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General Articles

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Child of Change
L. Michael Roberts

    This article was written by L. Michael Roberts to fill an empty page in the world's first Laser Clip Art Catalogue that was issued in the Spring of 1993.  Reaction to this article was so positive that it led to the publication of the Laser Effects Quarterly, which eventually morphed into the LaserFX.com web site!  It is reproduced here out of historical interest.

    Our industry is in a state of change brought on both by the global recession, and major technological strides; this clip-art catalogue is a child of these changes.
    The global economic situation has forced companies to be 'lean and mean' with the accent on productivity.  Emphasis on 'niche' marketing  means greater user/vendor interaction as seen at the last ILDA meeting in New York.  The industry is changing from a small number of large companies, to a large number of of small companies and many solo operators.
    This is due to the maturing of our industry, the generally falling cost of the technology, a larger pool of individuals with the needed skills, and more powerful laser graphics software at reasonable prices.  The next generation of laser projectors will put high-res, 16.7 million colour machines into the hands of hundreds.
    Another favorable indicator of the maturing of our industry is the emergence of spechalized companies.  We all remember the old days when we had to R&D, build, wire, program, perform with, and maintain a system.  Today there are specialist companies offering hardware components and sub-systems, laser graphics software only companies, and an 'art-ware' company that bids to produce complete visuals for shows, clip-art companies, and custom digitizers.
    These specialists mean that one can now concentrate on running the laser display business.  You are not forced to 're-invent the wheel' on a regular basis.  Others worry about providing the next special effect in the software, building the better scan amp, digitizing the animation, etc., as they succeed based on the quality of their products and services.
    We must acknowledge that one of the accelerators of these changes in our industry is standardization.  Without the work and leadership of ILDA, hardware, terminology and frame exchange standards would not exist.  These are the first few steps towards a better, stronger industry where all will benefit.  Look at the film and video industries, standards allow you to rent equipment and get qualified help anywhere and anytime you need it.  While our industry may never become as large, it will not grow much more without standards and compatibility.
    We use 2 visible points and 3 blank points at the beginning and ends of the lines in our X/Y/I/C clip-art.  Our system allows us to adjust blank timing for AO or galvo blanking - some of you may need to play with the blank timing or add extra blank points if you have a slow blanking device (Galvo).   We also use 'blank-helper-points' [not an official ILDA term] so that the scanners do not have to make large jumps.
    Users of fast scanners, typically Cambridge's, may need to slow down a little to get best results. You may also need to add blank points if large jumps cause scanning problems.
    What's so bizarre about all of the above, is that I even have to mention it.  It's like saying "I shot this video on a BrandXcam so I have to play it back on a BrandXvcr".  In the early days of movies, there were 16 Fps, 18 Fps and 24 Fps; 17.5 mm, 16mm and 35 mm; and even different sprocket patterns on movies.  Once the movie industry standardized on 24 Fps/35 mm, there was a boom in growth.
    We need a scanner tuning standard in our industry, something that is simple for all to use.  Perhaps to start, three speeds - slow, medium and fast; as technology improves, we can add faster, whip, blend, puree, etc.  A three position switch on the fast scan amps would allow selection to match image quality (medium speed amps would only have 2 settings, and slow no settings).  If we had a standard for tuning scan amps, then I would know that the clip-art looks as good on your system as it does on mine!  Please talk amongst yourselves and support any initiative that will get a workable standard in place soon.
    This catalogue is only possible because it is now cheaper to buy the clip-art you need than to make it yourself, and because the frames are available in a standard format.  This catalogue is both a child, and a herald, of the changes in our industry.  Enjoy!
    L. Michael Roberts

 

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