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Thread: Old School Lasers In Concert

  1. #1
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    Default Old School Lasers In Concert

    I ran across these old photos in my archives from around 1980 and thought you all might enjoy them. A recent thread here on the forum discussed how difficult it is to photograph the laser mirror ball effect. I think I had one of the first if not the first audience scan variances around 1979/80.
    Here is the Canadian power trio "Triumph" and the little ole' band from Texas "ZZ Top" with the mirror ball effect.
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    The BRH wouldn't allow me to scan the mirror ball with galvos so I used spinning mirrors on two motors with flywheels and built in tachometers to scan a lissajou pattern on the ball which was spun by a third motor/tach. The three tachs fed comparator circuits in series so if any one failed the shutter would close. A slip clutch on the mirror ball together with the inertia of the ball insured that it could not stop instantly. The effect duration was only about 30 seconds and during testing it took the BRH over five minutes to finally capture and measure one pulse.
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    The "rear" projected graphic through a 30ft scrim was during the song "Legs". There was no blanking and the only animation was me inverting the Y axis slider. When the girl turned upside down the audience went crazy.
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    The ZZ Top Sphinx with fiber optic laser eyes was used in the show opener. The curtains parted to reveal the band gear covered with a large white sheet (looking like a big pile of white powder). With a loud "snort" sound (pre-recorded by Billy Gibbons), the sheet was yanked up and disappeared through the sphinx's nostrils to reveal the band and stage set.
    After one show during load-out, I assigned two stagehands to bring down the 4ft mirror ball. I thought it would be obvious to them to lower the ball into the case. I was coiling up some cable with my back to them when I heard the sound of crunching glass and turned to see them rolling the mirror ball across the arena floor towards the case. Fortunately I carried a bunch of spare mirror squares.
    Lotsa fun!
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  2. #2
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    Cool , Thanks for posting this. It's great to see you still have the passion for lasers after all these years.
    Quote: "There is a theory which states that if ever, for any reason, anyone discovers what exactly the Universe is for and why it is here it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another that states that this has already happened.... Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

  3. #3
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    Wonderful old pics!

  4. #4
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    Very cool. It's always a bit exciting hearing tales from people who have "been there, done that", and were involved with things I always thought perhaps I wanted to do back in younger days. If I had been independently wealthy, volunteering to be a roadie and be on a tour with someone like say, Rush, was always on the bucket list. I've always wanted to be able to just park myself in a seat in an arena at about 8 am on the day of a show and study everything involved with the set up and tear down of a show. I know it's a life that sucks, with lousy hours, little pay and an unhealthy diet/sleep schedule but... that's sorta what I've been doing for years already!!!

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    I think that you can buy surface first mirror balls. Very expensive I think.

  6. #6
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    If the thickness of your mirror is small compared to the beam diameter you can't tell much difference (as far as a ghost reflection). Also the front surface mirrors scratch easily, are harder to clean and more expensive to replace. I'm not sure why you would want front surface mirror ball mirrors unless they are very tiny squares, say, less than 1/4".

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    I would also think that the scatter would be better when using regular "household" mirrors. The whole point to a mirror ball (IMO) is the scatter. You want as many rays coming off of it as you can get. Otherwise you would just use a fiber launched diffraction grating for tight and defined beams.
    Those who fail to grasp art are the ones who criticize it.

  8. #8
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    ..as-always, Killer-werk, Steve.. Big-fan (obviously..) of the 'Old-school' bounce-mirror / ball-efforts.. Sure, lotsa 'extra work', but.. always paid-off in Client / audience satisfaction.. Even if ya didn't see it in the 'first paycheck', invariably it (..the extra-effort..) would 'bear fruit' in the next gig, when.. they called *You*, vs the 'other guys'..

    cheers
    j
    ....and armed only with his trusty 21 Zorgawatt KTiOPO4...

  9. #9
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    You don't see as much mirror bouncing now days. It's a lot of time and trouble to set up. Who wants to spend a couple hours aligning mirror bounces when the effect may only last a few seconds? Seems like most concerts with lasers today are a dozen or so "projectors" with XY scanners only. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Speaking of scatter, my bounce mirrors were getting pretty grimy on a KISS tour with all the pyro ash and fog juice. After a couple of reflections the beams were as big as your arm. I cleaned up the mirrors and the pencil thin beams were back and I thought it looked great! After the show I was told the band wanted to see me in the dressing room. I just knew they were going to tell me how great the beams looked. But in fact, they liked the fat beams. Gene and Paul told me if they didn't have the fat beams back by the next show, they might look for another laser company. I got a little barbeque sauce from the caterer and applied a thin film to the mirrors. The fat beams were back - my job was saved!

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