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Thread: Newbie wants a bit of sensible advice please.

  1. #1

    Default Newbie wants a bit of sensible advice please.

    Hi Guys,

    I'm from Guernsey in the Channel Islands, UK.

    I help import items in to the island for customers who want certain "difficult to find" items, such as lasers / cars / furniture etc.

    A customer of mine is always asking for lasers - i've imported red laser pens / 5,10,30mw green laser pens, an 80mw EU LIGHTS green laser and his latest purchase is an RGB laser from Laserworld in Germany.

    I was going to help him set it up for a gig but then i came across your site and started reading some of the posts - now i'm worried about what i have bought him !

    We don't have any regulations here for crowd scanning etc and it's something he will want to do - what i want is just a bit of sensible advice from the Guru's of this technology, namely you guys.

    He has 1,000,000 public liability insurance and this RGB Laser - the Laserworld RGB PRO 300 - basically its a 250mw Red, 60mw Green and 60mw Blue

    He will initially be using a DMX controller to begin with - the software it came with was free but seems very difficult to use and there is no live functionality as such - its a cut down older version of Mamba Black from what i can work out and it seems to crash and what not so although it was free it's not really the greatest !

    If we are crowd scanning what i propose to do to avoid any accidents is the following.

    a) make sure all the pre programmed DMX scenes are fairly fast to ensure it is impossible to get an eyefull of focused beam for more than a split second.

    b) make sure all the pre programmed DMX scene GOBO/ Patterns are set fairly large so that the beams are spread out as much as possible and not focused in any one particular area.

    c) make sure all the pre programmed DMX scenes have the dotting turned off so that the beams are not focused at the angle changes on the pattern.

    d) make sure one of us is controlling the unit at all times just incase something goes wrong.

    I am of the opinion that if we stick to the above, barring a stepper motor failure, which could cause the beam to stop focused in some drunks eye we should be OK - it's not an overly powerful unit from some i have seen, but i am aware even a 5mw laser can cause damage to the eye.

    He has in the past used his 80mw green laser to scan the crowds, again at high speed, with no problems at all - but i'm just a bit nervous about it now after reading some of your posts - the last thing we want to do is injure or damage someone's eyesight for life.

    Your comments would be greatly appreciated.

    If you feel this subject has been talked about on this forum then please just ignor my message and when i have more time i will try and read as many posts as i can.

    On another note he would like to buy some form of software with maybe a wireless joystick controller etc which can be used to control the laser live.

    Are you aware of any controllers / PC setups / joysticks on the market.

    I know of the Pangolin Live Pro which may fit the bill, but it's very expensive.

    Anyway, thanks for all your help in advance.



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Herts, UK


    Quote Originally Posted by SUBZERO View Post
    We don't have any regulations here for crowd scanning etc and it's something he will want to do - what i want is just a bit of sensible advice
    Hi Jamie, & welcome

    Crowd scanning can be an emotive topic... It's banned all over the US, the UK has mixed reception, depending on the county and council officials involved, but is totally unregulated/accepted in parts of Europe and Australia.

    The key to safe audience scanning is to keep the laser power to sensible levels and the patterns large and keep them moving. Increasing scan speed has little effect on the exposure of laser light on the retina.

    The other thing worth considering is a scanner failure detection/safety system. This will help safeguard against any high energy slow or static beams getting directed into the audience, these are often caused by human error, software hangs or hardware failures.

    Fitting one may or may not be possible depending on the scanners/drivers, you would need to find out what they are and see if the suppliers of the failure system is compatible with them.

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

  3. #3


    Thanks for the advice - i will contact the laser manufacturer and see if there is a failure device on it - i know that when it is set to music mode it never stops on a bright focused beam - if the music stops the unit shuts off until the next drum beat - the old one we had used to stop on a focused beam so we never used the music mode - funnily enough !

    So maybe if something fails it will shut down - i'll check - i will be babysitting the DMX / laser all night at the gig when it is on - but i think we will just keep the laser for when the main DJ (Tall Paul if anyone is into their house music !) comes on - and use it sparingly.

    I think i will have to invest in a pair of glasses - setting it up in DMX with 30 banks of 8 scenes has made my eyes see patterns all the time and that is with me standing behind the unit with it projecting onto a dark wall to kill the brightness as much as possible.

