ILDA Career Achievement Award recipients

My Image

The Career Achievement Award is ILDA's highest honor. It honors "an exceptional individual with a distinguished history of achievement in the laser display industry."

The CAA recipients below can generally be placed into one or more of these categories:
     • Those who helped build significant laser display-related businesses
     • Those who made artistic and technical achievements
     • Those who worked to improve ILDA and the laser display industry.

From 1989 to 2007, Members nominated candidates and a three-person panel made the final selection. Beginning in 2009, Members nominate candidates, and then a few months later vote on the nominees in order to choose each year’s winner.

Recipients are listed below. Click the person’s name for more information about a recipient. Since 2009, this information usually comes from the nominating statement.


1989
  • Ivan DryerOpen or Close

    The name "Laserium®”" is synonymous with laser shows. Ivan Dryer is the man behind Laserium -- the man who brought laser shows to mass audiences.

    Dryer was a filmmaker in the early 1970s. On one project, he worked with Dr. Elsa Garmire, a Cal Tech physicist interested in laser light art. (She had previously worked with other artists on special event laser shows.) The resulting film, Laser Image, did not have the pure colors and shimmer of laser light.

    So Dryer had the idea of bringing the Cal Tech laser to Los Angeles' Griffith Observatory. He, Garmire and Dale Pelton formed Laser Images, Inc. to create planetarium laser shows.

    The rest is history. The first Laserium show opened to the public on November 19, 1973. It was the first ongoing laser show (not part of a special or one-time event), and it spawned an industry. Dryer's Laserium shows went on to be played in 46 cities worldwide, and were viewed by over 20 million people. Other companies sprang up to do planetarium shows, and laser imagery then spread to other venues such as concerts and corporate shows.

    Laserium was the longest running theatrical attraction in the history of Los Angeles. It continued until the Griffith closed for remodeling on January 5, 2002 -- a remarkable 28-year run.

    Dryer is universally recognized as the father of the laser show industry. His selection by ILDA as recipient of the first Career Achievement Award underscores his unique place in the history of laser displays.

    More on Ivan Dryer's career is at an ILDA webpage published after he passed away on July 27, 2017.

Founder of Laser Images Inc., inventor of Laserium® planetarium shows, and the father of the laser show industry


1990
  • Seiji InatsuguOpen or Close

    Seiji Inatsugu, one of the founders of Laser Media, Inc., is the recipient of ILDA's second annual Career Achievement Award for outstanding contributions to the industry. Inatsugu, who received the award at the 1990 General Meeting in Bradenton, Fla., was hailed for a long list of technical contributions to the laser industry, "a veritable encyclopedia of fundamental innovations," said Ivan Dryer, head of Laser Images and ILDA's current president.

    Inatsugu, who holds a doctorate in physics, began his fascination with lasers in the late 1960s when he made his own lasers and blew the glass for the tubes. His technical accomplishments at Laser Media include the following: the development of galvo-based beam switching, now a fundamental laser show technique; the development of stable scanner amplifiers that paved the way for complex galvo-scanned images; and the conceptualization of Digital Graphic Image Generation, leading to the development of the IMAGEN computer and ZAP software.

    In accepting the award, Inatsugu urged the industry to prepare for a nev era that focuses on small but steady improvements in quality. "The book of our industry is not finished. Perhaps Chapter One of the book has been written. It is about the formative years of the industry. We are going to write Chapter Two together. That will be about the growth and maturity of the industry."

    Other noteworthy "Sayings of Seiji" include the following:

         • "To engineers and technicians: it is no longer possible to make leaps and bounds in technical progress as was done in my days. Do not let it discourage you because the industry still needs to solidify its technical basis.

         • "To those who are in management... although short term profit may be realizable by cutting costs in the areas of research and development, I envision that quality in products and services you provide will make your organization successful. Without technical innovation accompanied by creative vision, the prospects for such an organization will be dim.

         • "Technological progress depends on the technologies and components made available to us by suppliers, such as lasers and galvos. Without their improvement, there is a limit in this industry's technological progress."

Co-founder of Laser Media, who made fundamental breakthroughs for laser display technology


1991
  • Floyd RollefstadOpen or Close

    Floyd Rollefstad, president of Laser Fantasy International, received ILDA's 1991 Career Achievement Award honoring a lifetime of technical and artistic achievements.

    Rollefstad was honored for a series of almost single-handed technical achievements that have significantly advanced the laser display industry, including: 3-D laser graphic projection techniques, acousto-optic RGB technology for full-color graphics projection, and several unique fiber optic effects.

    "Floyd Rollefstad has a persistent desire to be successful, to make fantasy come true," said Seiji Inatsugu of Laser Media, Inc., last year's winner of the Career Achievement Award. Inatsugu presented the 1991 award to Rollefstad at ILDA's annual meeting in Los Angeles. "He certainly has moved and shaken the industry," added Ivan Dryer, president of Laser Images, Inc. and recipient of the first Career Achievement Award. "We have been inspired by his work," said Dryer

    In accepting the award, Rollefstad said he counted himself to be fortunate, because "not too many people get to participate in the birth of an industry. Artistically, we have incredible opportunities. We are the first people to ever use the amazing power of the laser to do artistic things."

    In addition to his pioneering technical work, Rollefstad was also honored for bringing educational laser display programs to more than 1,500 high schools across North America.

    "We're very proud of our education shows," said Rollefstad, whose company was among the first to produce full-length educational programs using laser displays. Educational shows include "American Dream," an historical program, "Learning to Fly," about aviation, and "Listen to the Whales," which covers ecology.

    Rollefstad began creating laser shows soon after obtaining his masters degree from the University of North Dakota in 1977, the same year he cofounded Laser Fantasy. After producing shows in Chicago and Minneapolis, his company came to the West Coast in 1980 to perform in Seattle at the Pacific Science Center, where it still performs today. The company is headquartered in Bellevue, Wash.

    One of Laser Fantasy's best known works is at Washington state's Grand Coulee Dam, where laser images thousands of feet across tell a nightly story of the area's natural history. The show premiered in March, 1989 and runs during summer months. It uses 70 watts of laser power and sophisticated graphics projectors that produce full-color displays.

Laser Fantasy founder, honored for pioneering work and technical achievements


1992
  • Jennifer MorrisOpen or Close

    Laser artist Jennifer Morris was honored with ILDA's fourth annual Career Achievement Award in recognition of over 15 years of ground-breaking work in the laser display field.

