Holiday Lights and Laser Dangers

John Huntington’s Blog has covered a lot of holiday light displays over the years. Brooklyn’s Holiday Light Spectacular is the newest one covered on the blog. It tells about Holiday Light Spectacular display with nice pictures, and also gives details on technology behind the display.

If you want to do your own holiday light display then here are some links to interesting project ideas from around Internet: Control your holiday lights with a magic wand circuit allows you to turn on your holiday bulbs with a wave of the magic wand. DIY Christmas Light Suit project uses LabVIEW to perform sound analysis of a playing music and uses LabVIEW Interface for Arduino (LIFA) to drive various Christmas light strings based on the power level at various frequency ranges. Smart Christmas Tree Lights with JenNet-IP video plays with the idea that “What if every Christmas tree light had an Internet address?”. Don’t forget my older Christmas Lights blog postings.


Light shows are nice to watch, but the technology used in them be can dangerous. Blink-182′s Mark Hoppus’ Retina Damaged by a Show Laser posting tells about the potential dangers of light displays that involve powerful lasers. In video Mark Hoppus Presents: The World’s Most Powerful Touring Laser Blink-182‘s bassist and singer Mark Hoppus talks about how he suffered retinal damage during a show in Milwaukee. In the video, he does a pretty good job of explaining how the laser show process works in terms of protecting the audience and what went wrong in performance. That show used a very powerful 26W Lightwave Lightwave Prism Series laser show equipment (you have read right, that’s watts, NOT milliwatts you normally see in most laser specifications).


Remember that this kind of laser damage to eye is usually permanent. Primary personal hazards of high-power laser exposure are skin burns, blind spots when the laser strikes the retina, and the worst case total blindness. Lasers have been coming back into vogue in recent years on touring concerts, so be careful if you happen to be near them or operate them. Remember Laser Safety. There is also a a growing concern over the increased potential risk of eye damage from high power LEDs as well because intense blue light can cause damage to the retina. Do not stare at lasers or very high brightness LEDs, because doing so may cause permanent damage to your eyes. Remember that lasers can also damage cameras and camcorders, and even video projector chips (DLP).


  1. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Real-time Laser Measurement with a Webcam

    Measuring the flatness of a surface with a laser and a webcam to microns over large surfaces.

  2. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The New Kind of LASER You Should Know About!

    Dave explains how lasers work, from crystals to dichroic mirrors to galvanometers. He takes us on a tour of the internals of a LaserCube Pro 2500 and how it’s used to render complex light shows for concerts and festivals.

  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Homemade CO2 Laser Tube

    As this video seems to be gaining traction, I feel I need to address a few things:
    1) I didn’t actually achieve an output here, I thought the camera picked up on some IR that I couldn’t see, but on further research, there is no dang camera in this world (excluding IR cameras) that would pick up the 10.6 um that this tube should be producing.
    2) I called what was happening here “lasing”, it is not. What I achieved here was an electrical discharge, which is a big step in the right direction, but certainly not “lasing”. (yet!)
    I’m new to all of this and still learning! Just sharing my progress as I make it, and as with any learning process, there will be mistakes. I’m not trying to spread misinformation here!

    Homemade CO2 Laser Tube Part 2

  4. Tomi Engdahl says:

    If every person on Earth aimed a laser pointer at the Moon at the same time, would it change color?


  5. Tomi Engdahl says:
    LaserProjector V2

    Battery-powered, ESP32-based laser XY scanner with auto-homing and wireless control

  6. Tomi Engdahl says:

    We spotted a story on PetaPixel about a smartphone camera that was destroyed by a laser that makes us just cringe — and not just because it shows someone recording video in portrait mode. It happened at a concert in Naples back in April, where the concertgoer was using his camera to record the proceedings when a laser beam swept vertically through the frame several times. This appears to have permanently fried the image sensor in the camera; presumably at least some of the cameras around this victim were zapped too. If the laser could do that to a CCD, what did it do to all those retinas?

    Smartphone Camera Destroyed by Laser Beam During Concert

    A concert-goer had their smartphone camera broken by a laser beam that fired directly into the lens.

    The incident took place during a Geolier gig at the Palapartenope Theatre in Naples, Italy on April 19.

    In the video, Geolier is seen on stage as a sea of people holding smartphones and pointing their cameras toward the rapper.

    An aggressive laser can be seen chopping down, as the beam points from up to down extremely quickly. It repeats this motion several times until a line appears in the picture where the laser beam had just been.

    Within milliseconds, the entire picture is covered in black lines, ruining the image. In some of the frames, the picture disappears entirely — replaced by static.

    The person filming carries on but points their camera away to inspect the damage. Not much is known about the smartphone camera’s owner, but it appears the camera sensor is irrevocably damaged.

    Laser Beams and Camera Sensors

    In 2021, Sony officially published a warning on its website stating that it is aware that lasers can cause damage to its cameras’ image sensors.

    “Do not directly expose the Lens to beams such as laser beams. This may cause damage to the image sensor and cause the camera to malfunction,” the warning published in July 2021 reads.

    “Note: In either outdoor or indoor environment when there is a laser display, the tendency of direct or indirect (laser beam bounce from reflective object) damage to the camera CMOS Sensor is still very high.”

    his is not the first time PetaPixel has reported on laser beams breaking camera sensors, in 2010 an unlucky photographer lost his Canon 5D Mark II when a laser shined directly on the sensor.

    Sony Officially Warns That Lasers Can Damage its Cameras’ Sensors

    Sony has published an official warning on its website that states that it is aware that lasers can cause damage to its cameras’ image sensors. While this information is probably not news to most, Sony notably has finally publicly acknowledged the danger.

