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Thread: Is this the place for laser-show-noob questions?

  1. #1
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    Default Is this the place for laser-show-noob questions?

    Greeting everyone!

    It's been a long time dream of mine (I'm 49) to build a mini-planetarium at home and produce my own laser shows. As a kid in the 70's and 80's, I've seen all the Laserium shows over three or four decades mostly at either the Franklin Institute in Phila (pre-90's), or the Boston Museum of Science (post 90's) and several other venues as well. I remember back in the 70's at the WHYY Channel 12 studios in Phila, seeing an early laser show with only one green laser on a flat movie screen.

    Anyway, I've been looking at RGB laser systems for a couple of years now, and finally decided to pull the trigger and jump into this hobby as just something to do for fun and friends/family -- nothing professional. (actually, about 10 years ago I did buy a one-color lissajous laser kit from MWK Industries (for like $700!!) that I had fun with for a while -- see image below).

    Click image for larger version. 

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    While I don't yet have my home planetarium (still working on that one), I've been reading up a lot here, and I'd like to get the LaserKing LK-PD3 RGB unit (I know it's not yet available, I'm waiting patiently). I'm also going to get Pangolin QuickShow (I already downloaded the demo and I'm watching the intro videos).

    So here are my first list of basic questions/assumptions:

    1. I'd like to set up a DMX control board to control the live effects during a show. I find it difficult to use the mouse in QS -- I want something more tactile. I assume I can use something like this: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...m=151004728976

    2. I know I'd need the ENTTEC USB DMX Pro (or Open) to go from DMX to USB into QS for DMX-IN.

    3. The LK-PD3 has those 8 effects on a wheel addressable via DMX. So how do I hook up QS to the laser projector to use those effects as Ques in a show? Since I'm already using DMX-in for the DMX control board, I don't think I can use DMX-out at the same time. Is the effects wheel also addressible via ILDA? If so, how do I tell QS about it?

    4. I assume when playing shows with music (again using QS) that the audio is simultaneously generated on the computer (line-out), so I'd have to run an audio line to the amplified audio system in the room. It seems like a lot of wires to/from the show computer: (1) Audio-out (2) USB to the FB3 to ILDA to projector (3) USB to the ENTTEC DMX unit and then DMX to the control board (4) power. If I want to set this up in the living room, I'm going to have wires running all over (for instance, the stereo system is on the opposite side from where the projector and computer will be). And I've read that wireless solutions are either very expensive or unreliable.

    5. Sort of the same as #3 -- say I get a fog machine -- how would I set that up as an automatic que in QS? Same question for say overhead fixed beam laser effects with a second fixed laser and mirrors?

    That's it for now. I know I have A LOT to learn. So please be patient. Or tell me the right place to go!

    thanks.

  2. #2
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    Planetariums? Laser?! You've definately come to the right place! Welcome to PL!

    You really should consider attending SELEM in August. You would have the opportunity to see a vast array of lasers and projectors and have a great time!

  3. #3
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    Welcome as well. Sounds like you are or were in my backyard. I'm in Wilmington, DE so, when you say WHYY or Fels... the ears perk up. If you are in fact still in the Philadelphia then by all means, you need to make a short jaunt down 95 to the banquet and conference center I manage in Newark and experience what's been dubbed Mt. Lasermore. I have um.... how shall I put this... a "few" lasers.

    As DZ mentioned, as crazy as it sounds, you REALLY should consider coming to SELEM in August. It's the South Eastern Laser Enthusiast Meeting held every year in ever exciting Newton, North Carolina where laser geeks on this forum from all over the world come together for four of the most incredible days you can imagine. I had about six weeks notice about the event when I first got into the hobby and on a total whim decided to make the 8 hour trek. Life changing. Plain and simple.

    http://www.photonlexicon.com/forums/...14-Sign-up-now!


    Anyway, I'm happy to answer your questions should you want to come for a visit.

    Couple points... yeah, there is a lot of wires.

    Quickshow is a great choice. And if you come to SELEM you'll be able meet Bill Benner, the president of Pangolin.

    The LKPD-3 is a decent "toy" but, before buying, again if you're close, you'll want to see my LKPD-1. Nothing inherently wrong with them and they do some neat effects but, if you're buying Quickshow, you'll likely want to get something more robust, as the projector probably costs what Quickshow does. You'll quickly discover the shortcomings of the LKPD-3.

