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Thread: Just getting Started - Need help please

  1. #1
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    Default Just getting Started - Need help please

    Hi all

    I've been making holograms for some time now and have always had an interest in Lasers and know how to handle them from a safety point of view.

    I now want to get into laser lightshows. I figured i'd start off fairly basic with a single colour - green 532nm. I have just bought a 250mw green laser from someone on this forum who I figured I could trust.

    I now need all the other stuff... Galvos, controller boards, software etc.

    The question is... Should I start of with cheapish simple stuff just to gain knowledge OR should I splash out at this stage to hopefully save money later?

    What do you good people suggest as a decent starting point? If possible i'd like to go with a USB interface board that can be used with a Laptop.

    Any suggestions and links to help a relative newcomer would be really appreciated.

    Many thanks in advance.

    Jem

  2. #2
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    Default

    Hi Jem and welcome to PL, nice to have a new member on this side of the Atlantic.
    I would advise that the best options at present for value are DT40pro scanners fron jian725 on this forum, for the software and dac the best value at present is Mamba Black and either Easylase or MediaLas USB DAC.
    However Pangolin will very shortly be releasing an hardware/software package based on their FB3 controller and that will be priced very competitively at ~$500.

    OT here but I used to work for a company that had an office by the side of the canal in Wakefield. They were called Kenyons.

    Jim

  3. #3
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    I'd like to try DT-40's too, I've seen good pictures of their output. I'd want to see how well they can do simple things like draw a line rotating around its centre point though, that test shows up weaknesses the ILDA pattern doesn't always reveal well. If the return draw is always superimposed on the path of the first draw in each alternate half-cycle, it should be good for accuracy, though the ILDA would test better for speed and tuning.

    For software, if you're using Linux, try http://www.akrobiz.com/laserboy which is also able to run on VMware and similar virtual machines in Windows, I think. It's designed to work with a sound card output, so some USB sound cards will work. You'd need to short out the DC blocking capacitors on the outputs. The little C-media 106 IC based 5:1 USB sound cards found on eBay for around £15 might be ideal, as they allow channels for other stuff, not just X and Y. James Lehman (maker of Laserboy) has given me ILDA patterns in multichannel WAV format, so I know the software will use those channels. (I haven't used it myself, I'm using Windows, and I'm determined to try making my own programming rather than use anything else, even if my results are less elaborate).
    Last edited by The_Doctor; 02-22-2007 at 13:53.

  4. #4
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    Thanks

    I've heard from someone else that Pangolin are to release a 'Simplified' hobbyist version of there software but I didn't realise they were going to do some hardware to go with it.

    This option certainly sounds interesting, any idea when it may materialise? Thinking about it I may drop them an email tommorrow and see if I can extract any info.

    You wouldn't recognise it near the canal in Wakefield now, they're building loads of trendy waterfront apartments. I just wish i'd bought some land there when it was a tip :-)

    Cheers

    Jem

  5. #5
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    Cool

    Hi Jem;

    Glad to see you're getting started with your first projector. So you're the one that snagged that 250 mw Lambda Pro unit from the lost gallifreyan, eh? Rest assured, you got a hell of a deal. And it's a very nice laser! It should give you years and years of great service.

    As for the next step, I'd say that which route you take depends on a lot of things, but mostly on 1) your budget, and 2) your willingness (or ability even) to assemble and tweak things by hand.

    Assuming that you don't have tons of money to throw around, you'll probably want to start off with something less than a full-blown set of Cambridge scanners and amps. On the other hand, unless you are an inveterate tinkerer, you probably don't want to mess around with building your own scanners, amps, or DAC. So something in the middle is what I'm going with - assuming you've got a remaining budget of between $1000 and $1300...

    The DT-40 PRO galvos are *very* nice, and in my opinion they offer the best value for the money. Yes, there are 15K galvos available for half the cost, but you will sacrifice a lot in terms of speed and image quality. Likewise, there are galvos costing 2 to 5 times more, but they only offer a marginal increase in final image quality. To me, the DT-40 Pro's represent the "sweet spot" in the marketplace. (Good performance while still being priced low enough to be affordable.)

    As for a DAC, well... That's a bit more complicated. If you have the money left over after buying the scanners and amps, I would recommend the new Pangolin hobbyist product that will be comming out soon. Jimbo's suggestion of the Mamba Black/Easylase solution is also a good one.

    If money is tight, there are other, less expensive solutions (Alphalite), and even some outright free ones (Laserboy, as the Doctor mentioned, or Uclinux laser). However, the cheaper solutions will probably leave you wanting for more. The Pangolin system is probably going to offer you the best value, as it will be cheaper than the Mamba Black/Easylase setup, and it will also come with a superior DAC. (The Flashback 3 board.)

    I don't know anything about the new software that Pangolin will be bundling with this new product (apart from the fact that it is a *heavily* re-worked version of the original LA Studio software that Pangolin aquired when they bought LA Studio out a while back). But I do know that the entire package (hardware and software) is supposed to hit the streets for a retail price of $500, which is a *very* competitive price.

    If you can wait a month or two, I'd say to hold out and at least have a look at the Pangolin package when it comes out. Pangolin is obviously the 800 lb gorilla in the laser show market, but they've made a real name for themselves with regard to quality products and excellent service. The only real problem up 'til has been the high cost of their equipment. But at this new $500 price point, I'll say you'll be hard-pressed to find anyone that can compete with them.