  7. Tomi Engdahl says:

    ESP32 Laser Projector with stepper motors |

    LaserProjector V2 is a battery-powered, ESP32-based laser XY scanner using stepper motors to deflect the beam. It has auto-homing functionality, and can be controlled wirelessly (Wi-Fi & Bluetooth).

    0:00 Intro
    0:56 Theory
    4:24 Electronic Design
    7:14 PCB Assembly
    8:33 Physical Design
    10:36 Firmware
    11:20 Outro

  8. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Smartphone Camera Destroyed by Laser Beam During Concert

    A concert-goer had their smartphone camera broken by a laser beam that fired directly into the lens.

  9. Tomi Engdahl says:

    NASA Team Sets New Space-to-Ground Laser Communication Record

    [NASA] and a team of partners has demonstrated a space-to-ground laser communication system operating at a record breaking 200 gigabit per second (Gbps) data rate. The TeraByte InfraRed Delivery (TBIRD) satellite payload was designed and built by [MIT Lincoln Laboratory]. The record of the highest data rate ever achieved by a space-to-Earth optical communication link surpasses the 100 Gbps record set by the same team in June 2022.

    TBIRD makes passes over an ground station having a duration of about six-minutes. During that period, multiple terabytes of data can be downlinked. Each terabyte contains the equivalent of about 500 hours of high-definition video. The TBIRD communication system transmits information using modulated laser light waves. Traditionally, radio waves have been the medium of choice for space communications. Radio waves transmit data through space using similar circuits and systems to those employed by terrestrial radio systems such as WiFi, broadcast radio, and cellular telephony. Optical communication systems can generally achieve higher data rates, lower loses, and operate with higher efficiency than radio frequency systems.

    TBIRD is a 3U sized satellite payload, meaning it is approximately the size of box of tissues. The TBIRD payload is carried aboard NASA’s Pathfinder Technology Demonstrator 3 (PTD-3) satellite.

    NASA, Partners Achieve Fastest Space-to-Ground Laser Comms Link

    On April 28, NASA and its partners achieved another major milestone in the future of space communications – achieving 200 gigabit per second (Gbps) throughput on a space-to-ground optical link between a satellite in orbit and Earth, the highest data rate ever achieved by optical communications technology.

    These data rates are made possible by using laser communications, which packs information into the oscillations of light waves in lasers, instead of using radio waves like most space communications systems.

  10. Tomi Engdahl says:

    How to do safe audience scanning

    If you are doing audience scanning, it is vital to know how much light you are putting into the audience. The information below discusses how to do these measurements, and what the light levels should be.

    The technique described on this page was developed by Greg Makhov of LSDI. It greatly simplifies making safety measurements. Instead of having to measure different parts of a show at different locations in the audience, all that is necessary is to measure a static (non-moving) beam. Then, based on the type of show – static, scanned or “10x” — the laser power is set to a known, safe level.

    The photo at the top of this page shows a well-designed laser display. Tight, low-divergence beams are aimed above the audience, while wider, high-divergence beams go into the audience.

  11. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Safety Scan Lens set
    Adding product to your cart
    These precision-manufactured lenses allow users to increase laser brightness on effects used to scan audiences, without increasing potentially harmful exposure levels.
    They increase the beam divergence by a set amount, providing a very effective means of keeping effects below the exposure safety limits (MPE).

    They are designed to be mounted at the laser projector’s scanner output, acting on beams that travel below the horizon and softening the power density of these beams.

    At a short projection distance, such as in nightclubs, it will likely require one of the thicker lenses (diopter -4 to -6) to increase the divergence on the lower audience scanning beams.
    In larger venues when scanning over greater distances, one of the lesser strength lenses (diopter -1 to -3) will most likely be suitable.

  12. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Lasercube ULTRA power test

    Testing the new ULTRA 7.5W

  13. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Technology Price Mini 4W Disco Beam Video Party Effect Stage Ktv Dj Laser Light Equipment By Dmx512

  14. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Lidar May Be Harmful To People & Cameras

    In the CES incident, the lidar company offered to buy the journalist a new camera and promised to take mitigation measures to protect cameras from harm, but not all makers of lidar have promised to do the same nor have they disclosed any measures taken. It’s also been debated whether the CES incident was a fluke or a real problem with lidar systems.

  15. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Laser light show safety: how your eyes are kept safe

    Have you ever been to a music concert with lasers scanning people during the show? That is one thrilling experience! Traditional lighting such as projectors, stroboscopes and pyrotechnics does a good job illuminating our idols, but lasers add much more value to a live production.

    Laser light show safety must be given much consideration in such events in order to keep everyone’s eyes safe. Let’s have a look at the specifications and regulations that make them safe and awesome.

  16. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Watch Declassified Video Of The UK’s DragonFire Laser Zapping An Aerial Target
    Pew pew! Zap zap!

  17. Tomi Engdahl says:

    A £1 laser, a 7805 and a 555 remote control modulator/driver

    After getting bored using my £1 red laser diode (purchased at a fair) pointing at things and then shelving it for years, I recently wondered what else I could do with it? Is it possible to use it for communication, can I get it to speak? To keep it simple and basic, I’ll need to design a modulator and driver circuit. Then make a receiver using similar principles, to drive some sort of analogue device – a meter. Potentially, this remote control device could operate over some distance. This video is part 1 of probably 2.

    0:0 Introduction
    3:03 Setup
    5:12 Beam in the dark
    6:51 Circuit explanation
    11:46 Oscilloscope pictures
    12:35 Optical Tx and Rx board pictures

  18. Tomi Engdahl says:

    DARPA’s military-grade ‘quantum laser’ will use entangled photons to outshine conventional laser beams
    By Owen Hughes published June 12, 2024
    Prototype quantum photonic-dimer laser uses entanglement to bind photons and deliver a powerful beam of concentrated light that can shine through adverse weather like thick fog.


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