    Seriously consider a haze machine over a fog machine first. Eventually get both as there are advantages to each. But haze in the long run will be much, much more economical and satisfying. Run it for a minute and have atmosphere for three hours, versus run the fogger every fifteen minutes because it dissipates so quickly. I've used less than $25 worth of haze fluid in a couple years time which would have probably equaled having to get several hundred dollars worth of fog juice.

    If you want a planetarium in your home, take a look at the thread by SpitzSTP http://www.photonlexicon.com/forums/...tar-Projectors Have a beverage handy... it's 20 pages.

    You are very much in the right place. Kiss any hope of financial solvency goodbye.

  4. #4
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    Wow, thanks for your reply. I was born in Wilmington, but lived in the Greater Philly area (Wilmington, Reading, Allentown, Cherry Hill, Philly) until '92 when I moved to Boston. I'm now in Connecticut.

    I'd love to take you up on your offer -- I'll be driving through the Newark, DE area late in the day on June 17th, if you're available I could stop for an hour or two. I know the LK-PD units are entry-level... but what else would you suggest for less than $1k?

    I was looking at the SELEM thread -- how many people attend the event? I potentially could make it (that's like the one weekend this summer I *don't* have something planned.) Sounds like a fun event, so I'll continue to consider it.

    And I never knew there were "haze" machines different from "fog" machines. Kinda describes my brain right now trying to absorb everything laser related.

  5. #5
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    Hi Hank -

    Welcome!!
    You've definitely come to the right place!

    +1 on everything Brad said, including the choice of projectors, SELEM (awesome!), etc.

    Concerning fog vs. haze machines ~
    While true haze machines are nice, and undoubtedly THE way to go if doing professional events, they tend to cost a bit more than your run-of-the mill fog machine.
    If cost is a concern - and it certainly can be starting out for us mere mortals doing shows at home - don't discount a fog machine that uses water-based "fog juice".
    I have an Antari "Fazer" (fog machine with built-in high-velocity fan, basically) that's served me well for 7 years, using water-based fog fluid that I either ordered online (Froggy's) or purchased locally at at Guitar Center (Black Label). Other than placing a small fan in front of the fog machine to help spread & dissipate the fog a bit quicker, the setup has worked "stock" for me perfectly well for many shows, from "garage shows" to small events in recreation centers, and I rarely have to fill up the tank more than once for a performance.

    The QuickShow / FB3 / Enttec USB Pro is a GREAT combo to start off with!
    It's going to give you some very cool laser control options quickly & easily, but is also very powerful once you start digging in a bit deeper.
    Plus, the same hardware combo can work with Pangolin's Beyond flagship suite, should you decide to upgrade sometime down the road.
    AND, in addition to all the cues that come ready-made with QuickShow, there is a LOT of additional shared user content freely available for registered Pangolin users on the PangolinShows web site!

    DMX and laser cues work pretty much the same way in QuickShow when it comes to triggering, timeline, etc. ~
    You create the cues in the cue grid, then drag the cues you want to use use - laser and/or DMX - onto your show timeline.
    Easy!!

    Any DMX-enabled device can be setup to run from QuickShow ~
    You just use the "QuickDMX" tab in QuickShow (only visible when a DMX interface is attached) to create the settings you need for your particular DMX device, and save that as a cue. Then, just click on the cue, and that device and the settings you programmed are triggered!

    One thing about the Enttec USB Pro & QuickShow ~
    It can be configured for either DMX In or DMX Out, but not both simultanously.
    However, I think you'll find that in use, that really isn't a hindrance...

    QuickShow is MIDI-enabled, and every cue, page, and most controls can be controlled with a MIDI input.
    So, instead of using a dedicated DMX control board, many users choose from a huge variety of USB MIDI controllers on the market, and map the keys, buttons, etc. to control your laser and DMX devices all thru QuickShow. This works GREAT, and is also taken to the next level if you step up later to Beyond ~ just do some searching here and on the Pangolin site about the APC-40 implementation. and you'll see the sky is the limit!!

    (FWIW - Sometimes I'll run choreagraphed shows using Beyond and or LD2000 with my QM boards, and then use QuickShow with my FB3 and Enttec DMX USB Pro - on the same laptop computer! - to add DMX & beam effects on the fly, using my iPad and the MIDI Designer app as the MIDI controller for QuickShow. Very cool!!)

