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Lasers for 2009


JHolmes
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I do a light show annually for my church (see link below for video) and for 2009 I am seriously considering DMX laser lights. However I know very little about lasers so I was hoping for some input. What do you think? What specs should I look for? What companies should I avoid? Are lasers water proof?

I'm using Animated Lighting for my hardware and software and we had 64 channels for 2008.

Merry Christmas!

www.youtube.com/thefilmmaker91

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I use a number of lasers for my Halloween display. Very few (if any) of them are outdoor units. I have seen some from time to time but they were quite pricey. All you really have to worry about in that respect is using something with no defraction to it for the laser to project through. I've found poly-carb to work well or just a piece of quality glass. Put the laser behind that and build an enclosure around the rest. Only the very high powered units have heating/cooling issues to consider.

Now you can get red or green lasers. The "fat" lasers are typically less dangerous to the retina and are what you'll find in discos where they're beaming right at people. It's a more spread beam so it's not as powerful at any one point.

Which brings me to the big questions for lasers. #1 What are you going to project and on what and #2 Are you expecting to see those beams through the air?

Tackling #2 first, many people don't realize that it takes additional effects to actually *see* the entire laser beam. You will have to run a hazer (or fogger) so that there's something IN the air for the beam to hit and thus show up. That's quite difficult to maintain outside as the least little breeze will blow away the haze you're using for the effect. So if you want to see the beams, you're in for a BIG challenge.

On #1, even though fat lasers are not as intense, you still don't want to plan your design in such a way that people can end up looking into the business end of your laser from any distance. (IMHO) Sure, these things are supposed to be "safe" but it's still a very intense light, and you certainly don't want to partially blind people that are driving at night. So the far better use of a laser is to project images onto a surface that people can see, but cannot get into the beam. That implies mounting your lasers up in trees and shooting the side of your house for most folk.

Luckily, the two most common laser colors are red and green so it's a great fit for Christmas!

I haven't added lasers into my show yet, but I'm considering it if I can find a rotating moonflower effect that would project small bits of light, rotating downward in a Snow Flurries effect. If only white lasers were cheap!

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Is your Church close to an airport? They are illegal to use within so many feet of an airport or flight path. The beams can project a lot farther then some might think, even for the cheap units.

We have had several arrests in FL due to people shining laser pointers at planes - which are a LOT lower power than anything you are going to use.

Many don't realize that it's not eye damage that the feds/FAA are worried about, it's something called 'flash blindness'. Landing an airplane in the dark is NOT like driving a car in the dark with headlights. Contrary to belief, landing lights don't illuminate the runway until you are only a few tens of feet above it.

Pilots rely on their night vision to pick up other cues while landing - relative motion of the touchdown markers, the shifting (parallax) of the runway lights, etc.

Any bright light source can destroy a pilots night vision for 10 to 15 minutes - flash blindness. Even worse would be if the light/laser has a 'dazzling' effect which can easily lead to spacial disorientation (IE, not knowing up from down).

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Gary-

Do you know of a good programmable laser? so you can get it to write Merry Christmas or do a line art drawing of Santa or Frosty or whatever? Oh, and one that's ot a million bucks.

Ow, if you want to do custom graphics with a laser, you're talking at least $1,500 to get started in just green. Here check this out:

http://www.pssl.com/Chauvet-LG-80-Scoprion-Grafx-DMX-Laser

Oh and to everyone else, yeesh no way I'd EVER project a laser up into the air. It's not a good effect anyway and is way too dangerous for pilots' night vision.

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Wow! Lots to think about! Define "near" an airport because as far as I'm concerned we aren't near an airport but then again distance is relative in flight. To be quite honest, I don't want to project the laser on anything, I want the beams! I'm guessing I'll probably have to get two hazers and put one on each side of the street. I found some Chauvet lasers that are designed for mid-air shows but the hazer is still an issue. Also, I plan on making sure the show never shoots UP, always across, because I don't want to crash any planes. One plus, a hazer uses water (which is CHEAP)!

As for your snowflake idea, I would suggest getting one of those projectors that creates "falling snowflakes". Here is a link to one:

http://www.christmas-decorations-gifts-store.com/store/PPF/parameters/789_121/more_info.asp

Or you could always just buy a snow machine :)

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Wow! Lots to think about! Define "near" an airport because as far as I'm concerned we aren't near an airport but then again distance is relative in flight. To be quite honest, I don't want to project the laser on anything, I want the beams! I'm guessing I'll probably have to get two hazers and put one on each side of the street. I found some Chauvet lasers that are designed for mid-air shows but the hazer is still an issue. Also, I plan on making sure the show never shoots UP, always across, because I don't want to crash any planes. One plus, a hazer uses water (which is CHEAP)!

As for your snowflake idea, I would suggest getting one of those projectors that creates "falling snowflakes". Here is a link to one:

http://www.christmas-decorations-gifts-store.com/store/PPF/parameters/789_121/more_info.asp

Or you could always just buy a snow machine :)

If you are going to be using this outdoors which I am assuming you are, the hazer might not be the best route because you have to contend with the weather, which in this case is wind. The haze is so thin and light winds these days will carry it right off.

One other thing you need to keep in mind is the hazer works non stop so you are pulling a constant draw of power. I would go with a good 1200w fogger with some Froggys Swamp Juice. Good thing about the foggers is the foger is only pulling it's max wattage during warm up and heat cycles, during standby or while the pump is pumping you are only drawing less then have an amp, where with a hazer you would be pulling 7 amps constantly. Yes with the 1200w fogger at full cycle it would be 10 amps but that is only at 7 mins or less at a time, where with a hazer it is 7 amps constantly.

As far as regulation of how fair you need to be from an airport or flight path, I don't know the answer to that. Just keep this in mind, if these do go in the air, even though you can't see it in the sky, you can still see them from the air. Mike is absolutely correct about them causing night blindness. FBI and FAA takes it very seriously. I know this sounds funny, but the person that regulates lasers and lasers used in shows is the FDA. They would be the best people to contact in finding the answers about using lasers outside in a show.

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