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Thread: New to Lasers

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    North Carolina USA
    Posts
    3

    Default New to Lasers

    Hi. I run a programmed Christmas lights to music show every year, and wanted to add some laser effects (with some smoke of course). I came across this website and I have some questions and would like some input please.
    The Laser: I wanted to start with just a green laser. I am considering Laserworld CS-400G and can get it for around $450. I would rather not pay to ship from China.
    Secondly the software: I am looking for something can create a timeline show, and the main thing is, it has to be able to start automatically at a preset time every night. I have 4 shows nightly running about 2 hours total, but I can create a two hour laser timeline if needed.. I would rather not spend tons of money, and I don't need mind blowing graphics or real complicated software. Also the ability to possibly add a laser or two on down the road would be nice.
    Last. What do I need to connect the PC to the Laser? It will be about 100' to 120' from my PC?
    Not looking to go cheap, I want some good RELIABLE components.
    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Location
    West Sussex
    Posts
    1,276

    Default

    Hi JHiggins. Welcome to PL! You've come to the right place

    I'm not sure that you will get the reliability you want with a Laserworld projector. There are some much better single colour lasers for about the sum you are looking at from China (yes, shipping on top but you will be happier).

    It looks like you are in the US as you are quoting dollars? This could be a problem as in the US you require a show variance and your equipment should also have a variance.
    It's worth filling your profile out to say where you are - there might be someone just round the corner who can help you.

    Many of the PL guys build their own projectors as it saves a lot of money and you get exactly what you want. I'm pretty new to it all but built my first green 500mW projector for 800, including laptop, software and DAC.

    I know that some members here have used Beyond to automatically start shows but this could be expensive. Another way to do it is with an SD card reader - again no experience here.

    Hope you find a solution

    Keith

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Bedfordshire, UK
    Posts
    603

    Default

    Hi and welcome to PL!

    Firstly, avoid Laser World like the Ebola virus!
    For reasons why, do a quick search of the forum for 'laserworld'... nuff said.

    Secondly, fill out your location in your profile as there may be a local member who can help you more... also, rules & regs are very country dependant... so advice will vary depending on where you are.
    I'm assuming you're somewhere in the U.S.?
    If in doubt... Give it a clout?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Dallas, TX
    Posts
    419

    Default

    Hi JHiggins,

    Allow the former 'new guy' to welcome you. First off, would you please fill in your profile so we know where in the world you are? Secondly, let me be the first to steer you clear of Laserworld, for they are regarded as junk by most. Now, on to the bad stuff (assuming you're in the US)

    1. If you're in the US, you will have much difficulty legally setting up a laser system to fire outdoors. If you wish to have onlookers (the public) viewing your laser display, then you must have a laser light show variance in effect allowing you to legally do so.

    2. If you decide to go the legal route and get a variance, you must first select a US legal projector to use and you will find the cost of those to be roughly 4x greater than the typical Chinese equivalent.

    3. Outdoor laser shows will require either (or sometimes both depending on your level of CYA) a) termination of all beams onto structures and/or b) notification to the FAA including your contact info, show details, etc.

    A bigger question is what do you mean by light show. You mention smoke, so that immediately makes me think beam show where the ooo and ahh factor come from viewing the beams through the air (smoke). In this case, 3a and 3b above apply. Your other option would be to find a nice matte surface, like the wall of your house, to project graphics onto. This would likely be the easier "show" to pull off. Things to be mindful of in this case are potentially reflective surfaces such as windows, shiny metal, snow, etc.

    Or, if you want to be legal without any of the above headache, you can opt for a class 1 device, use some common sense and avoid all of the above. Unfortunately, to have any appreciable impact you'd probably be limited to graphics shows with a laser of such low intensity.

    So, let us know what you're thinking re: the above and we'll make some recommendations for next steps.

    Welcome to PL.