    Projectors -
    You'll want to get the most laser power you can afford (you'll see the reason why when you see overhead beam shows the first time!!).
    But, even if you have to skimp a bit on overall combined power, you still want ANALOG modulation, and scanners rated at 30K -
    That way, the graphics and colors you see on the QuickShow screen will be fairly accurately recreated by the laser.

    Stay safe, and don't feel like you need to audience scan to get a good show ~
    A show that uses a combination of overhead beams & graphics, plus maybe a few additional DMX effects, can be a VERY cool experience for you and your audience, and still be completely safe!

    It's a lot to absorb - and definitely NOT cheap to get started with decent, reliable gear - but it looks like you're looking in what most of us would consider the right direction.
    Welcome aboard, and enjoy the ride!!!


    Randy

    PS -

    Welcome to the gang of old dudes playing with lasers!!
    Though I've tinkered with lasers since I was in high school, I just really got heavily involved with show lasers around 7 years ago.
    I'm 53... and holding...
    There are quite a few folks here in the 40+ age bracket!!

    Also, another FWIW ~

    I know Brad addressed the SELEM LSO class in the thread after this, and also that you asked the question in the SELEM thread.

    The LSO course would be GREAT to have ~
    But, it IS pricey, and that's a chunk of change you could put towards your initial gear investment.
    As long as you don't feel the need to jump headlong into audience scanning, and are just doing home shows as a hobby, you can still do safe shows while you're learning without necessarily taking the class. (Not saying that is the only reason to take the class, but since you're just starting out it might be a bit of - expensive - overkill).
    If, down the road, you decide to start doing shows semi-professionally, by all means take the class as soon as you can, but don't feel it is absolutely necessary to dive into that level of training right away.

    Most of what you'll need to know to safely do home shows you can learn from the folks here.
    Last edited by Stuka; 06-06-2014 at 05:31.
    RR

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  6. #6
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    Best as I can recall from memory, the 17th is fine but, I'll double check when I get to work in an hour. Since you are in Connecticut, you are very close to another member here (and a manufacturer), Marc at CT Lasers in West Haven who may also be a good source for your questions. His pricing is far, far above what you're looking at right now but he's still a decent and knowledgeable person to talk to.

    As far as SELEM, people tend to come and go throughout the weekend but, I think our highest total for a weekend with forum members and guests was around 80 people. I'd say at any given time there are 25-40 between the various parts of the venue. The scheduling tends to be fairly loose except for Friday and Saturday where some of the talks and seminars are a little more rigid. We extended this year by an extra day simply because there is so much going on it flies by entirely too quickly. There are ways to cut costs by sharing rooms, rides, and we often figure out ways to keep food cheap. KEEP IT ON YOUR RADAR!

    Less than 1k... that's a tough threshold because much of what is below that is Asian produced junk. The LDPD series and the Reke RGB500 were a couple of sub $1k standouts. I'd also HIGHLY suggest looking at X-Lasers product line at something like the Mobile Beat MK5. For one thing, they're US based right outside Baltimore. They're members here. (You'd also meet them at SELEM) They sell only safe, US legal equipment and have a quality control and customer database that is second to none. They can grow as you grow. Also a Pangolin dealer so you may very well be able to put together a package deal with Quickshow and a quality projector. Check out their web site and by all means... watch some of their youtube videos. There is some excellent, excellent information on there.

    http://www.x-laser.com/

    Honestly, I'm torn on advise regarding the LSO class... part of me says by all means take it if you afford the time away from work and the course itself. Part of me says it's a bit too soon to spend that kind of money for the class where you may walk out with a bunch of new information but, head swimming trying to understand it all. I almost wish we had a one or two hour basic laser safety class available for people who don't necessarily need to drop $450 plus extra night hotel and meals for what can be a pretty overwhelming LSO class. I got lucky my first year and we had Casey Stack from Laser Compliance in AZ do a safety class on Monday for $60 that was excellent. The second year I took the LSO class and at least by then had enough basic knowledge for it to make sense.... not enough to pass the exam the first time.... but, much of it sunk in and I took it again the next year and passed.

    Gotta dash off to work....

  7. #7
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    Wow.. ok, the X-laser Mobile Beat MK5 looks like a great unit -- I WANT IT NOW!!! But it's almost 3x the price of the LK-PD3. I know it's certainly a case of "you get what you pay for" but I'm not sure I want to spend $1300 on a home projector right out of the gate. Maybe once I get comfortable with the hobby and I want to upgrade, I certainly would entertain a $1300 projector.