    Morris, a founder and former president of Image Engineering Corp. (IEC), made laser history in 1977 when she pioneered the first use of representational laser graphics in "Lovelight" The show, which premiered at the Boston Museum of Science's Hayden Planetarium, also broke new ground with its use of a highly-automated control system.

    Morris and Walter Gundy founded IEC in 1979, often working with industrial clients such as Cadillac and Wendy's. Morris is currently IEC's creative director, responsible for the design of such laser productions as:

    "Voyage of the Little Mermaid" laser animation at Walt Disney World;
    "The Laser Zone" series of shows for Kmgs Entertainment Parks;
    "A Haven for life" presentation at the St. Louis Science Center, and
    "IIlumagenesis," laser effects for six dancers, featured in "Enter the Night," a revue currently running at the Stardust Theatre in Las Vegas.
    Morris has also directed the development of software tools at IEC and maintained decade-long relationships with such clients as IBM and the Meadowbrook Music Festival. When it comes to laser design, Morris says she prefers non-representational imagery. "I think it makes the best use of laser light A laser isn't film or video. A laser is its own kind of creature."

    Before launching IEC, Morris directed laser programs for the Aspen Design Conference, Chrysler and General Motors. She was also involved in electronic music and video graphics. Her independent work has been shown in London, Copenhagen, Geneva, Montreal and Boston. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kirkland College, NY, where she concentrated in multimedia design.

Co-founder of Image Engineering Corporation and pioneer of digital laser imagery


1993
  • Robert MuellerOpen or Close

    Robert Mueller, executive vice president and art director of Lightspeed Design, received ILDA's fifth Career Achievement Award in recognition of his thirteen years of contributions to the industry.

    Mueller literally worked his way up from the bottom of the laser display field, starting as a ticket-taker for a laser show in St. Paul, Minn., in 1980. Under the employ of Floyd Rollefstad, the founder of Laser Fantasy International and the 1991 recipient of ILDA's Career Achievement Award, Mueller switched paths from studying architecture at the University of Minnesota to become a top artist, programmer and art director.

    In addition to his artistic achievements, Mueller helped define display software developed by Aura Technologies and Laser Fantasy. He also pursued techniques needed to create digital and analog polarized 3D stereoscopic projections. After working at Laser Fantasy since 1980, Mueller became one of the founding members of Lightspeed Design in 1992.

    Under Mueller's direction, Lightspeed's artistic team recently won a string of awards in the 1993 competition for Outstanding Laser Displays. A winning trade show installation for Nintendo (hardware by Laser Fantasy) included seven scanner pairs that provided 360-degree coverage of a 50-foot dome. Another Nintendo production included 3D laser graphics visible with polarized glasses and laser-projected video imagery. Mueller's "Juggling Clown" was also honored with first-place in the Graphic Animation category. The piece featured precomputed morphing animations on spline-interpolated real-time paths.

    "I was spellbound and mesmerized the first time I saw a laser," said Mueller, recalling when he saw a laser at the age of 13 in a science museum. "I believe there is something in all of us that is attracted to light. Perhaps there is an exponentially greater attraction to laser light."

    In regard to his work, Mueller says he is never satisfied with a business-as-usual attitude. "I have an innate desire to take things to the next level. If I have an idea and I don't implement it, I don't feel I've accomplished what I've wanted to do." In addition to enthusiasm and dedication, Mueller believes the next essential ingredient for a laser show producer is the ability to surprise the public. "Audiences need to see something new, something that takes them by surprise. That's our goal; to create something so intrinsically interesting it gets people's attention."

Award-winning artist and producer at Laser Fantasy and Lightspeed


1994-2003

(Not awarded 1994-2003)


2004
  • Patrick MurphyOpen or Close

    Patrick Murphy, as founder and 15-year president of Pangolin Laser Systems, played a key role in making it possible for just about anyone to create affordable, professional-quality laser shows.

    Laser computer graphics pioneer

    Murphy was a pioneer in laser computer graphics. His first computerized laser graphics were done in 1979, using a mainframe computer at Oberlin College. In 1981 he earned a B.A. degree in Laser Art and Technology. For the next five years, he continued to improve his software. In 1986, Murphy founded Pangolin Laser Software to sell his Amiga-based Laser Show Designer program, the first laser software that worked like standard computer graphics paint programs.

    In 1988, he and William Benner began their close collaboration on continually-improved Lasershow Designer versions. Murphy primarily handled Pangolin business functions and LD user interface programming, while Benner worked on advanced LD software programming and on the QuadMod hardware boards. Lasershow Designer was both a technological and artistic success. It won more awards for Pangolin and its clients than any other laser software and became a worldwide market leader.

    Assisting ILDA and the laser industry

    Murphy was a strong supporter of ILDA, working to create standardized equipment and shows. The widespread use of ILDA-compatible projectors and interchangeable shows demonstrates the degree to which this vision was realized. He was on the ILDA Board of Directors from 1994-1996, was elected ILDA President in 1995, and served as ILDA Airspace Issues Coordinator from 1996-1999.

    In November 1995, one month after Murphy was elected ILDA President, the FDA shut down all outdoor laser shows in Las Vegas. For the next three years, Murphy and other key ILDA members worked with regulators to protect the right of laserists to do outdoor shows. This effort was eventually successful — Murphy even wrote some of the regulations and forms used by the government. For his work, Murphy was awarded an ILDA Certificate of Commendation, and received an Award of Recognition from the “SAE G-10” aviation safety committee.

    Technical and artistic achievements

    Murphy was one of the three inventors of an entirely new style of laser display, raster graphic frames. He and Benner were co-winners of three ILDA Technology Awards and two Brewster Awards. Murphy also won an ILDA Technology Award for his renumbering algorithm, and two ILDA Artistic Awards for his own laser art creations.

    Patrick Murphy's acceptance speech

    Patrick Murphy could not attend the ILDA Awards Banquet. His prepared remarks are below.

    I’m sorry I can’t be with you tonight. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for this wonderful recognition. It means a lot to me, since I’ve been attracted to lasers all of my working life.

    This attraction comes about, I think, because laser displays are the purest of the visual arts. If you consider the other lighting disciplines represented here at the ETS-LDI conference, light is always used in the support of something else: stage lighting, architectural lighting, nightclub lighting. But with laser shows, light IS the show.

