Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Trick of the Light

I've long been fascinated by the interplay of light and sound. 
In the 1980's I purchased (and still have) a device called LASER FX which projects simulated laser light (up to 30+/- feet wide) onto surfaces up to 30 feet away. I hooked it directly into my stereo system so the sound would control the images. The colors would change based upon the beat of the music, the light shapes were a result of the tone, and the size of the images was due to the volume. I soon added a later model (LASER FX III) for the other stereo channel so both lasers could dance simultaneously. One for the left and the other for the right audio channel. Stereo lasers. The LASER FX II model had two heads and WAS a stereo laser light device. But the heads did not swivel (only tilted) so I felt having the two separate models gave me complete flexibility in projection. 
I seem to remember hypnotic nights lying on the floor staring at my ceiling experiencing my own private Pink Floyd light show. "Now I'll put on King Crimson's first album. Oooh, lemme see what it does with Rush's YYZ." I remember Art of Noise made some particularly interesting harmonic waves. 
I also had these tiny glow-in-the-dark dots all over the room, nearly invisible during the day but after a minute's charge from a black light, it really did seem like I was free-floating in outer space. I wasn't into drugs and certainly didn't need them with my gear. Though, I don't think my friends appreciated it like I did, but that was okay. It was something just for me to enjoy.
Later in 1991, I bought a smaller more compact light device called STRING RAY. It had only manual (and auto) controls and had no sound input jack so it could not react to music. But it had (and still has) it's own charm and is more of an interactive experience you control, as opposed to just chilling back and staring at the ceiling and walls. (Although the "auto" mode does run it through various modes hands-free.)
I wonder if anyone else remembers these things or am I just really strange. (I guess that's not mutually exclusive) Of course these may seem quaint by today's standards. These are purely analog devices. The new illumicube seems pretty cool, if a little small. 
Naturally the laser light projections are not easy to properly photograph, but here's a few shots of the String Ray in action.
Nowadays if you do a Google search for "home lasers" you'll mostly get links to hair removal devices and cosmetic procedures. But back in the day, these were pretty cool. In fact, tonight, I might just have to dig out my Dark Side of the Moon and fire these up.  
Note: Now I remember why I played the music fairly loud. It helps to drown out the rattle of the violently rotating mirror inside the Laser FX. Or pack some pillows around it.


  1. I just found this on Google after I dug out my Laser FX laser. I hooked it up to my dvd player to see if it still worked. It did. I noticed the loud rattle too. Glad someone else remembers this stuff.

  2. I have the same device that I enjoy using however I'm a teenager that picked it up from my moms former boss. I keep a look out for the other models. My one question though is as follows, is it supposed to get really hot when in use.

    1. If memory serves... I think they did put off some heat. They did get WARM. But I'm not sure if I would say they got "REALLY HOT". If you are referring to the LASER FX (and not the STRING RAY which stayed cool), those units have a light source (bulb) in an enclosed space. It shines through a focusing lens and colored gels, and onto a mirror which reflects out through the 'window'. If you feel the black plastic body of the unit it REALLY hot I would be concerned about a potential fire hazard. Never use a replacement bulb with higher wattage than the unit is designed for. I would suggest not using it for long periods of time and give it plenty of breathing room away from flammable objects and you should be okay. Just don't leave it on and unattended. Enjoy your retro light show.

  3. I tried this! Thats awesome for a party trick