    I don't want it to wreck my eye sight quite yet - the unit will only be used once a month maximum anyway - i dread to think of the damage some of the more powerful units are capable off.

    At the end of the day safety should come first - we will be mounting the unit fairly high up too which may help a little.



  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Charleston, SC

    Smile What to do re: audience scanning

    Audience scanning... Yikes! There's a big o'l can of worms!

    I live in the US, so audience scanning is a big no-no here. Well, that's not strictly true. Actually, you *can* do it legally here, but the paperwork is an absolute nightmare so no one ever bothers to try. To the best of my knowledge, Pangolin is the *only* company to ever be granted a variance for general audience scanning, and it took them over 2 years to get it.

    Now, having said that, I will admit (somewhat ashamedly) that at private gatherings with other laser enthusiasts, I have stood in front of a projector that was making perhaps 300 mw of total power and allowed the scans to pass over my eyes. Yes, this is *not* a good practice, and yes, the potential is there for serious eye damage.

    However, in that particular case the laserist knew exactly which show elements were being displayed, and they were all large-area scans with no hot spots. Plus, it was being displayed on a Pangolin QM-2000 board, which means that even if the computer crashed the show would continue playing.

    However, the projector we were watching did not have a scanner-fail circuit, so we were still running a risk. But the galvo's were fairly new and had just been tuned. We all decided it was a risk worth taking to experience the wonder of an audience scan - and indeed it *was* very cool. Everyone enjoyed it.

    Now, would I do the same thing for a commercial show? No way in hell. Why not? Because while I might be willing to gamble with my own safety, it's morally reprehensible to gamble with a clueless bystander's safety. Furthermore, it's illegal in this country. The last thing I want to do is run afoul of the law. Finally, it opens you up to just about unlimited liability. Audience scanning without the proper variance would be considered gross negligence here in this country. And a finding of gross negligence = "massive lawsuit" in the land of milk and honey and product liability lawyers. I'm not willing to risk loosing my house over some silly-ass lawsuit.

    Since you live in the grey zone where there aren't a lot of laws restricting what you can and can not do, you are in a difficult position. If you don't audience scan, you may find that you're loosing business to other venues that do. But if you do audience scan, you may be placing your patrons at risk.

    My advice would be to do it right, or not at all. Of course you'll always have a trained laserist watching the show at all times - ready to hit the kill switch if something goes wrong. But that might not be enough. If you get a scanner failure, or you accidently load up the wrong pattern, or a mirror swings loose from it's mount, it's very possible that you won't be able to react in time to prevent someone from taking a direct hit.

    True, the odds are pretty long on this actually happening, but you have to ask yourself if you want to take that risk. Personally, I'd calculate some exposure levels for the most common patterns you'll be using and see how close you are to the MPE limit. I'd install safety boards to detect scanner failures and automatically kill the lasers. And I'd consider increasing the divergence on the output beam to reduce the power density a bit. Then I'd be really carefull about how I scanned the audience...

    Call me a chicken-shit if you want, but I'd find it very hard to live with myself if I ever caused an eye injury. (Not to mention the potential for a lawsuit...) Maybe living here has made me hypersensitive to the issue, but that's my take on it...


  5. #5


    Well said Buffo,

    I'm getting more and more aware of the dangers involved but like you said i'm in a grey area and it's whether or not my customer wants to take the risk - i'll be helping him of course and i will inform him of the dangers and the posts on this forum, then it's up to him if it goes ahead or not.

    I started setting this thing up about a week a go and to be fair i knew it was dangerous if you got a concentrated eye full but i wasn't aware of any other dangers.

    I decided to take the risk and set it up, playing with all the DMX settings etc so that there were no hotspots and things are fast moving etc.

    I just wanted the local crowd to have a good time so i have ensured (by foolishly standing in front of the beam) the liquid skys and tunnels are as best as they can be but with safety in mind.

    Fortunately i don't think i've done any damage to my eyes - the beam did scan over my eyes lots of times but i was standing to the side away from the beam for the most part.

    It's when i went to bed that evening that i could still see the patterns etc - Hell i even dreamt about lasers that night !

    That's when i had this awefull feeling i had damaged my eyes - but in the morning they were fine again. That's what spurred me into looking for a laser user group / forum to read some advice etc - i know and am aware of the danger so much more than a week ago, which can only be a good thing - up until now no damage has been done thankfully.

