Laser projector colors and types

Here at the LaserNet website, we use icons like these
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to show the color capabilities and the graphic, pattern and beam capabilities of the Neo-Laser and LaserNet laser projectors that we sell.

This page explains what projector colors and types are available, and what the icons mean.

Laser projector colors
The color of the icon represents the color capabilities of the laser projector.

Full-color or “white-light” laser projectors
These generally use three lasers that are red, green and blue. They are combined into a single beam. If all lasers are at full power, the combined beam is white. By controlling how much red, green or blue is added, the beam becomes different colors.
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16.7 million colors
Most full-color projectors use analog modulation of the red, green and blue lasers. There are 256 levels of each color, giving 256 x 256 x 256 or 16.7 million different shades. Analog modulation also allows gradual dimming of the colors, so the graphics can fade in or out.
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Seven different colors
A few full-color projectors use only TTL on-off modulation of the red, green and blue lasers. There are two levels of each color, on or off, giving seven colors: red, yellow, green, cyan, blue, magenta and white. It is not possible to have in-between shades, or to have gradual dimming. A color is either on or off.

Red-green laser projectors
These have two laser colors, red and green. If the red and green are mixed in varying amounts, you can get orange, yellow, and yellow-green shades.
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65,536 colors
Using analog modulation, the red and green can each be set to one of 256 different levels. This gives 256 x 256 or 65,536 different shades. Analog modulation also allows gradual dimming of the colors, so the graphics can fade in and out.
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Three different colors
In budget projectors, the red and green lasers are turned on or off by TTL modulation. There are three possible color combinations: red, yellow and green. It is not possible to have in-between shades, or to have gradual dimming. A color is either on or off.
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Two different colors
Another projector design has two laser colors, red and green. However, only one color at a time can be used. So any given part of a graphic or beam display is either red or green. There is no color mixing or dimming.

Single-color laser projectors
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These use just one laser. The laser is a particular color, such as red, or green, or cyan, or blue. This color cannot be changed in any way. For example, using color filters will not work -- at best it will let the color through and at worst it will block the color.
       Because of how the eye works, colors in the center of the spectrum -- yellow, green, cyan -- appear brighter than equal amounts of end colors -- red, orange, blue, magenta and violet. A lime green is the most visible color. For example, a 5 milliwatt lime green laser will appear much brighter than a 5 milliwatt red or blue laser.
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One novel laser color that LaserNet offers is gold. This is available in a beam projector only, since the beam is not suited for graphics.

Laser projector types
The icon design represents the graphics, pattern and beam capabilities of the laser projector.

Note that all graphics and pattern projectors can also do beams. (The projector is simply turned to face the audience so they see the emitted beams.) Beam projectors are designed mostly for beams. A few will include graphic or pattern scanners, usually to make interesting beam effects.

Graphics laser projectors
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Airplane, 3D ball and raster girl photos courtesy Pangolin Laser Systems Inc.
Graphics projectors use "scanners" to move the beam fast enough to make detailed images projected on a screen or wall. Graphics projectors can draw outline images of pictures, logos, text and other complex shapes.
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Graphics projectors can also make patterns. These can be simple geometric shapes like circles, squares and stars. They can also be complex 3D shapes like the ball at right, as well as psychedelic, hypnotic abstract images from classic planetarium-type shows.
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If the projector is turned around, and aimed towards an audience, a graphic projectors can work as a beam projector. They can create both simple (traditional) and complex beam designs, as shown at right.
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Usually the images made by a graphics laser projector are outline (vector) drawings. However, it is possible to do low-resolution TV-like raster graphics as well.
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Scanners are rated by how fast they can show the ILDA test pattern, developed by the International Laser Display Association.

  • As of 2005, ILDA 60K (60,000 points per second) is the fastest possible
  • Scanners from about ILDA 30K to 60K are considered professional quality
  • Scanners from ILDA 12K to about 24K are considered acceptable quality for graphics
  • Scanners slower than 12K this are best suited for making patterns (see below)

Pattern laser projectors
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Pattern projectors can make simple shapes. Projecting these through theatrical fog makes interesting beam designs.
Some lower-cost projectors use slow scanners (below ILDA 12K) or stepper motors to move the beam. These "pattern" projectors can show simple geometric shapes like circles, squares and stars on a screen or a wall.
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If the projector is turned around, and aimed towards an audience, it becomes a beam projector that can create interesting beam designs such as cones or planes of light. The pattern projector also can aim the laser to many different locations, creating "Star Wars"-like beam shows, as shown at right.
Since beam effects do not require high-quality graphics, pattern projectors are fine for making professional-quality laser beam shows.

Beam laser projectors
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This club installation uses bounce mirrors to fill the space with laser light.

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Shooting laser beams at or over an audience is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. There are two main types of beam projectors:

  • Beam tables use a small number of mirrors (typically between 6 and 24) to re-direct the laser beam. Each beam position can aim at a target such as a bounce mirror, or can create an effect such as a spray of smaller laser beams. A beam table can aim the beam very accurately and repeatably to bounce mirrors, but it has a limited number of positions.

  • Beam projectors use two scanners or stepper motors which aim tiny mirrors under computer control. Together, the two scanners can aim the beam anywhere in front of the projector. The advantage is that there are an infinite number of positions that can be hit, and shapes that can be made. However, beam positioning may not be as repeatable, which is important in a club when you are hitting many bounce mirrors.

The best of both worlds is a beam table where scanners are located at one of the positions. When this position is selected, the beam can then be sent anywhere in the area in front of the projector.

Note that any Graphics or Pattern projector can be used as a beam projector. Just turn the projector around to face the audience, and add theatrical fog to the air.

LaserNet — Laser Production Network

Since 1968 … the world’s most experienced laser show company
20209 NE 15th Ct., Miami, FL 33179
(305) 690-6885 • fax (305) 690-6881
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Professional Memberships

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Founding Member, since 1986, International Laser Display Association

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Documented professionalism: ILDA Accredited Professional Lasershow Company since 2010

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Member, International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions

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Member, International Live Events Association

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Pangolin Authorized Dealer

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