    -rick

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    North Carolina USA
    Posts
    3

    Default

    Yes I am in the USA. My plan was to hang my projector from a covered 2 story porch (about 20' high) to keep it out of the elements, and then to project the beams down onto my front yard. People who may be out on the sidewalk would not be able to directly contact any of the beams unless they wandered onto my property. I also thought about projecting beams above peoples heads and those beams would terminate on the ground in my neighbors yard.(maybe not such a good idea).My other idea would be to rear project onto a screen of some sort. The Christmas light show I have is just normal incandescent bulbs White Green and Red. (light-O-rama)

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Dallas, TX
    Posts
    419

    Default

    If your front yard contains snow, the beams will surely bounce. So long as you can keep people from walking through or otherwise accessing the beams with their faces and you can keep the snow from reflecting upwards, you could probably get away with it. Doesn't mean it'd be legal though, and I'm certainly not advocating anything.

    Rear projection is harder since the material most commonly used is scrim and does absolutely nothing to stop the beam. Terminating in your neighbor's yard means you're going to be crossing head-level at some point, and that's a no-no.

    Honestly, if you can get away with a graphics show projected from your rafters back at your house, that's your best bet. A wide scan-angle coupled with geometry correction (available on most DACs now) could be just the ticket.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    North Carolina USA
    Posts
    3

    Default

    I'm not sure if I can keep anyone from wandering into the beams if they come on my property. Maybe it's not worth taking the liability risk. I don't know how easily an eye can get damaged if a kid was to get zapped in the face with a laser. Maybe I'll just get some led lights that can project some cool beams. Anyone have any suggestions if I go that direction?

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Location
    West Sussex
    Posts
    1,276

    Default

    There are always ways to minimise risk. If you are into lasers and want to learn how to do things safely, it's worth reading up here and learning how to do things right.

    Lasers are awesome

    Keith

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Charleston, SC
    Posts
    2,147,488,525

    Smile

    Hello JHiggins;

    Welcome to PL! You are in luck - we have several experienced members in North Carolina who could offer you some advice on this project. Also, if you're close to the SC border, I'm in Charelston, so maybe we could get together in Columbia for lunch and discuss things.

    With regard to your desire for reliable components, I would agree with everyone above in cautioning you to avoid Laserworld products. They are the antithesis of reliable. There are many other options though, and even if you do decide to buy from a Chinese vendor, the shipping isn't really as big of a factor as you might imagine.

    If you've never worked with a laser projector before, then I strongly suggest you attend a Laser Enthusiast's Meeting before you purchase anything. We have two events coming up: The first one (FLEM, or Florida Laser Enthusiast's Meeting) is in Tavares, Florida (about 50 min northwest of Orlando), and it will be held on Friday, Feb 28th and Saturday, March 1st. It's a pretty long haul for you (7.5 hours from Charlotte by car, more if you're further north), but it's just a few weeks from now so it would give you a lot of time to start planning and building before next Christmas.

    The next even is the South Eastern Laser Enthusiast's Meeting (SELEM) which is held every year in August in Newton, North Carolina. This event is a lot closer to you (obviously), and it's also a 4-day long event, but you'll have to wait 6 months before it rolls around. Nonetheless, you definitely don't want to miss SELEM, as it's one of the largest and longest running meets in the US.

    At either meet you'll get a chance to see several different types of projectors, controllers, and software in operation. You can ask questions, play around with the software, watch laser shows, and meet some really great people in the process. All the while you'll be learning about what works and what doesn't when it comes to projectors, controllers, and software.

    Note that at the Florida meet we will have a special guest: Ash McFadden - creator of the original P-4 Analog laser show console that was used at many planetariums for "live" abstract laser shows over the years. He will be experimenting with DZ's re-vamped analog console (the Z-5, based on Ash's original design). Also, we should see Bill Benner (president of Pangolin Laser Systems) at both the Florida meet and at SELEM.

    Check the "meet and greet" sub-form for more information about up-coming events.

    And once again, welcome to PhotonLexicon!

    Adam

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