    Light is special. It is the cosmic speed limit. It is what the universe formed out of, in the Big Bang. In the Bible, it is the second thing created, after the heavens and the earth. And the purest, most controllable light of all is lasers.

    The artistic pinnacle of laser displays, to me, were the early planetarium shows. These shows had only abstracts – no graphics – plus very creative lumia and diffraction effects. Nothing but light illustrating music. They are one of the two great accomplishments of laser art.

    The other is audience-scanned beam shows. The people in this room know, like few others, how exciting it is to be surrounded by precision-shaped light. It’s like being inside a fireworks display! It is a shame that audience scanning shows are essentially banned in the United States. My one regret in my career is that I wasn’t able to help bring audience scanning to the U.S.

    In my career, I’ve been most proud of three areas:

    The first and most important was to make it easier for people to create professional laser shows, with the work of Bill Benner and myself on Lasershow Designer.

    The second was to work with others in ILDA to create a real industry, with standard projectors and interchangeable shows like in those film and video.

    The third area I’m proud of is helping to keep outdoor shows legal in the U.S.

    I could not have done this by myself. There are many people I’d like to thank, starting with my wife Donna and with my parents, who supported my efforts even when I did something “useless” like study laser art in college. There are many others in ILDA -- too many to list. I’d like to make special note of my friend David Lytle, whom I’ve known since high school; of Greg Makhov; and of course my long-time laser partner Bill Benner. It has been a privilege to work with him. I asked Bill if he would accept the award in my absence. Since he is on a plane right now, I’d like to ask his wife, Karen, if she would come up and accept it.

    Thank you!

An innovator in laser software, founder of Pangolin Laser Systems, and a strong supporter of ILDA's work


2005

(2005 award withdrawn by vote of ILDA Board of Directors)


2006
  • Doug McCulloughOpen or Close

    Inspired by the music of The Beatles, Walt Disney’s “Fantasia”, Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: Space Odyssey”, and a host of cultural events of the 1960s, Doug McCullough began creating psychedelic light shows for rock concerts in 1968.

    His first use of coherent light was in 1970 when he created lumia effects with a Helium-Neon laser in a multi-media performance with avant-garde electronic musician Morton Subotnick. In the mid-1970s, he formed Audio Visual Imagineering (AVI) as a sole proprietorship. In 1978 he first used high-power Krypton/Argon laser effects for multi-media presentations. In 1979, he fulfilled a lifelong ambition of performing light shows in a planetarium theater with the opening of “Laserdrive” at the Miami Space Transit Planetarium.

    Doug concentrated in the 1980s on developing the potential of laser light shows. One of the first uses of computer laser graphics was in 1982, when he introduced sequential laser animation in a planetarium light show titled “Visual Music”. He also pioneered thematically mixing abstract and graphic imagery in laser show choreography. Doug's shows at New York City's Hayden Planetarium (which included "Laser Floyd", "Laser Zeppelin", and "Laser Beatles") were legendary.

    In addition to planetarium shows, Doug worked on corporate meetings and special events, producing laser presentations for numerous high profile clients. For the corporate market, he developed generic laser “modules” for meeting openings, closings, speaker introductions, coffee breaks, product reveals, etc.

    At AVI, Doug innovated the extensive use of scanned mid-air beam effects with no “bounce” mirrors. This “look” of two lasers creating crisscrossing scanned mid-air beam effects has since become an industry standard.

    In 1987 Doug helped closely with the founding of ILDA; he served on the original Ethics Committee. Over the next 17 years, he and his team at AVI received numerous ILDA Awards for “hands-on” work in creative show production. In fact, in total number of ILDA Awards received, AVI has won more than any other company save one.

    In the early 1990s, Doug co-invented a 360-degree laser projection system for planetariums known as Omniscan. He also was the first to develop 3-D laser shows using the ChromaDepth technique. In 2000, Doug created the first all-raster laser show done with standard laser scanners. His ILDA Award-winning “Linea” was produced for Pangolin to demonstrate the then-new technique of TV-like raster scanned laser images.

    Even now his commitment to laser art remains strong. Doug continues to work in lasers with his new company, Laser Show Design, Inc., which specializes in high-end laser presentations for theme parks, corporate meetings, and special events. In 2006, Doug wrote: “If I look at visual music and light art over the broad historical sweep of the last few hundred years where many have struggled for acceptance, I have a profound appreciation of living at a time when both the technology and the marketplace allow me to pursue my passion.”

    Doug McCullough's acceptance speech

    A shorter version of this was read by William R. Benner Jr. on Doug's behalf, at the 2007 ILDA Conference in China.

    I’m really honored to receive this prestigious award. When I think back to the start of my career in “light shows” in 1968, I never thought about making a lot of money or receiving acclaim. I was simply excited about the experience of creating dynamic visuals that transformed the environment and accompanied music. So now, almost 40 years later, it’s all the more gratifying to have my career acknowledged by my peers in the industry. And hey, the best part is that I’m alive and able to enjoy it! So thank you ILDA for this award.

    I’d like to mention some individuals who were a great inspiration to me and in some cases gave me encouragement early on. Those people include Joshua White of the Joshua Light Show from the Fillmore East, Jordan Belson – independent filmmaker and the master of abstract cinema, Thomas Wilfred – the father of modern light shows and the originator of “lumia” (the art of light and color), and Ivan Dryer – the pioneer of laser light shows and creator of “Laserium”.

    There’s a funny thing about doing light shows: Once you really get into it, from the creative side, IT get’s into you…sorta like catching a virus, or bug, that never goes away but stays with you your whole life! That’s what happened to me. I got the bug.

    After the whole fad of the psychedelic era faded in 1970, I found that I still wanted to pursue the goal of “visualizing music” and developing the medium of light as an art form. However, at that time there was absolutely no demand in the marketplace for this. So basically I labored in obscurity…I was the stereotypical starving artist pursuing some weird art form that no one understood or cared about. All of that changed when I saw my first “Laserium” show in New York City’s Hayden Planetarium. It was a revelation – a spiritual experience, really. There were crowds of people avidly enjoying a fantastic sound and light show. It was like being in a futuristic “temple of light”…something that was only written about in science fiction novels. Although I had previously worked with lasers to create lumia effects, Ivan Dryer’s approach really opened my mind to the artistic potential of lasers. Profoundly inspired by “Laserium”, I began to change myself from a “misunderstood, starving artist” to an entrepreneur devoted to the creation of viable entertainment. It was quite a leap, both technically and financially, to make this transition from incandescent to coherent light! But the more I explored lasers, the more excited I became at the possibilities.

