Welcome to the wonderful and mysterious world of lasers! These unique devices are unlike any other light source. With narrow beams and colors of the utmost purity, they create visual experiences unlike anything possible from a video system. With the ability to project on any surface without the need for focusing, or even casting 3D patterns in the air, lasers offer amazing creative possibilities just ready for you to explore!
Until recently the cost of high-quality laser projection systems was out of reach for most individuals, but modern solid-state laser technology has changed that! Now anyone can access affordable laser projectors that pack as much power as those original laser shows of the 1970s, in a package that you can easily carry to a gig. Gone are the days of massive power and cooling requirements... these are truly plug and play systems.
Laser shows use vector graphics, probably best known from early arcade games like Asteroids. Instead of a screen full of pixels, the laser beam moves to draw any shape whether on a surface or directly in the air. The beam color can be dynamically changed on the fly to create any color as the beam moves. The result is full-color images that are bright and constantly changing.
Back at the dawn of the laser show industry in the 1970s, laser shows were mainly controlled by skilled operators called Laserists, usually coming from an arts or music background. Laserists would literally perform each show live, usually to a pre-recorded soundtrack. Each show was different, dynamic and exciting. Fans would attend the same show over and over, since each show offered a unique experience just like a live music performance.
But as computer technology evolved, laser shows became more automated and lost their spontaneous performance qualities. Instead of a skilled performer, the job of Laserists was mainly that of a technician tasked with running and maintaining the equipment.
Radiator aims to bring back the live performance aspect to laser shows and once again make the job of Laserist synonymous with performance artist.
Radiator is a complete laser synthesizer which means that it contains everything necessary to create beautiful live, spontaneous vector and laser graphics, except for the laser projector itself. The performance controls, processing and all other functions are built-in. The output of radiator connects directly to a laser projector using the industry-standard ILDA connector. This carries signals for moving the laser beam and controlling the color.
Synthesizer... for lasers!
Radiator works like a music synthesizer. It contains modules that will be familiar to both electronic musicians and computer graphic artists alike. The modules work together to give virtually limitless possibilities of control.
The following are the major parts of radiator:
- Shape Generators - This is where beams, abstract and other shapes are generated. The most basic settings give you the traditional sine and cosine waves that started the laser show craze back in the 1970s! Mix two waves together to make beautiful cycloid or Lissajous patterns. Other shapes give you even more complexity, and we hope to allow you to design and import your own shapes and line-art animations as well.
- Color Generator - The color generator selects the beam color, either a single hue or complex cycling color patterns. The Color Generator knows how to synchronize with shapes and other modules to create images with smooth fades and evolving colors.
- Transformer - This is where 2D becomes 3D! Shapes and colors are mapped into three dimensions allowing you to add motion, depth and rotation.
- Clones - Repetition is beautiful, and that's exactly what the clones module does. It allows images to be repeated in various ways such as in grids or radially. The result can then be moved and rotated to create dynamic and stunning images that appear to have a life of their own!
- Modulators - Did we mention that nearly any control can be modulated in real-time? That's right! It's like having more hands! Each of the three modulators can affect controls on any other module. Want to have a shape get bigger and smaller? Or how about make the brightness fade up and down while also rotating the image? You can do it all with the Modulators. External MIDI and CV sources can also be used as modulation sources.
- Master - Safety is of the utmost importance with lasers. The master section offers direct control of the size and brightness of the beams. A blackout button kills the beam instantly. If you need to step out for a moment, the safety interlock key switch ensures that nobody will activate the laser when you're gone.
Radiator allows full manual hands-on control, but you can also store your creations to reuse later. The internal memory can store thousands of presets, allowing you to call up awesome creations instantly. The built-in LCD screen shows settings and also offers a preview of the laser output and presets so you know exactly what you're going to get when you "go live".
Sync it up
If you're a DJ or electronic musician you're probably thinking about controlling lasers from your music. Radiator comes with audio, MIDI and control voltage (CV) inputs allowing you to control your laser show in many different ways. You can trigger laser effects with MIDI directly from your sequencer or drum machine, or simply with an audio signal. Control voltage inputs allow control from an analog or modular synth.
The main output from radiator is a standard ILDA connector. This uses a DB-25 cable to carry multiple analog signals between the synthesizer and the projector including the X and Y beam positioning signals, as well as red, green and blue color signals. Any projector that has an ILDA socket should work with radiator, including the two models offered with our complete kits.
Other laser outputs - USB
Recently tiny low-cost laser projectors have become quite popular. With only a USB connection and no ILDA ports, they need special consideration. We are working to allow the LaserCube and similar USB-connected projectors to plug directly into radiator!
Other laser outputs - Ethernet
For some performances it is necessary to locate the laser projector far away from radiator. In these cases we provide a built-in ethernet jack that can be connected to the affordable and high-quality EtherDream ethernet to ILDA interface box. This means you can send your signal literally hundreds of feet to a laser projector with perfect quality.
