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Thread: Your Light Show Roots???

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
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    Lake Geneva, WI.
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    Default Your Light Show Roots???

    Hey Everyone,

    Tell your story here. How did you get involved in laser light shows?

    Here's my story...

    I've been involved with electronics ever since I was 2. I love taking stuff apart to see how things work. I bought my first He-Ne laser tube with power supply at 10 and have been hooked ever since. My first projector was two speakers with mirrors glued on at an angle. I just ran regular audio signals to them at the time. a jumping 1mW beam couldn't be more fun!

    I eventually saved up enough to buy a 5mW He-Ne from MLP for like $350 at the time. By then I built a spyrograph out of rc motors pennies with holes drilled in them and front surface mirrors. Cool I can make patterns!

    At twelve I found some cardiograph printers in the dumpster. (Used to live near an industrial part of town, Westinghouse had the best garbage. ) Anyway, I took out the open loop galvos in them and made my first "real" projector. I could make some pretty cool patterns with them hooked up to an audio amplifier and some old 70's synthesizer I also found in the trash.

    Don't laugh too hard....







    I ruined a very nice weatherproof enclosure in the process and had no idea what I was doing but it was great fun!

    What's your story?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    Knoxville, TN & Huntsville, AL, USA
    Posts
    3,146

    Default There I was....

    ....1978, Murfreesboro, TN, in the arena at Middle Tennessee State University.....

    Electric Light Orchestra is headlining on their "Out of the Blue" tour.
    The band hits the stage with "Roll Over Beethoven", accompanied by a gillion watts (so it seemed!!) of bright green laser beams shooting over our heads. HOOKED!!

    1979 - High school senior year, spent my afternoons playing "chemistry lab assistant". Used those connections to purchase a massive Metrologic 3.3 mw HeNe laser, along with some diffraction lenses and some hologram slides. Freaked out the Physics department head ("you'll blind everybody with that damn thing!!") by showing up with it our our Senior Prom, where I hung a mirror in front of the band's speakers and bounced "synchronized" patterns on the ceiling. My first laser show - woo hoo!! Later that year, worked at a theme park in Nashville that feature a choregraphed laser show several days a week, where I spent many hours backstage observing the laserists practicing their art (looked like a lot of work, too!!)

    Spent my college years entertaining with the laser on a very small scale ("hey, good looking - wanna' come over and check out my laser? ") until it died sometime in the early 80's. Spent much of the rest of the 80's attending concerts by bands that used lots of lasers - I think (that part of the memory is a bit foggy......)

    Bounce ahead to recent years - been using lasers on airborne military weapons systems for the better part of 20 years. While flying support missions in Kosovo in 2004-2005, realized that in the correct weather conditions while wearing night vision goggles, the beam from our AIM-1 laser (mounted as a sighting system on our 50-caliber machine gun) looked a LOT like an airborne version of what I saw back in '78. FLASHBACKS !! Got me thinking...

    June 2007, sitting in northern Kuwait, pondering my fireworks show for 2008 ("lull in the action", so to speak), thinking how cool it would be to add lasers. Started searching the Internet for possibilities (which was real fun with a microwave-based Internet connection during the middle of a sand storm!!), and came across some weird web site called "Photon Lexicon". After lurking for a month or so, I started posting some real NOOB questions, and some dude called BUFFO (as well as several others along the way!) actually starts giving some real answers to my questions.....

    ....and the rest, as they say, is history!

    That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it !!
    Last edited by Stuka; 09-06-2008 at 10:45.
    RR

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

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Stockholm, Sweden
    Posts
    551

    Default

    I have just entered the arena so to speak, I made my first "real" show at a club yesterday! (Laseboy, Spaghetti, USB audio DAC, chinese 30k galvos and a souped up DX 35 532 doing about 80mW. Worked great!

    I have always been into electronics and electronic music like techno, electronica, acid, jungle etc.where you see a lot of lasers in videos from clubs.

    15 years ago or so I purchased a crappy and expensive 3mW pointer and turned it into a little open loop projector using a aluminium scrap from a greenhouse, FS mirrors from a fax machine and "galvos" made from the head moving coil in harddrives and a small transistor audio amplifier. It actually works and I still have it, it impressed the hell out of my raver friends and made a great party item!
    I'll see if I can take a picture of it some day.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Cairns, Australia
    Posts
    1,896

    Default

    I started with a small spirograph kit from Jaycar when I was about 10, it simply had a 1mw red pointer hard wired in. That thing kept me amused for hours and hours. I then went to a local disco and saw the DJ had the same kinda thing as I did, except in a nice case, and abit brighter. They then appeared at Jaycar.

    A few weeks later, I discovered laserpointerforums, and found out there were these things called green lasers!

    Not suprisingly, my first green laser was a cheap POS from eBay. It worked and I was amazed at the beam, even at only <5mw! I then moved onto a 30mw pointer from dealextreme. I was then reading about the forums about laser displays, I learnt about galvo's and the other forms of laser displays.

    Meanwhile, Jaycar had brought out another spirograph. This time, it had a 10mw green module, and 3 motors instead of 2! Out came the $130 for that on my bday.

    Well, then I started to notice multicoloured lasers on youtube. I went on over to ebay, and bought a 140mw RGY stepper scanner, using the money I got from selling the 10mw spiro! I was totally blown away by the thing!

    Just a few months ago, I finally bought some real galvo's, and a 100mw CNI module from dave. All that has been mounted in my old RGY case.

    Thats how it started for me!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    St. Louis, MO
    Posts
    45

    Default

    First light Laserium '75 in St. Louis - became a laserist in '78 - Realized the industry was in a death spiral in '84 and decided it would break my heart...