    By a dual-pronged approach of pushing the technology and developing a new style of choreography, we were able to make laser light shows an extremely powerful medium – not just a “gee whiz” special effect but a tool to communicate ideas.

    When you study the history of light shows, you’ll discover that it goes back a few centuries when a few visionaries imagined an instrument that could produce visuals in much the same way that a musical instrument produces sound. The term for this imaginary instrument was the “color organ”. With the advent of electricity and the light bulb, the first rudimentary color organs were made. However, the results were crude and not expressive in the way that music was.

    The more deeply that I worked on developing the potential of laser projection, the more convinced I became that it was the realization of the long-held dream of a color organ.

    Being a like-long fan of animated cartoons, I was naturally drawn to marry the graphic capabilities of computers with our laser projectors to create laser animation. It may seem elementary now, but in the early 1980s it was pretty hot stuff!

    While I spearheaded these developments, I’ve been very fortunate to have worked closely with many brilliant and talented individuals. Some of these who I’d like to acknowledge are: Aron Bacs, Roger Lippincott, Eric Honsch, Jeff Hwang, Scott Frederick, Jerry Wallace, Dave Oxenreider, Willie Castro, Carey Langille, Rob DiAddezio, Bill Benner, and Greg Makhov. Just like making a movie, producing a laser show is truly a team effort!

    If I can be permitted to “preach” for a few moments: When I look back over the brief history of laser light shows, I see the growth process…in baby steps, growth spurts, and sometimes major breakthroughs. It’s not so much where you start in the process, but how committed you are to continually improve. This is the real achievement.

    While I’m very, very excited about the new technologies that are becoming available - such as 60K scanning and solid-state lasers – it’s how we utilize these tools that will determine our success.

    It’s my observation that the biggest problem that we face as an industry is, quite simply, the proliferation of poor quality laser shows. The effect of these shows literally destroys the market for laser displays. Now I know that no one wants to come forward and admit that their work is not up to par! But if we are to generate long-term interest and success in the future, each of us must hold ourselves to high standards of accountability in producing significant value for our clients.

    It’s not a question of “getting by” - just showing up with some lasers and shooting beams around. Ask yourself how you can best apply the unique capabilities of the laser medium to solve problems for your clients and exceed their expectations.

    OK, now a word (or maybe two!) about ILDA. From my perspective, ILDA has been THE mechanism that has transformed our industry from the “dark ages” of the late 1980s when there were NO agreed upon standards and imagery produced by one company could not be played back on another company’s projector. Also, the ILDA awards competition has had great merit – allowing us to view each other’s work and be inspired to improve our own. Our ability to successfully respond to this type of competition will produce practical benefits for us in the marketplace. And lastly, ILDA has provided us with a powerful voice in the public discourse when there have been irrational fears about the safe use of lasers for entertainment and display.

    Finally, I sincerely hope that ILDA will continue, on a yearly basis, to evaluate deserving candidates for this career achievement award. John Tilp, Greg Makhov, Bill Benner, Tim Walsh, and Dick Sandhaus are a few that, in my opinion, are definitely worthy of this award.

    Thank you!!!

Early light artist who transitioned into lasers; founder of Audio Visual Imagineering. AVI was an early user of computer laser graphics and is #2 on the all-time list of ILDA Award winners (as of 2006).


2007
  • William R. Benner, Jr.Open or Close

    Bill Benner has revolutionized the laser show industry by creating technology that has made very advanced programming technology available to a mass, worldwide market at an affordable price.

    Bill's Pangolin technology has become the standard of the industry -- a yardstick by which all other programming systems are judged. Not resting on his laurels, he has continuously introduced new innovations into his programming capabilities -- which have in turn given users more powerful tools to produce more sophisticated presentations and increase the viability of laser shows in the global marketplace.

    Bill has also been one of ILDA's staunchest supporters -- contributing much in time and money. Bill's groundbreaking work as chairperson of the ILDA Technical Committee has been especially noteworthy in forwarding the use of new technology and establishing standards.

    William R. Benner Jr.'s acceptance speech

    This page contains remarks prepared by Bill for the Awards Presentation. Owing to time constraints, he was not able to read the full text as presented below.

    It is indeed an honor and a privilege to receive the Career Achievement Award - an award which is the highest accolade that ILDA bestows upon members of the laser display community.

    During the course of ILDA's multi-decade history, there have only been eight other recipients of the Career Achievement Award, and I must admit that I was a little bit afraid of this award up until now. In the past, I jokingly referred to this award as the "kiss of death", because the first six recipients of this award left the laser display industry shortly after receiving it! As the latest recipient, I can tell you that I am not planning on leaving the laser display industry any time soon.

    Of course, while individuals are able to accomplish great things, I believe the greatest accomplishments are always the result of close relationships and strong collaboration. I wouldn't be receiving such an award without the never-ending encouragement of my wife Karen, and the inspiration that my son William gives to me every day. Nor would I have gotten here without the tremendous support and notable accomplishments of all the people who make up the great team of Pangolin. And it never hurts to have great friends, and I have some of the greatest, including ILDA's safety committee chairman Greg Makhov, and Patrick Murphy and Doug McCullough, both of whom are not only my closest friends, but are also ILDA Career Achievement Award winners themselves.

    Earlier in my career people often wondered aloud how long we would be able to sell laser software and hardware, since the potential for growth in this field seemed so limited. And yet, year after year the laser display industry somehow manages to grow. I can tell you that I am as excited as ever for the future - not only of the laser display industry as a whole, but also about my own role - which I see as continuing to push the envelope of laser software and hardware while expanding the number of laser show producers and audience members worldwide.

    Thank you!

President of Pangolin Laser Systems, recipient of numerous ILDA Awards, developer of advanced software and hardware systems, and a strong supporter of ILDA's work.


2008

(Due to a numbering change, there were no awards called “2008 ILDA Awards”. The awards went directly from 2007 to 2009.


