. It just takes more time to build and more time to learn. Before you decide what you want to do, I'd suggest you take DZ's advice above: Attend a Laser Enthusiast's Meeting and see what you're getting yourself into first.
    5.) do i need some sort of program to use the laser if it says "auto sound active"
    If you buy one on E-bay that says "auto sound active", then no, you will not need a computer to control it. By setting it to "sound active" mode, it will cycle through the preset patterns it has programmed into the board inside the projector. Usually this consists of 20 to 30 patterns, but they're usually quite boring and repetitive. To really unlock the power of a laser projector, you'll need a laser show controller and some software on your computer to run it.

    I should caution you that nearly everything you'll find on E-bay is going to be illegal. That is, it won't have a variance, which means technically they can't legally sell it to you, and you certainly can't use it for a commercial show yourself. Also, the quality of those E-bay projectors is frequently quite poor. If you have some basic knowledge of electricity, and are handy with a screwdriver and pliers, you can probably build your own projector with a little help from the group here.
    6.)what other things do i need to buy besides just the laser projector to get the projector running?
    As I mentioned above, a computer with a controller and some software are needed to really have fun with a laser projector. Also, you'll need a fog machine. Beyond that, all you really need is time. Time to learn how to use the software, and time to create your own shows. Or, if you'd rather not mess around with creating your own shows, you can download shows that other people have created and play them back using your controller.

    Based on your questions, I believe you are not yet prepared to buy or build your own projector. Have you actually seen a laser projector in operation before? (Not at a concert, but up close and personal?) If not, then I suggest you make the trip to SELEM in Newton, NC this year. After that weekend, you'll have a much better idea as to what you're in for with regard to this hobby, and how you'll need to proceed.

    Adam

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    Default Thank you!

    Awesome thanks alot that helps me out a TON, and you answered all the questions. Really appreciated!

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by buffo View Post
    As I mentioned above, a computer with a controller and some software are needed to really have fun with a laser projector. Also, you'll need a fog machine. Beyond that,
    can you recommend a good controller and a good (affordable) software?

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