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December 19, 2008

Wikipedia: Laser lighting display

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A lasershow is a live multimedia performance.

Copper bromide laser in operation. Seen in South Florida in February 2006.

A laser lighting display or laser light show involves the use of laser light to entertain an audience. A laser light show may consist only of projected laser beams set to music, or may accompany another form of entertainment, typically a rock concert or other musical performance.

Laser light is useful in entertainment because the coherent nature of laser light causes a narrow beam to be produced, which allows the use of optical scanning to draw patterns or images on walls, ceilings or other surfaces including theatrical smoke and fog without refocusing for the differences in distance, as is common with video projection. This inherently more focused beam is also extremely visible, and is often used as an effect. Sometimes the beams are “bounced” to different positions with mirrors to create laser sculptures.

Laser scanners consist of small mirrors which are mounted on galvanometers to which a control voltage is applied. The beam is deflected a certain amount which correlates to the amount of voltage applied to the galvanometer scanner. Two galvanometer scanners can enable X-Y control voltages to aim the beam to any point on a square or rectangular raster. This enables the laser lighting designer to create patterns such as Lissajous figures (such as are often displayed on oscilloscopes); other methods of creating images through the use of galvanometer scanners and X-Y control voltages can generate letters, shapes, and even complicated and intricate images. (The use of X-Y raster scanning to create images is also used in television picture tubes.) A planar or conical moving beam aimed through atmospheric smoke or fog can display a plane or cone of light known as a “laser tunnel” effect.



Some lasers have the potential to cause eye damage if aimed directly into the eye, or if someone were to stare directly into a stationary laser beam. Some high-power lasers used in entertainment applications can also cause burns or skin damage if enough energy (typically a stationary beam) is directed onto the human body and at a close enough range. In the US, the use of lasers in entertainment, like other laser products, is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and additionally by some state regulatory agencies such as New York State which requires licensure of some laser operators. Safety precautions used by laser lighting professionals include beamstops and procedures so that the beam is projected above the heads of the audience. It is possible, and in some countries commonplace, to do deliberate audience scanning. In such a case, the show is supposed to be designed and analyzed to keep the beam moving, so that no harmful amount of laser energy is ever received by any individual audience member.

Lasers used outdoors can pose a risk of “flash blindness” to pilots of aircraft if too-bright light enters the cockpit. In the U.S., outdoor laser use is jointly regulated by the FDA and the Federal Aviation Administration. For details, see the article Lasers and aviation safety.


Laser light shows fully emerged in the early 1970s and became a form of psychedelic entertainment, usually accompanied with a live musical performance on stage or pre-recorded music. Pink Floyd were one of the first high profile bands to use lasers in their concert shows. They infamously pointed the laser directly into the crowd in shows, creating controversy over the potential for harm. This practice is now highly regulated in the U.S., to the point where almost all U.S. shows do not have laser beams that go into or close to the audience.

See also

  • International Laser Display Association
  • Laser harp
  • Liquid light shows

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
Laser light shows
  • U.S. FDA – Center for Devices and Radiological Health
  • International Laser Display Association
  • Laser Light Show Production Company
  • Laser Light Shows
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