2009
  • Greg MakhovOpen or Close

    Greg Makhov has almost 30 years experience with visible lasers, building laser display equipment, and performing laser lightshows. He also worked in the Projection/Special Effects Dept. at Epcot for five years, maintaining then rebuilding the laser gear used in the nightly laser show.

    Greg is also strongly involved the area of laser safety. In this regard he has published several papers and he participates in the International Laser Safety Conference. He consults regularly for Rockwell Laser Industries (Cincinnati OH) as a Laser Entertainment Safety Instructor. He also consults for other laser display companies, teaching laser safety as well as basic laser principles.

    Greg has been chair of the ILDA Safety Committee since its inception in 1987. He has provided invaluable service to ILDA in the area of safety, as well as in hosting and supporting conferences and other ILDA activities.

    Nominating statement

    Greg was the first CAA recipient to be voted on by ILDA Members. (In previous years, Members nominated candidates, and a three-person judging panel made the final CAA selection.) The information below is from the nominating statement submitted to ILDA Members prior to CAA voting:

    Greg Makhov has made technologically sound, affordable laser equipment available to a many, many individuals and companies in this business -- giving many their start in a successful manner. He has been an educator -- literally teaching courses in laser safety.

    He has been a tireless proponent of the safe use of lasers for display and has been instrumental in conferring with the FAA when issues (and misunderstandings) about the use of lasers have threatened our industry. Greg has been a long-time supporter of ILDA -- volunteering much time, effort, and money for ILDA conferences and activities.

    Greg's company, Lighting Systems Design, Inc., has been presenting a wide variety of laser shows since the early 1980s -- growing to the point of producing major multi-media spectaculars such as the opening of Lincoln Financial Field for the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday Night Football (to rave reviews!).

President of Lighting Systems Design Inc., tireless proponent of the safe use of lasers. ILDA Safety Committee chair since its inception. A strong supporter of ILDA's work.


2010
  • Lothar BoppOpen or Close

    Dipl.-Ing. (FH) Lothar Bopp founded and leads one of the major players in the laser show industry. It is a company which is active in more than 65 countries and which is called by independent market analysts, like the economic scientist Prof. Dr. Hermann Simon, the market leader in its industry. With over 100 ILDA Awards his company leads the all-time ranking list of the industry’s most important award. No other company ever received more ILDA Awards than his team.

    With the first two letters of his first name and his last name, he formed the name of the company: LOBO. With his name he stands worldwide for excellence in both, high-end laser show equipment and show production services, be it for permanent installations or for shows on a rental basis. LOBO is one of the industry’s driving forces, an innovation motor, a creative think tank as well as origin and model for many other companies which entered the market much later. Lothar Bopp opened many new markets for the whole industry and lifted the appeal of lasers among entertainment professionals on a new level.

    LOBO has an astonishing fan base, not just among laser freaks but also among competitors. Even one of Lothar Bopp’s toughest competitors, Rüdiger Müller, founder of tarm had nothing but praise for LOBO company: "I know the market unlike hardly any other. In my opinion, no other company is fit to hold a candle to LOBO in the area of show laser technology." No doubt; without Lothar Bopp’s uncompromising commitment to technical perfection and unconventional approaches, the laser industry would be different today.

    Lothar Bopp's acceptance speech

    Due to health problems, Lothar prepared a video acceptance speech which was shown at the 2010 ILDA Awards Presentation. This is a transcript of his video.

    My dear friends from ILDA: I deeply regret that I cannot be with you on this impressive ship this year. Actually I went through dramatic moments over the last weeks and I also had some serious surgery, which does not allow any kind of air travel for some weeks now.

    Fortunately the docs did a really good job and I am very happy to tell you that it will be just a matter of a few weeks until I will also able to travel and work as ever before.

    When staying in hospital for several weeks, you look back on your life from more distance. And I am really glad and grateful to tell that obviously not many things went wrong.

    Receiving the Career Achievement Award as ILDA’s highest honor is something very special in this situation. Probably there could not have been any better moment in my life to receive such an important Award.

    On the occasion of receiving this Award I want to thank you and those who supported me throughout my whole life: At all times I had the chance to have fantastic people around me: Be it my wife and my family, be it our employees working with extreme passion on every job or be it our clients, many of them supporting us for many decades now.

    Most of you might know our shows from the ILDA Awards or trade shows. Over and over again our designers have proven that lasers are more than flickering line art and flashy beams in the air, but a powerful means evoking emotions and creating dreams of light - unlike any other medium. With their help we opened markets for all of us in the industry, which frowned upon lasers in the beginning.

    But surprisingly not many of you know that doing shows is just a rather small fraction of our business. Primarily we still are manufacturer of laser systems and at least we always try to provide an extraordinary value for the money of our clients. I am not sure if there is a second laser company in the world, developing and manufacturing such an extraordinary wide range of products for laser display purposes.

    Some innovations, each of us takes for granted today, originated from the LOBO labs many years ago. Some of you know that we have been the first to provide an off-the-shelf solution for mutli-color laser shows or multi-processor realtime control systems. But only few will know, how LOBO innovations continuously inspired and penetrated the industry.

    Be it just such simple things to display multiple graphics simultaneously with just one scanner,…

    …or to have something some people call today "projection zones"…

    ….or to be able to target effect mirrors by means of scanners instead of opto-mechanics.

    This year was probably one of the most innovative years ever in the 28 years of our existence. No LOBO product ever before received so many important Awards of most different kinds than the new sparks laser projector family. With the optical system of this product, we could show that the actual brightness of a laser projector not primarily depends on its output power rather than on its beam characteristics. That’s the reason why even the smallest sparks laser can be significantly brighter than all those projectors stacking more and more lasers just to get out more light. More brightness at lower investment is one of the many deciding secrets behind this innovation. Honestly it was a hard job, convincing people that not output power but brightness makes the difference. But today we are very proud that this new approach even succeeded in markets, we have not been so present before, such as for example Japan or even Iran. And who knows, perhaps one of you will be the first to take this product over the big pond...

    The development of products like these is one of many possible answers of how to shape the future of our radically changing industry.

    I am also glad to see that with the “ILDA Professional Program”, the industry's leading trade association shows, that most of us believe that excellence and professionalism will be the only key which leads us into a promising future, ensuring the revenue, all of us need to continue to fascinate millions of spectators with our magical light.