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Akron, Ohio USA
    Posts
    1,754

    Default

    I first got a look at what laser projection can do to a person when I met mixedgas in 1996.

    He had to have a special setup to be able to run Windows 3.11 and get on the Internet with a modem and Internet Explorer!

    My partner and I had just started an ISP. I'm always game for a challenge. So I got him going. He brought his PC to my house. That's when I saw why he needed to stick with Win 3.11. He had some crazy laser controller card in there that would not run in the new world of Windows95!

    He showed me the application and a lot of pictures and explained it to some degree. I got what it might look like, but the idea of how to actually have intelligent images coming out of that was just magic to me.

    I never really saw the real thing until late 2003, when he asked if I wanted to help put together something for "First Night Akron 2004". That's when he brought over a nice green brick, a pair of scanners and some other stuff.

    Right away, I knew what I was dealing with because of having grown up in a house full of electronics. An O-scope was nothing new to me. This was an O-scope projector that could only handle low frequency audio!

    It took me a little while of playing around in Anarchy for my light to suddenly come on. It was while I was doodling a face, that had big round eyes. I noticed that the pupils, no matter what, were going to be pentagons. That is when I realized the magic connection between points, vectors, time, samples, WOW! I get it NOW!

    I instantly connected all of that with a lifetime of personal experience in computer graphics programming and I found the beautiful union of sound and image!

    I went to GoldWave right away and started playing with periodic formulae to make funky abstracts to play from the computer sound card.

    He also lent me the book by L. M. Roberts. I think it is called LaserFX The Laser Light Show Industry Handbook. Anyway.... It was awesome!

    It happened at just the right time too. I had been working on a C API for Linux that takes complete control of the video system. Laser vector art was the perfect application to drive the development of the graphics project. My API now had an application!

    So I went nuts with code and wrote a bunch of C++ that made it possible to open ILDA files, manipulate the data in code and save it as more ILDA!

    I called L. M. Roberts on the phone one day and we talked like forever. We have spoken several times since. I still have never met him! He introduced me to some other North East Ohio laser freaks.

    That's when I met Rob and got such a nice deal on a complete (almost) working RGBB gas rig, in January of 2005.

    James.
    Last edited by James Lehman; 09-07-2008 at 20:59.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
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    Lake Geneva, WI.
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    Default

    Great stories! Thanks guys, keep em coming.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Eugene Oregon
    Posts
    952

    Default

    i got my start at burning man in 2006 when i met a really nice guy (he is an old member here with only a couple posts) (thats how i found you guys)

    and he pretty much walked me through how his 1 watt green laser works and all the detail and i ended up doing a lot of little shows with it and became hooked.
    Last edited by thesk8nmidget; 09-08-2008 at 11:43.
    -Josh

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    678

    Default

    Went to underage metro when i was about 15 (underage metro = a room half full of pubescent, chest out testosterone trying to impress the other half of the room. Which is filled with scantily clad teenage women just hanging out for a not so discrete finger-bang on the dance floor. Or in the corner. Or on the couches up near the gods bar. hehe) and saw a big fuckoff argon laser projector. My estimates now would put it around 6-7 watts maybe ? My first reaction was, what the fuck is that thing? wow... look at that (liquid sky). Wow look at that (boobies up on the scrim). Wow look at that (big crazy galloping horse). Wow look at that (etc, etc). and i was hooked for life.

    It was quite an interesting setup - one scan head pointing forwards toward the crowd. another scan head pointing backwards and up, towards a large dome mirror (the kind you see in seven eleven so that apu can watch the freaks beat off to centrefolds behind the shelves). The end result was pure bliss.. I then chanced upon a magazine article in Silicon Chip about a kit from Sydney mob "Oatley Electronics", basically a 3 motor spirographic projector. I threw in what was probably a 1mw 660nm laser diode, and had me my first projector. it sucked balls. I had to squint to see it on a white wall at the house parties we used to DJ at way back when. It was in this pov little abs box from jaycar.

    I then got me a bunch of 7mw he-ne tubes. I was impressed. I could see the beams with smoke in complete darkness. awesome! I remember building the first he-ne projector - it was about 1 or 2am on a weeknight. My mate rob and i were out on the street masturbating over the 1 foot red laser spot on the opposite side of hte road, when we saw some derro dude walking around with a jerry-can looking for cars to siphon petrol out of. dodgy fucker. anyway.. i digress.

    Fast forward through a few years of poor university life, earning coin playing techno/acid/trance live P.A sets and helping with the production of legitimate and not so legitimate rave parties, and getting involved with lighting somewhat heavily. I had a lot of exposure to big fuck off lasers, having played with genius laser software, and oracle laser software, but never really being able to satisfy the thirst for my own laser.

    Got my first real job (if you could call it that) after uni and got a loan for a lambda pro 150mw green, some horrible laserworks scanners, and an amiga with lasermax. What I paid for all that, could buy me a 1 watt viasho, SCANPRO50s, and flashback3 with livepro these days.

    Pretty funny. I cobbled it together in the worst laserprojector case ever seen (just ask dave - he never lets me forget it), did a couple of shows, and then dave got his filthy mitts involved.

    That was over 5 years ago... we've now amassed a collection of, well, more lasers than we can poke our cocks at. And we are busy building more. And doing shows. And we both find time to run an online store, and work full time jobs.

    This summer is going to be out of control.... bring it.....

    PS - it would be cool to have an AUSLEM. or an APACLEM. Held in Melbourne of course. Sydney sucks. Need to find more down under dudes with lasers.
    Now proudly stocking and offering the best deals on laser-wave

    www.lasershowparts.com
    http://stores.ebay.com.au/Lasershow-Parts

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    Knoxville, TN & Huntsville, AL, USA
    Posts
    3,146

    Thumbs up

    COOL thread!
    RR

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

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