Haze and fog for laser shows

In order to see laser beams and graphics, there MUST be something for the light to reflect off. It is not possible to do an effective laser beam show in clear air. And it is not possible for laser graphics to magically appear in mid-air (á la Princess Leia in Star Wars) without there being something for the light to reflect off of.

What is required for beams

In the case of beams, this means there must be particles in the air. The particles can already be in the air, such as dust, fog, smoke, humidity, rain and snow. Or for more controllability, the particles can be added with haze, fog or smoke machines, water screens, liquid nitrogen “curtains”, fireworks smoke, etc.

It is important to note that almost all professional beam shows require the use of a hazer or fog machine, at least indoors. This is because indoors air tends to be clean, and the beams would not be visible without adding haze or fog. (Note that many non-laser concerts and events also use haze and/or fog, to enhance standard stage lights. So this is a common practice.)

One problem with putting particles in the air is that if the room is too clouded, it may trigger smoke detectors. The result at best is disruptive fire alarms, and at worst is activation of sprinklers. To prevent these problems, a fire watch is required.

Under a fire watch, the fire detection system is disabled for rehearsals and performances. One or more people manually watch for fires, and this must be their only responsibility. Should there be a fire emergency, they can activate alarms and fire suppression equipment. Once the air has cleared, the normal fire detection system can be reactivated.

What is required for graphics

In the case of laser graphics, to see the image there must be a screen such as a wall, movie screen, translucent film, or scrim. A “scrim” is a loosely woven cloth, often black. Part of the beam hits the scrim material, so that in darkness laser graphics projected onto the scrim can appear to float in midair. Other parts of the beam go through the holes in the scrim and continue forward.

Using theatrical fog to create the Windows 10 logo

The well-known Windows 10 logo, created by a team of artists including ILDA Member Adam LaBay, features beams going through an acrylic window. The laser illuminates edges that correspond to the Windows logo, while the beams also keep going. The beams are visible thanks to theatrical fog put into the air.

The laser software used to create the beam patterns was Beyond, made by ILDA Member Pangolin Laser Systems. The laser projector used was a ClubMax 6000 from ILDA Member Kvant.

A behind-the-scenes video showing how the logo was made is here; the laser portion begins at about 1:26. A “music video” featuring only the lasers is here.

For more information, visit our other ILDA websites:

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ILDAmember.com: Membership database and event management, including joining ILDA
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LasershowSafety.info: Information about safe laser shows, including laws, regulations, checklists, and more

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