    I am extraordinarily proud to receive this ‘Award of the Awards’ today. I hope you will have a fantastic time onboard and already today I am looking forward to welcoming you at LOBO in 2013.

Founder and leader of LOBO, one of the major laser light show companies. LOBO has won more ILDA Awards than any other company, and has been a strong supporter of ILDA's work.


2011
  • Stephen HeminoverOpen or Close

    Steve Heminover has been working since the early 1970's with laser display, to make it a formidable alternative to conventional media. In 1975 he created LGRASS, an interactive computer language specifically designed to control laser displays. As the first high-end laser graphics workstation, LGRASS pioneered true 3D (1984), stereoscopy (1985), and full-color RGB control (1988). He was the first to introduce the concept of RGB laser projection systems in Europe, along with industry standards to support them. The company he founded and runs, Aura Technologies, has been a pioneer in providing laser "clip art", in addition to producing shows and installations.

    He is a founding member of ILDA, where he has been very active. As chair of the Technical Committee for its first six years, he helped develop and evangelize the first worldwide industry standards. He created the Advanced Technology Workshop. He served on the Awards Committee since its inception in 1988, helping create its rules and standards for excellence, and presenting as Master of Ceremonies for ten years. He served on the ILDA Board of Directors for eight years, and was elected ILDA President a record four times.

    Introductory remarks

    At the 2011 Awards Banquet, Heminover was introduced by the 2010 Career Achievement Award winner, Lothar Bopp:

    First of all, I want to tell you how glad I am to be with you today. Due to health reasons it has not been possible to attend last year's conference. And you can imagine, it was a terrible situation for me, receiving ILDA's highest honor last year and not being able to accept it in person.

    So, I am really happy to be asked to honor today Steve Heminover, who really deserved receiving the Career Achievement Award this year.

    The very first time I met Steve was 24 years ago at the SIB trade show in Rimini in 1988. He is someone, whose passion for lasers and whose in depth technical background, but also whose special sense of humor is really captivating.

    But already years ago in the early 1970's, he started working with laser display, to make it an alternative to conventional media. In 1975 he created an interactive computer language specifically designed to control laser displays. He built the first high-end laser graphics workstation, pioneering in true 3D, stereoscopy and full-color RGB control. His company Aura Technologies has been a pioneer in providing laser "clip art", in addition to producing shows and installations.

    Also ILDA would not be that what it is today without him. Steve is a founding member and he was extraordinarily active. Not only serving as a chair of the Technical Committee, but he was also elected ILDA President four times. I also remember him as entertaining master of the Awards Ceremonies over many years. And: ....he speaks almost perfect German!

    Ladies and gentlemen, please give a warm applause to Mr. Steve Heminover, receiving the ILDA Career Achievement Award in 2011.

A pioneer in laser computer graphics, who was heavily involved in ILDA's formative years. He served four terms as ILDA President.


2012
  • Tom HarmanOpen or Close

    Laser Production Network was founded in 1968; Tom Harman has been president for 36 years. In that time, LaserNet has produced innumerable shows. He is famous for beam and aerial shows. LaserNet has repeat clients who demand his presence as no one can do a beam treatment as well as Tom. He won one of the early ILDA Awards in 1988 for one of his beam shows, and the 1998 LDI "Laser Display of the Year" award.

    In 2010, LaserNet became one of only four companies to complete the demanding "ILDA Professional" accreditation process, proving LaserNet's experience, laser safety training, and industry activities.

    Tom has a very strong history of support for ILDA. He was one of the original founders of ILDA and one of its charter members. He has maintained LaserNet membership in ILDA every single year without fail (one of only three members to do so over these 25 years). LaserNet hosted the ILDA Conference three different times: 1995, 2008 and 2010. In addition, the 2004 Conference at LDI in Las Vegas was co-managed by LaserNet's Christine Jenkin. So that is four Conferences that LaserNet has hosted and run.

    The brief space on this page does not permit a full listing of Tom's qualifications for CAA. Please visit a special webpage at www.lasernet.com/caa.htm to read more about Tom, including four letters of recommendation from industry leaders including last year's CAA recipient Steve Heminover.

    For Tom Harman’s CAA acceptance speech, see the 2012 winners page, and scroll down to the “2012 Career Achievement Award” section at the bottom.

President of LaserNet for 36 years, especially well-known for beam shows, a Founding Member of ILDA, and 4-time host of ILDA Conferences (as of 2012; he hosted again for a fifth time in 2014).


2013
  • Pavol KubošekOpen or Close

    Pavol Kubosek studied physics at Comenius University in the Slovak Republic. He received a Master's degree in optics and quantum mechanics, and a PhD. in 1993 with a thesis in speckle interferometry. He was a researcher in the Slovak Academy of Sciences, where he published many papers in international scientific journals.

    Pavol's career in laser display began in 1995 with the establishment of Kvant. He has said that the beginning was difficult and it helped him learn a lot about business. With personal qualities of persistence, consistency and good leadership, Kvant helped bring high quality lasers with affordable prices to the market. Now production is oriented on many different laser projectors with a wide range of possible adjustments based on customers' wishes, as well as laser modules used in display and other industries.

    Kvant has been innovative by introducing such features as DMX projector control, control over USB connections, introducing DPSS lasers (in 2004), controlling large numbers of projectors easily via software, first diode-only full-color laser system, plug-and-play lasers for smaller clubs, and compact solid-state modules pumped by blue laser diodes (2011). Kvant products are distributed in 40 countries; the company employs 80 people and was a finalist in Ernst & Young's "Entrepreneur of the Year" competition in 2012.

    Pavol holds many scientific and technical patents, and utility models. He never forgets that success comes only with a lot of effort. Kvant continues to upgrade quality, and search for new solutions in their Research & Development department.

Founder of KVANT Ltd., which helped bring high quality lasers with affordable prices to the market.


2014
  • Tim WalshOpen or Close

    Timothy Walsh graduated with a degree in Music Composition from the University of North Texas, and has always incorporated dance, film, and video into his compositions. While an undergraduate, he got his start in lasers in 1977, as a planetarium laserist for Laser Creations, Inc. in Texas. He also co-founded Brave Combo, a Grammy-winning band still going today. In 1985, Tim formed Laser Spectacles, Inc.. Since then he has performed and installed laser shows world-wide, from churches to raves, corporate meetings to outdoor festivals.

