It’s hard to forget the first time you see a laser light show. A staple at concerts starting in the 1980s, seeing a green laser lance out over the heads of tens of thousands of screaming fans to trace out an animated figure or pulsating geometric shapes was pure fascination, and wondering how it was all done was half the fun. As we all know now, it was all done with mirrors, tiny and connected to low-inertia galvanometers capable of the twitchiest of movements, yet precise enough to position the beam of light exactly where it needed to be to create the desired illusion. It was engineering, science, and art all wrapped up into one package.
Fast forward to the present day, and laser show technology has certainly advanced. Bulky laser tubes have been replaced by solid-state devices, more colors are available, and galvo designs have improved. The art and artistry of the laserist have grown with the tech, which is where our guest Seb Lee-Delisle comes into his own. We’ve featured some of Seb’s work before, like an Asteroids laser vector display and enormous public laser displays. And now he’ll stop by to talk about how the art and the tech combine in his hands to produce something much greater than the sum of its parts.
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[Seb Lee-Delisle]’s NES lightgun gave us pause as the effect is so cool we couldn’t quite figure out how he was doing it at first. When he pulls the trigger there erupts the beam of light Sci Fi has trained us to expect, then it explodes in a precision sunburst of laserlight at the other end as smoke gently trails from the end of the barrel. This is a masterpiece of hardware and trickery.
The gun itself is a gutted Nintendo accessory. It looks like gun’s added bits consist of two LED strips, a laser module (cleverly centered with two round heatsinks), a vape module from an e-cigarette, a tiny blower, and a Teensy. When he pulls the trigger a cascade happens: green light runs down the side using the LEDs and the vape module forms a cloud of smoke in a burst pushed by the motor. Finally the laser fires as the LEDs finish their travel, creating the illusion.
More impressively, a camera, computer, and 4W Laser are waiting and watching. When they see the gun fire they estimate its position and angle. Then they draw a laser sunburst on the wall where the laser hits. Very cool! [Seb] is well known for doing incredible things with high-powered lasers. He gave a fantastic talk on his work during the Hackaday Belgrade conference in April. Check that out after the break.
Seb Lee-Delisle has built a career around large installations that use powerful lasers and high-end projects to make people happy. It’s a dream job that came to fruition through his multi-discipline skill set, his charismatic energy, and a mindset that drives him to see how he can push the boundaries of what is possible through live interaction.
His talk at the Hackaday | Belgrade conference is about his Laser Light Synth project, but we’re glad he also takes a detour into some of the other installations he’s built. The synth itself involves some very interesting iterative design to end up with a capacitive touch audio keyboard that is lit with addressable LEDs. It controls a laser that projects shapes and images to go along with the music, which sounds great no matter who is at the keyboard thanks to some very creative coding. As the talk unfolds we also hear about his PixelPyros which is essentially a crowd-controlled laser fireworks show.
See his talk below and join us after the break for a few extra details.