a Laser Show - Introduction
Many people are dazzled by the beauty and excitement of laser shows.
The word laser itself conjures up visions ranging from high
technology entertainment to “death rays”. This mystique can be a useful tool in promoting special
events, or to make an event memorable.
|Lasers at the grand opening of an IMAX
theater - Photo courtesy of LOBO
LaserFX.com receives many E-mail requests for
advice, information and recommendations on hiring a laser show. These pages provide some helpful information and resources for those
planning to use lasers at their events.
Laser shows can be used for many different
types of events where impact and unusual visual effects are desired.
In these pages we are providing information for those planning to use a laser
show as part of a one-time or limited run event - permanent installations
are not covered although some of the information given may be applicable to
an installation situation. The most common types of events where you
can see laser shows are:
Large scale public and civic events such as national holiday
celebrations or festivals
Laser and fireworks spectaculars
Grand openings and other store promotions
Corporate Theater (in-house corporate meetings,
promotions, product announcements and internal company events)
Traditional theater, musicals, opera, ballet, magic
shows and rock concerts
Dances and raves
Birthday parties, bat/bar mitzvah parties and wedding
Depending on the type of event, different
styles of laser shows and different configurations of laser system will be
required. For large scale public events and outdoor shows, high power
lasers systems are required. For indoor events, lower power systems
can be used. For a Corporate Theater, Trade Show or Laser Billboard,
the emphasis might be on graphics while other types of shows, particularly
dance and party events, may use more beam effects.
Should you be
While laser has a certain mystique and can be
exciting to watch, it should be used with your production objectives in
mind. A laser system is a low bandwidth information presentation
medium (unlike video) thus the message to be presented needs to be
simplified into a series of bold images. Unlike video, laser beams are
intrinsically three dimensional and can "reach out" from the
stage, over and through the audience to add impact.
If you are considering a situation where you could use a
laser system or video projection, it is important that you recognise the
strengths and weakness of the two types of displays:
Video systems are capable of real-time displays of
live subjects, full motion at 25 or 30 frames per second, shaded colour
filled areas, and the images are relatively simple to produce.
Modern laser systems are capable of simulating some of these effects but
with limited size and bandwidth images.
Video images are limited to monitors, video walls, or
large screen projection. They suffer from limited resolution. No matter
how large you make the projected image (and the current limit appears to
be about 6 X 9 meters [20 X 30 ft]), it has limited resolution as you
are making the same 525 or 625 lines of information larger. Laser
images can be scaled to very large sizes without degrading the
Video projection requires a flat surface for the
image to be in focus. Laser graphics are in focus all the way
along the path and can be projected onto irregular surfaces without
Lasers are capable of large, bright, colourful
displays of outline images but with a more limited information content
than video projections.
The colours in laser displays are pure and more
saturated than in any other medium. Speckle adds a unique effect not
possible in other displays.
The contrast ratio (difference between light and dark
parts of the image) is extremely high with lasers causing the image to
appear to "float" away from the surface onto which it is
projected. This illusion can be enhanced by using 3D laser images.
Laser beam displays have a unique three dimensional
aspect that is not possible with other types of displays.
Laser systems can also project large and colourful
abstract and optical effects that are impossible to duplicate with other
In small-scale applications where detailed information
must be presented, video is the clear choice. In large scale
applications where pure colours, bright images, and limited information must
be conveyed in a spectacular manner, laser displays are the clear
choice. It is also possible to combine video images with laser
graphics for added effect or to exploit the strengths of both of the imaging
Before you start looking for a laser
company, it is best that you have some idea as to how you plan to use the
laser. The laser show could be used as the main focus of the event or
it may be used as a special effect. For example, the laser show would
be the main focus of the event when celebrating a civic holiday if it is
presented after some brief remarks by civic leaders.
In a corporate trade show or laser billboard application,
the objective is to convey a message or generate product or brand
awareness. This is best done with graphics and animations that are
designed to get the viewer's attention and "imprint" the message
or logo on
the viewer. While this type of laser show may be graphics intensive,
the content of the show may repeat in a short cycle so as to get the
attention of an audience that are more "passers by" than a group
that has assembled specifically to watch the laser show.
A laser show typically plays more of a special effects
role when used in a rock concert or theatrical setting as the main interest
of the audience is to see the performers. The laser show is designed
to enhance that performance or provide an effect that is otherwise difficult
or impossible to create outside of TV or movie special effects.
Try not to go into a meeting with a laser show production
company with fixed ideas about what you want to see at your show. The
laser company will have produced similar shows before and will be in a
position to tell you if your production ideas are possible, and to suggest
other enhancements and effects that you may not be aware of.
Selecting a laser
When selecting a laser company for your
event, you need to consider their level of expertise, their specialty, their
track record and finally the budget. It is often tempting to go with
the lowest quote but this many not be the wisest choice if the low bidder
does not have the equipment and experience needed to properly produce your
Be sure to ask the laser company about previous shows of the
type you are planning to stage that they have produced. They should be
able to provide you with information about the shows and possibly a demo
video tape. A company with a good track record will have no problem
providing a list of clients, and even contact information for the clients so
that you can get their client's opinion of the show produced for them.
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