    I know people who go to raves and nightclubs in the UK every weekend where there are much more powerfull systems than my customers and i don't know of anyone that's been hurt of any lawsuits.

    I guess we just need to be carefull and take all precautions you have mentioned into hand, which we will do. These things are getting so cheap these days that sooner or later someone will do something stupid and then there will be tears - litterally.

    From all the raves and clubs i've been to in the UK the whole point of the laser system is to draw in the crowd, scanning and panning liquid skys and tunnels down onto them - so what exactly do you guys in the US use lasers for - just for projecting images / static and moving onto walls ?

    Anyway - thanks for the advice - we will keep it safe if it goes ahead at all.


  6. #6


    Quote Originally Posted by Buffo View Post
    True, the odds are pretty long on this actually happening, but you have to ask yourself if you want to take that risk. Personally, I'd calculate some exposure levels for the most common patterns you'll be using and see how close you are to the MPE limit. I'd install safety boards to detect scanner failures and automatically kill the lasers. And I'd consider increasing the divergence on the output beam to reduce the power density a bit. Then I'd be really carefull about how I scanned the audience...
    How do we go about calculating the exposure levels ?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Flying over a town near you


    Here is all the info for the US standards......little bit of math.....nothing too scary.
    You are the only one that can make your dreams come true....and the only one that can stop them...A.M. Dietrich

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Lancashire UK


    Jamie ...

    its great to hear that you have safety first ..... it is prime importance

    a great artical on laser safety is by John O'Hagan ... of the UK National Radiological Protection Board, who i believe is one of the best experts on adience scanning ... the artical can be found on the pangolin web site .... its a long read but it is explained in terms that we can all understand with lots of practical examples
    hopefully it will help you

    on the point of public liability insurance ..... im fairly sure that LASERS will be excluded from the standard policy, and he will have to be insured seperately for laser shows ...... its a bit like allowing the DJ to point a loaded gun at the audience and still expect to be covered by public liabilty
    Ok that might be a bit of an exageration ... but most of the event companies that i have worked with have a seperate lasers and pyrotechnics policy.

    all the best .... KARL

  9. #9


    Well the show went ahead with crowd scanning - manned the DMX controller for most of the night and people were in awe of it all.

    I programmed in all large rotating objects for tunnels and liquid sky effects + a few chaotic ones where the focused beams are only on for a 100th of a second or so - we ran an extended power cable to it with a kill switch just in case. The "dotting" on the angle changes of the patterns was also turned off to avoid any hotspots, but i was still a bit concerned incase of a motor failure etc.

    But all in all it was a top night - the night club wants to do it again every weekend but i am in talks with them to limit it to once a month - people will get bored of it and it won't bring the crowds in any more. This sort of thing goes on in the UK all the time with and without permission, but as long as we do everything to ensure the night is safe we should be OK - also investigatiing extra insurance cover on the policy.

    Can the lasers be turned down in power through some of the software on the market ? What is the best "free" software out there these days ?

    Can't afford any software unfortunately - have to keep saving !



  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Charleston, SC


    Quote Originally Posted by SUBZERO View Post
    Can the lasers be turned down in power through some of the software on the market ?
    That really depends on the laser. If your laser supports analog blanking, then yes, there are software packages that allow you to turn down the power. However, if the laser only supports TTL blanking (on-off), then no, you can't reduce the power no matter what software you use.
    What is the best "free" software out there these days ?
    There are several free laser show software packages out there (Poplescan, Laserboy, UClinux Laser, etc...) Which one is best for you depends more on your personal tastes. Of course, you'll still need a hardware controller (or DAC) to connect the computer to the projector.

    However, rather than using free software, I think you may be better off spending a few hundred dollars and actually purchasing a commercial package. Since you are doing commercial shows, I think you'll appreciate the advanced tools that come with most commercial laser show software packages. For sure it will make your shows easier to create. It will also allow you more control over the show.

    Never forget that lasers are not a cheap hobby. While I'm not advocating that you mortgage your home to buy equipment and software, I do think that if you continue to attempt commercial shows on a shoestring budget, you will end up regretting it. In my opinion it's better to spend a little money up front and get something that you can grow with. There are plenty of great software options out there for between $300 and $800 that will allow you to do a lot more than you can right now. (Don't forget the used market on E-bay!)

    Have a look at this thread for more ideas.


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