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How Laser Shows Work - Control Console

    The control console is where the laserist (operator) runs the show.  It can be located right next to the projector or some distance from the projector. The console is where the laserist selects and controls the laser beam and graphic effects that will be projected during the show.

Laser control console photo
A laser control console

  Control consoles usually include shutter control, scanned image [graphics] size and position controls, and may include controls for colour, beam table activation and beam sequencing.  Some control consoles also include controls for out-board and optical effects, controls for abstract image generation and more. Other features such as safety interlocks, laser remote controls, and power meters may also be located on the console.

 

Types of Consoles

   There are two main types of consoles.  A real time performance console (generally an analogue console) which allows for modification of all the parameters in the show in real-time, and a "button box" type of console (generally a digital console) that works to select effects from a library in an attached computer and to modify those effects by controlling the graphics interface in the computer.

Performance consoles

    Performance consoles allow the laserists to create and modify images in real time generally using analogue electronics.  They may accept an input from a graphics system but the laserist can modify the size, position and colour of the image as well as adding other effects to the image in real time - usually all of the parameters can be modified simultaneously.
   Many performance consoles also include banks of analogue oscillators and effects generators to create abstract effects in real time.  There are usually plenty of knobs, switches and sliders to allow for the real-time creation and modification of abstract effects.  Some analogue consoles also make use of patch cables like the older Moog synthesizers so that effects modules can be re-patched in different combinations to create new effects.
    There are also performance consoles that have internal microprocessors or can connect to an external computer so that patches and control settings can be stored for recall during a performance in much the same way as musicians use MIDI.  Typically the consoles do not depend on having an attached computer and can function without it.  Analogue performance consoles have an advantage in that they allow subtle, real-time, modification of the effects and images in the show with hands-on adjustment of one knob, switch or slider for each parameter.

An analogue performance and image generation console
An analogue performance and image generation console - Photo courtesy of Full Spectrum Lasers

 

Button boxes

   "Button box" consoles are generally digital in nature and rely on being connected to a computer system for operation - they usually can not generate effects on their own.  The laserist can pre-program various sequences of beams, effects, graphics and animations (or combinations thereof) into the computer system.  The digital console allows these to be recalled at the touch of a button and is usually more convenient and intuitive than using a mouse or the keyboard. 

Lasershow Performer console Digital Control Console by New Method Lasers
Two "button box" type digital consoles.  Left: The Lasershow Performer by Pangolin (Photo courtesy of Pangolin Laser Systems).  Right: The Digital Control Console by New Method Lasers (Photo courtesy of New Method Lasers).

    Digital consoles (button boxes) may also offer additional effects or allow the laserist to vary the size, position, colour, etc of an image but usually only within the parameters available in the computer - these modifications are usually not done with analogue electronics but in software and often only one parameter at a time can be modified.

 

[ Laser and exciter | Projector | Scanners | Control console | Graphics system | Outboard Equipment ]

 

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