    I'm hoping to get a chance to speak with Hayden Hale in a week or so, to find out a little more about this new hobbyist product. I'm especially interested in the software, the content that will be included (shows, ilda frames, etc), and most importantly, *WHEN* it will be available. If Hayden is able to tell me anything without killing me afterwards, I'll be sure to post it here!

    Adam

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    Hi Adam

    Thanks for the lengthy and much valued reply. You're right I did get the LambdaPro laser (hopefully it should arrive this morning!) :-)

    It sounds like this new Pangolin software/hardware combination may be the way to go, so I think a little patience on my part may pay off. I'll spend the waiting time usefully trying to learn all I can about this new field (for me anyway).

    As to a budget, I'm not sure what I want to spend. That will depend on how much I get into this hobby and whether or not there is ultimately any commercial mileage in it ;-)

    One thing that life has taught me is that false economy costs. I have lost count of all the times in the past that I have bought 'cheap' stuff that doesn't turn out to be that cheap after all. There is always a 'middle' road where the balance of costs Vs Quality is apparent. It took me quite a few years to get the grasp of this concept (i'm now 48) but I now find that by applying this method that I generally get more immediate satisfaction along with a longer period before I am wanting to upgrade.

    Cheers

    Jem

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    As far as "commercial mileage' is concerned I think it would be very difficult to go into commercial shows without a *lot* of equipment.
    Also if you are thinking of commercial there are lots of other things to take into account.
    The gear you use needs to be ultimate in reliability.
    You are going to need to look at the HSG95 guidelines to make sure your show is safe, this also invoves taking lots of measurements an calculations to ensure no point of your show exceeds the MPE. That will be needed to be done for every venue.
    You will also need to liase with inspectors from the local authority.
    It is true that we dont need variances like they do over in the states, but you still need to cover yourself because we are in a time of insurance claims being made for everything if someone thinks they will get some money.

    Jim
    Last edited by JimBo; 02-23-2007 at 05:58. Reason: typo

  8. #8
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    Thanks Jim

    You are of course absolutely right, it's just the business side of me running away, i'm not very good at having hobbies that don't eventually turn commercial!

    Principally this is for my own enjoyment of Lasers, as previously mentioned I like to make holograms - great fun and nice to look at. However as i'm sure you will understand once you have a passion for lasers there's that little something that always makes you crave for more - perhaps I should be attending laserholics anonymous meetings "Hello, my name is Jeremy and i'm a laserholic"... <all reply> "Welcome Jeremy etc"...

    I understand precisely about legislation. I work in Optics and we are covered by various bits of legislation pertaining to medical devices etc. All of which is an administrative nightmare. Incidentally, I googled HG95 to try and see what you were referring to but it only turned up things to do with blood etc. Do you have any more specific links to legislation applying to the use of lasers for display purposes in the UK? I'm sure they will make interesting reading if i'm having difficulty getting to sleep :-)

    I promise i'll not try to run before I can walk and will limit myself to a 'home' show. I enjoy the technical bits and the challenge of building a display, I feel that this is the best way to learn, by actually knowing what's going on inside the guts of the unit.

    Cheers

    Jem

  9. #9
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    HSG95 is an HSE booklet that relates to the safe operation of lasers for the entertainment industry. Its only available from the HSE you cant download it anywhere, although I may scan and save a copy of it on my website for my personal use .
    If you want to buy a copy have a look at the HSE books website for HSG95.

    Jim

    Just realised the wrong number in the other post

  10. #10
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    Hi Jem

    I'm with you on that false economy thing, took me 40 odd years to grasp the concept and lasers is one area you can definitely get burnt.
    No pun...

    You mention "commercial mileage" so I'm guessing you're looking to generate some revenue if poss? Well as you consider options, here's my 2p's worth...

    You can spend as little as few hundred quid on some reasonable scanners and controller, but you'll be limited to indoor aerial/beam shows at parties, clubs and small concerts, and projecting simple logo's or short animations. This is not a bad way to go as you can test the water and see if you can generate some income from your hobby before spending any more on it. This is how I moved along gradually from a 60mw argon to a couple of 6.5watt multi-coloured gassers in the 90's. The problem with that move now IMO is that the club/rave scene has dropped off a lot in the last 10 years in the UK, and this would probably be your main market with a single colour low/mid range projector. I would also rather be in bed at 6am and not loading the car after working all night... done that, got the tee shirt

    If you spend, lets say 400 on scanners, 300 on Pangolin "Hobby" and 300 on a red laser, ok you've done a grand but you can also now produce a very nice RGY multi-coloured aerial/beam or graphic show. That's dependant on the new Pangolin product's capabilities of course... if not, you'll need Pangolin LD intro (about 1,200 iirc, on it's own) or FullAuto or similar, but with this investment you'll be able to produce much more professional looking shows for product launches, corporate functions, ceremonies, exhibitions etc.. as well as the parties concerts and clubs if you want to.
    To get the best from any pro controller you'll need 30pps+ scanners, and as Adam mentioned the DT-40's do seem an excellent choice. Had they been around at the time, I would have bought them rather than CT's and spent the difference on a new house

    Last thought; Make the projector housing big enough to cope with expansion (ie adding your red & blue's in there) you will probably need it

    Like I say, just my 2p's worth - but I'd be grateful to get 1p for any of it

    Pit.
    A little bit werrrr, a little bit weyyyyyy, a little bit arrrrgggghhh

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