    Thanks for the info about MIDI. So I'd use a generic MIDI-IN controller to control QS, and DMX-OUT to control the projector effects and a fog machine. Cool. I figure something like one of these two would work?

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Arturia-Beat...-/171327598571
    or
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/AKAI-Profess...-/171348747752
    or do people here have a more QS-friendly MIDI controller they prefer?

    And with SELEM, the first post in the thread looks like about 10 people are attending! Seemed like a pretty small group, but 80 people seems more like a convention than a small gathering. Flights are pretty reasonable (less than $300), plus rental car and hotel. I'm a sucker for these kinds of events -- since it sounds like a "full immersion" kind of experience, I'll likely go!

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by HankLloydRight View Post
    Wow.. ok, the X-laser Mobile Beat MK5 looks like a great unit -- I WANT IT NOW!!! But it's almost 3x the price of the LK-PD3. I know it's certainly a case of "you get what you pay for" but I'm not sure I want to spend $1300 on a home projector right out of the gate. Maybe once I get comfortable with the hobby and I want to upgrade, I certainly would entertain a $1300 projector.

    Thanks for the info about MIDI. So I'd use a generic MIDI-IN controller to control QS, and DMX-OUT to control the projector effects and a fog machine. Cool. I figure something like one of these two would work?

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Arturia-Beat...-/171327598571
    or
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/AKAI-Profess...-/171348747752
    or do people here have a more QS-friendly MIDI controller they prefer?

    And with SELEM, the first post in the thread looks like about 10 people are attending! Seemed like a pretty small group, but 80 people seems more like a convention than a small gathering. Flights are pretty reasonable (less than $300), plus rental car and hotel. I'm a sucker for these kinds of events -- since it sounds like a "full immersion" kind of experience, I'll likely go!
    If the laser projector you choose has an ILDA interface, THAT is what you'll want to use to control your projector ~
    QuickShow controls the FB3 over USB, and the FB3 is connected to the projector by a DB25 cable.
    Generally, ILDA control is going to give you much better control over a projector's capabilities than DMX.

    Be aware that if the projector you buy doesn't have scanners rated for at least 30k, you might not be able to accurately create some of the graphics and abstracts in QuickShow, and/or may have a lot of flickering. This might not be quite as noticeable for most overhead beams & aerial effects, but it's something you'll want to be aware of.

    Also, if you start out with a decent controller package like QuickShow / FB3, but have a projector that can't perform to the basic 30k specifications, you may find yourself quickly looking for an upgrade path, and could wind up spending more than if you started with a more capable projector to begin with.

    As far as MIDI controllers go, a lot of it depends on how much you want to be able to do from a single panel of controls.
    As long as you have sliders and buttons/pads you can map to QuickShow controls, you're good to go.
    I used an Akai MPD-26 as my primary show controller for several seasons until I discovered the custom-controller configurations (and portability!) I can create with MIDI Designer for my iPad. I still use the MPD on occasion, and will probably wind up getting an APC-40 for use with Beyond in the foreseeable future.

    SELEM will fill up in a hurry as it gets closer, and it has become probably THE laser enthusiasts' meet in the USA, if not one of the biggest internationally.
    Counting the guests in tow, a minimum of 50+ participants is probably the norm!
    Two different venues (multi-level auditorium and a converted school cafeteria) going constantly, in addition to classes, demos, etc. going on in separate rooms, which usually include visits & demos from Pangolin, X-Laser, some professional laser graphics artists from around the country (notably Mike Dunn from FirstLight Laser), and other pros in the business.

    PLENTY to see and do, a GREAT group of people, and enought info to make your brain explode -
    in a good way!!
    Last edited by Stuka; 06-06-2014 at 06:28.
    RR

    Metrologic HeNe 3.3mw Modulated laser, 2 Radio Shack motors, and a broken mirror.
    1979.
    Sweet.....

  9. #9
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    It pays to have friends in this business, or at least it more usefully directs the suck-out of the wallet. There are a few more expensive hobbies (Airplanes, Yachts) but not many, you have been warned. Take a Look at NELEM in the meetz and greetz section, not a far drive for you.

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    When I still could have...

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by mixedgas View Post
    It pays to have friends in this business, or at least it more usefully directs the suck-out of the wallet. There are a few more expensive hobbies (Airplanes, Yachts) but not many, you have been warned. Take a Look at NELEM in the meetz and greetz section, not a far drive for you.
    I did see the NELEM threads in the M&G section, but it appeared to have taken place in January? Is there another one?

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