    Tim approaches laser shows as an artist, passionate about getting the right look and achieving his unique vision. To reach his goals, he began designing and building his own laser projection equipment. He envisions the ideal show as "Laser Synaesthesia" -- seeing exactly what one is hearing; to accomplish this, he uses the same audio signal to control both the loudspeakers and the laser scanners. Tim is a professional musician and composes "Laser Synaesthesia" pieces to accompany his performances on saxophone, clarinet, Irish pipes and accordion.

    Tim and Laser Spectacles have won over 28 awards, beginning with the first ILDA Awards in 1988 and continuing with First Place Awards in both 2011 and 2012 -- the only 1988 recipient still winning today. Other notable honors include "Best Laser Show" at LDI and a First Place International Festivals and Events Association award for "Best New Event.” Laser Spectacles was one of the first two companies to receive the designation "ILDA Accredited Professional Lasershow Company" in 2010.

    Tim is a Founding Member of ILDA, and has been one of the most active Members through the decades. He documented ILDA’s first meeting at Lake Tahoe in 1986 with a diary and audio recording -- still available online at ILDA’s website -- and served on the first Publicity Committee. He has written many articles for "The Laserist" magazine. Tim was Chair of the Awards Committee from 1993-2000 and from 2006 to the present. He was instrumental in presenting live laser shows at the annual ILDA Awards Banquet; prior to his tenure, only videos were shown. As Awards Committee Chair, Tim oversees the Awards Categories, plans the lasers at the Banquet and organizes the judging of both the Artistic and Technical Awards. [Note: Tim stepped down from the Awards Committee chair in 2017.]

    Tim joined the ILDA Board in 2006, and served as ILDA President from 2006-2011. Tim and his wife Helen hosted the very successful 2012 ILDA Conference in San Antonio, Texas, and he did this as one of the few sole-proprietor companies to have run an ILDA Conference. In 2013, Tim received the ILDA Outstanding Service Recognition Award, for his long and distinguished service to the association.

    About ILDA, Tim says: "I am thankful to have been a part of ILDA from the start; ILDA's network of support and inspiration aids me in accomplishing my goals. I feel part of a world-wide family of laserists."

    For Tim Walsh’s CAA acceptance speech, see the 2014 winners page, and scroll down to the “2014 Career Achievement Award” section at the bottom.

Founding Member of ILDA, past President 2006-2011, Awards Committee chair 1993-2000 and 2006-present. His company Laser Spectacles has won 28 ILDA Awards, and is one of the first two "ILDA Accredited Professional Lasershow Company" Members.


2015
  • Dirk BaurOpen or Close

    German laserist Dirk Baur started his career in 1989. From the beginning, he was into development of laser peripherals, drivers and power supplies. Very soon, the first galvo scanning systems came out of the workshop of his small company, which soon led to the legendary CATWEAZLE scanners. In 1996, Dirk became an ILDA Member with his former company, es-Lasersystems. In 1997 he founded MediaLas GmbH, and went further in developing hardware and software for laser entertainment purposes, such as LaserPainter software, super-fast MicroAmp CTi drivers, and many more. MediaLas received several technical and artistic awards for innovations such as the automated RGB color alignment tool of the Infinity show laser projector systems. Dirk owns several patents and trademarks, and has expanded his company to the industrial laser sector. Dirk was an ILDA board member from 1998 to 2000, and from 2005 to 2009. Between 2005 and 2007, he also served as ILDA President. In the year 2000, MediaLas joined forces with LOBO, to jointly host the 2000 ILDA Conference in Stuttgart.

Pioneering German laserist, developer of innovative scanners and laser systems. ILDA Board Member, President, and co-host of the 2000 ILDA Conference.


2016
  • Dr. Alexander TimofeyevOpen or Close

    In 1980 Alexander Timofeyev graduated from the Moscow Power Engineering high school majoring in Optoelectronics & Lasers where he was engaged in scientific work. He subsequently published over 50 laser-related research works and has 12 USSR Certificates of Invention (patents), as well as international patents.

    In 1995 he began work in laser display, helping develop outdoor laser advertising using acousto-optics to create bitmap images. He received the highest award at the Brussels Salon of Innovations: Eureka 1996.

    Shortly after that, Alexander became the со-founder and Chief Manager of Laser Show Systems Company (Moscow), which had become the largest company in the field of laser show systems at that time. It was the first company in Russia to integrate latest technologies and ILDA standards to the show technology represented on Russian Market. In 1998 he began participating in the ILDA Conferences.

    In 2003 Alexander became co-owner and general producer of Orion-Art Production International. In 2009 he became owner and CEO of Orion-Art Multimedia. The company is now one of the leading Russian companies in the field of laser and multimedia shows.

    From the very beginning of his work in the laser display industry, he has been striving to improve the quality of laser graphics and animation. Orion-Art began submitting their works for the ILDA Awards in 2004. Since then they have won 47 ILDA awards: 28 of them are the first and/or second prizes in the Laser Graphics, Beams & Screens, Lasershows, and Multimedia Show categories.

    In 2008 he was elected as a board member of the International Laser Association (LAS-Russia). Until 2011 he was heading the LAS' Department of Applied Laser Technologies in display systems, advertising and show-business. He was the first in Russia to introduce mandatory laser safety training and certification of technical staff working with lasers at laser displays.

    The 2011 ILDA Conference in Moscow, hosted by Orion-Art, was acknowledged as one of the most interesting and successful in the history of ILDA, and gained a few new ILDA members from Russia.

    Alexander Timofeyev believes that one of the key areas of his work is introducing new products and ILDA standards to the Russian market, maintaining the principles of ILDA ethics in working with partners, and compliance with ILDA safety standards.

    For Dr. Timofeyev’s CAA acceptance speech, see the 2016 winners page, and scroll down to the “2016 Career Achievement Award” section towards the bottom.

Head of Orion-Art Multimedia (winner of 47 ILDA Awards as of 2016), helping to improve Russian lasershows’ quality and safety, and host of the 2011 ILDA Conference.


2017
  • Alex HennigOpen or Close

    Alexander Hennig is well-known within the laser industry for helping build LOBO to a preeminent leader in laser and multimedia, and for his record-breaking number of awards. And he is well-known within ILDA for his long and influential service to help improve the association.

