Audience Scanning – Considered by many to be the “holy grail” of laser effects, audience scanning is where laser light is intentionally projected directly into an audience area, allowing people to interact and actually reach out and touch the light. While this effect is perhaps the most beautiful that can be produced with a laser, it is carries the greatest risk of an unsafe light level, and requires that the laser operator take certain safety precautions to ensure that the light level does not exceed recognized safety standards. In addition, there are certain regulations surrounding the performance of audience scanning in different geographic territories around the world. Therefore, as an entertainment lighting professional, you must become aware of these regulations in the areas where you perform.
In summary, the vast majority of laser effects produced are completely safe, especially when the laser effects being displayed do not directly come into contact with those viewing the show.
The only laser effects that are potentially hazardous, are those effects that come in contact with the audience. Why? We will explain the answer to this question here, without getting too technical.
Why laser effects are more potentially hazardous than regular lights – The following diagram provides a great illustration and starting point, to help explain why directly viewing a laser beam can be potentially hazardous.
As the diagram above helps illustrate, the human eye is able to focus laser light much more efficiently than it can other types of light (such as sunlight). Better focusing leads to better concentration of the light. And, just like when holding a magnifying glass to focus a beam of sunlight into a given area, the human eye will focus laser light into a very small spot. At very high levels, the concentrated energy could become hazardous to a person’s eyes.
This is a major reason why there are regulations surrounding the performance of audience scanning, especially in the United States, as well as in some other countries. And, it is also why we at Pangolin strongly urge anyone performing audience scanning, to first understand these laser effects, what makes the effect potentially hazardous, and to learn how to present audience scanning shows safely and correctly, before performing the effect in a live show scenario.
As a world leader in laser show safety, our team here at Pangolin has compiled a wealth of great articles that go on to discuss the various laser safety aspects touched on in this report; including audience scanning safety and the use of lasers in airspace. You can access these articles using the links below:
Audience Scanning Safety Article – Making laser shows safe and enjoyable, by William R. Benner Jr.
Laser Safety Thesis
A Risk Assessment Methodology for the Use of Lasers in the Entertainment Industry, by John O’Hagan
Handy Laser Safety Document – A Generic Safety Policy, Risk Assessment, and Contract, by Jeremy Turner
Lasers and aviation safety – Overview and FAQ
Laser Safety Technology from Pangolin
At Pangolin, we don’t just talk about laser safety, we live by it. As such, we’ve developed a variety of laser safety technologies over the years, that help make laser safety easier for operators to understand, incorporate and handle. A brief overview of these technologies as well as information on how they help make shows safer, is presented below.
The Beam Attenuation Map – Our patented Beam Attenuation Map (or BAM for short) is a standard safety feature inside of all Pangolin software. The beam attenuation map allows you as a laser operator to define safe areas within your projection space. Using the BAM, you can reduce the laser output power by a defined amount when projected into areas that might be deemed more sensitive. For example, if you will be projecting laser into an audience area (i.e. audience scanning), you can reduce the laser output by a given amount (say 50, 60, or 70%), when it is projected into that audience area. However, the laser power will not be reduced when projected into other “safe” areas. You can easily control the amount of exposure using a simple grid inside of the BAM, as you can see below.
The SafetyScan Lens – The SafetyScan lenses provide an incredibly easy and affordable way to increase the safety of your laser light shows. Our patented lenses are a uniquely designed series of “half lenses” which are coated with a special anti-reflective coating on both the front and rear surfaces. When properly installed, lenses increase the divergence of the laser beam when scanning downward into the audience, but not when projecting outside the audience area. This allows you to create a beautiful laser light show, and keep the beams which project on the audience at a fun an enjoyable level while not affecting the overhead beams at all. The lenses are available as a complete kit (which includes all six lenses, and a carrying case) or you can purchase only the specific lens you need. Using our universal lens mount, any lenses can easily be incorporated onto nearly any type of laser projector, from nearly any manufacturer. The end result, is a visually-impactful and powerful show, which is both safe and enjoyable for the audience to view. You can also watch our Safety Scan Lens Tutorial Video, which further explains this technology, and provides great insight on how to choose the best lens, for your given application.
Here you can see the videos:
SafetyScan Lens Set
In this example, notice how the laser beams going into the audience have a slightly increased divergence as a result of using a SafetyScan lens, thus making the laser beams going into the audience safer. And the overhead beams are not affected at all. Resulting in a visually impactful, yet safe audience scanning laser show.
P.A.S.S. – The Professional Audience Safety System is another patented Pangolin technology that is used to help ensure the safety of audience scanning style laser shows. PASS is a highly specialized circuit that monitors the health of all critical systems in a laser projector. PASS performs real-time monitoring of all key projector systems and is able to instantly terminate laser emissions if it detects any unsafe condition. All of the systems within PASS were designed such that there is redundancy. Which means that there are always at least two circuits monitoring any condition (power supply, light level, scanner dynamics, and system logic). For maximum reliability, each of these “at least two circuits” are implemented in different ways, thus, making it extraordinarily unlikely that both circuits would fail in exactly the same way at exactly the same time. And the output of these circuits are polled, such that all circuits must agree that there is a safe condition, in order for PASS to allow light to emit from the projector. If any parameter is unsafe, or if a monitoring circuit within PASS fails, it will go into a safe mode where laser light ceases. In fact, PASS will maintain safety even in the face of five simultaneous system failures. Due to strict enforcement of laser safety regulations in the United States, PASS has become the industry-standard solution for those who wish to perform audience scanning laser light shows in America. In addition, due to it’s extraordinary success in keeping audience scanning laser shows safe in the United States, it is also becoming a standard in many other parts of the world, including the United Kingdom, Europe and Australia. PASS can be integrated into specific laser projectors, by those companies which Pangolin has trained and approved to integrate PASS.
For more information on PASS certified integrators, and how to get a laser projector with PASS inside, please contact us here at Pangolin.
Additional Steps you can take, to learn about laser safety
This report is not the “end all, be all” guide to laser safety. It is merely a guide, providing you with additional information and resources, which you can use to help ensure you are performing shows in a safe manner.
In addition to this report, we would strongly urge anyone performing laser light shows, to take a laser safety operator course. Contact us here at Pangolin and we can help you find the appropriate courses to take, to become a laser safety officer.
We would also like to note, that if you have any questions about laser safety, Pangolin Safety Products, or the industry in general, please feel free to contact us at anytime. We value the relationships we have with our clients, and will always be happy to help you.
An additional video that covers the topics presented in this report can be found here:
Audience scanning regulations in the USA
Performing audience scanning in the United States can be done, but it is a sophisticated process, which requires special certifications (variances) as well as special training, and equipment. There are only a handful of people in the USA, who are properly certified to perform this type of effect. The basic steps to becoming audience scanning certified, are as follows:
- Your laser show projector must have Pangolin’s PASS hardware integrated properly, by a certified laser projector manufacturer, who has been approved and trained on how to integrate PASS, by Pangolin.
- Next, you will need to hire laser safety consultant, to work with you to file the appropriate paperwork, to certify your laser show projector with PASS, as well as to file your show report – Which is a document listing how you will setup and operate an audience scanning laser show, to ensure you are operating within whats called “MPE” or maximum permissible exposure. This process is quite complex, and that is why most everyone hires a laser safety compliance officer, to assist with the process.
- Finally, you need to take and pass an laser safety officer course, and then purchase the necessary laser safety test equipment, that is used during the course of setting up an audience scanning show.
For more information about laser compliance, and laser compliance related information, you can visit the FDA / CDRH’s website here: www.regulations.gov.