    Alex began by studying computer- related animation and media. In 1992 he began his long association with LOBO, as an intern. Alex said “I was fascinated by this magical light from day one. At the same time it is something immaterial but looks like being a physical object you can touch.“

    In 1994 as a LOBO freelance artist he created a multimedia show for the 1250th anniversary of the city of Fulda, Germany. This won LOBO their first ILDA Award. And winning the award was one reason he was asked to become LOBO’s creative director — a position he held for 23 years.

    Under Alex’s leadership, LOBO received a record-breaking 162 ILDA Awards. No other company has come close to this, making Alex one of the most influential laser artists in our industry.

    One reason for this success is that Alex was careful to have a varied style both in his own works and in those of others that he supervised. This meant there was not a typical or repetitive “LOBO look” — their work was always fresh.

    Alex has represented LOBO at trade shows, and within ILDA where he has been very active.

    Alex attended 16 ILDA Conferences since 1997. He worked on the Awards Committee, and served on the ILDA Board of Directors from September 2010 until November 2016. During his three terms he especially championed international members, smaller companies, direct voting for awards and Board members, and the ILDA New Talent award.

    Alex and LOBO significantly supported ILDA by co-hosting the 2000 ILDA Conference in Stuttgart, and again in 2013 by hosting both the ILDA and the Laserfreak conferences in Aalen. The 2013 event is thus far the most heavily-attended ILDA Conference ever.

    In 2016 he left LOBO after a quarter-century to work as creative director for a non-laser company, Zweiplan, in Munich.

    This is an appropriate time therefore to honor Alexander Hennig for his laser career achievements as the all-time ILDA Award winner, and as a strong supporter of the International Laser Display Association.

    For Alex Hennig’s CAA acceptance speech, see the 2017 winners page, and scroll down to the “2017 Career Achievement Award” section towards the bottom.

All-time ILDA Award winner as of 2017, three terms on the ILDA Board of Directors, two-time host or co-host of the ILDA Conference.


2018
  • Glenn ThomasOpen or Close

    Laser shows were first popularized by Laser Images Inc. through their “Laserium®” shows in planetariums.

    Laser Images’ Glenn Thomas pioneered the art of live performances of abstract laser imagery with music. During his 27(!)-year career as the senior laserist for Laserium® at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles from 1975 to 2002, Glenn performed approximately 12,500 live shows that both inspired and influenced those of us who followed in his footsteps.

    Laser shows were presented very differently during Glenn’s career. They were performed in the totally darkened environment of a planetarium theater with a single ion laser powering the innovative Laserium® projector. It had four X-Y scanner pairs and an extensive array of optical effects that even today have never been equaled. The original Laserium® shows consisted entirely of abstract laser imagery that was performed live. The laserist controlled all aspects of the image composition (such as harmonic frequencies, size, position, movement, color, optical effects, etc.) from a sophisticated console which was similar to an electronic music synthesizer — with a multitude of potentiometers, switches, and even joysticks.

    Glenn played the console just like a musical instrument and elevated Laserium® shows to become synonymous with visual music.

    In a very real sense, the laserist was the star of the show. A talented laserist was a lot like a rockstar guitarist who would drive audiences wild with their virtuosity. Similarly, audiences at live planetarium laser shows would erupt into applause after an especially exciting performance by the laserist.

    And Glenn was one of the most renowned and accomplished laserists of this bygone era of live laser shows. He was a master of his instrument – like Yo-Yo Ma is to a cello.

    Laserium® founder Ivan Dryer, honored as the first recipient of the ILDA Career Achievement Award, remarked after one of Glenn’s performances that it wasn’t just entertaining but that it was a transformative experience. Pretty high praise!

    It should also be noted that Glenn was sent to Laserium planetarium installations worldwide to teach other laserists how to perform. Consequently, his influence was experienced by literally millions of audience members.

    Considering Glenn Thomas’s lengthy career and unique artistic accomplishments, he is most deserving of ILDA’s highest recognition.

    ILDA has published online Glenn Thomas' book “Laserium® Laserist: The Greatest Job on Earth.

    A video of Glenn Thomas' CAA acceptance speech, and the text of the speech, is on the
    2018 ILDA Awards page (scroll down to the Career Achievement Award section).

Pioneering performing live laserist, 27 years with Laser Images Inc. (Laserium®) and trainer of many other early laserists.


2019
  • Alberto Kellner-OngaroOpen or Close

    Alberto Kellner-Ongaro has been active in the entertainment industry since 1985. He first worked in PR and event organizing for a show agency in Milan. Since 1987, he has worked with lasers. In May 1988 he founded Laser Entertainment srl.

    The focus of the company was to use and promote lasershow among the entertainment industry and related markets in Italy and in southern Europe, since spreading to the Middle East. Also, from the beginning Alberto has been fascinated by the use of lasers together with other media techniques (video, lights, special effects) to create a real "multimedia show".

    Since the first large scale waterscreen installed in Gardaland in 1995 (ILDA Award first place, Multimedia, in 1996), Laser Entertainment has received more than 30 international awards and recognitions between ILDA and other first place prizes from groups such as the European Lasershow Festival, BEA, and the Pepsi Award.

    Alberto and his creative team have been pioneers in graphic lasershow creation using different software platforms (Laser System Magnum, LOBO Lacon 3, Pangolin), bringing and sharing high quality "state of the art" lasershows to the industry. Furthermore he has developed and assembled innovative laser products, including:

    — The first 2 watt RGB DPSS solid state projector presented at ILDA in Las Vegas 2004 and winner of the ILDA Award for DPSS laser of the year called "Flash 2 watt RGB"

    — The first laser projector with both integrated wireless DMX and Pangolin Flashback to allow show recall and play via wireless DMX, finished in 2007 and presented at the ShowWay 2008 exhibition in Bergamo, Italy.

    Since 2010 Alberto and his team have pushed forward the integrated use of laser, lights and video mapping 3D to allow a unique multimedia experience

    Laser Entertainment was the first Italian company to join ILDA, in 1993. Since then Alberto has been an active member promoting the safe use of laser in Italy, southern Europe and the Middle East. Alberto served on the ILDA Mascom committee in 2002 and 2003, then as Board member in 2004, and served as ILDA President from November 2004 to March 2006.

Founder of Laser Entertainment srl of Milan, artistic and technical award winner, ILDA Board member and President


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