Our team is experienced in manufacturing rugged gear for musicians. We know that life on the road can be harsh, which is why we use only the highest quality components in radiator. A fully metal enclosure and metal knobs, and only name-brand components like jacks and switches mean that your radiator will last a really long time! And with technical support available in both Europe and North America, we've got you covered.
Radiator is based around a stable high-performance embedded system that boots up instantly and works the same way each time. No messing around with drivers and system updates. Just switch on the unit and you are guaranteed rock-solid performance. If we improve things or add new features, the system can be updated directly from your web-browser. No need to download firmware files or software, just visit our site for the latest features.
Specifications and Features
Please note that the system and specs are subject to change based on feedback from backers like you, and the ongoing development of the project. Preliminary list of specs are presented here to give clear indication of what we intend to deliver.
- Laser synthesizer for live laser and vector graphics performances
- Outputs full-bandwidth ILDA signals compatible with any standard mono or RGB ILDA laser projector - uses a standard DB-25 connector
- Internal processing using the latest in embedded DSP technology
- External control of radiator is possible via MIDI or Control Voltage (CV) input jacks
- Daisy-chain multiple radiators together using MIDI for synchronized control
- Audio output jacks (1/4") for hearing the actual laser signals!
- Audio inputs jacks (1/4") for syncing radiator to music
- USB host port for connection to small laser systems such as LaserCube
- Ethernet port for connection to EtherDream laser DAC - permits long cable runs to projector
- Small internal color LCD screen for managing presets, configuration, and viewing a real-time preview of laser output
- Internal flash memory for storing presets - can be uploaded and downloaded via web-based application
- USB port for firmware updates, data transfer and MIDI connectivity to a PC or Mac
- Solid construction with metal enclosure - outline approx. 38cm x 23cm (15" x 9")
- Power supply included - offered with either US or EU-style plug (depending on your country)
We are pleased to offer very affordable ILDA-compliant laser projectors for those who want a complete ready-to-go kit. These are produced with our partner X-Laser and built to work perfectly with radiator for either beam or abstract laser shows. Both models are safe and come with the required paperwork to make them legal to use in the US.
All moving abstract images shown in the videos on this page were made with the 400mW projector version.
*model differences noted
- 30,000PPS (points-per second) galvonometer scanners for high-resolution graphics and sharp lines
- RGB projector able to generate full-color images
- Laser source: 400mW version - single mode direct-injection RGB diodes
- Laser source: 2W version - direct-injection RGB diodes
- Sealed laser and optics for resistance to dust, fog, etc.
- Safe and legal with required key-switch interlock and safety plug
- FDA / CDRH compliant and compliant with IEC 60825-1 European Standards
We offer the projectors for US, Canada, UK, EU (excluding Germany), Norway, Switzerland and Australia backers at the moment.
“It is a joy to see Christopher Short and his engineering parter Andrew Kilpatrick designing a new, live, abstract laser image console. I have the highest respect for these two guys and was honored to meet them in person at the 2018 ILDA Conference in Montreal. Chris has won many ILDA awards with his abstract laser imagery so this console will undoubtedly be the best in the business...so let’s jump on board and give them our support.”
– Glenn Thomas
Glenn Thomas is a senior laserist at Laserium with 27 years of laser performances, over 12,000 shows. He won the International Laser Display Association 2018 Career Achievement Award in 2018.
"The Radiator takes everything I love about old-school analog consoles and brings it into the 21st century. It has an absolutely killer set of features. Things like patch storage, routing assignments, and encoder value recall really take a lot of the "operational overhead" out of incorporating analog console effects into shows... ESPECIALLY live!
It's a pleasure to use, and FEELS like an instrument instead of just another piece of gear. On top of everything else, it's very easy to transport - it fits into a back-pack! There's an awful lot of XYRGB-generating power packed into this little console!"
– David Francus
David Francus works as an engineer in one of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts' research and development groups. Prior to that, he worked as a laserist and has toured domestically and internationally with several high-profile musical acts and festivals. He still carries a torch for Ar/Kr ion lasers and is a 3-phase, water-cooled cycloid-head.
“I've had the pleasure of working with Chris on a few projects before and when he first mentioned this project to me I was super excited. I love the look and feel of old school analog laser consoles, but this team has modernized the platform and made creating these incredible looks truly approachable. These kinds of abstract, psychedelic laser effects have historically been elusive to the masses but the Radiator team has done so much here to bring a new tool to democratize the creation of art with coherent light. The system is incredibly fun and intuitive to use/play and I can't wait to see what people can create with it.”
- Adam Raugh
Thank you very much! We've fully funded. With more support, we can dedicate more resources to making radiator even better. Please help us by sharing the radiator project to reach these goals!
We're excited to announce the first of our stretch goals: ILDA save!
ILDA (International Laser Display Association) files are the universal file format for laser shows. When this goal is met, you'll be able to plug a usb drive into the Radiator and record your performances. The recordings can be played back by laser show editors such as Quickshow, Beyond, LSX, just to name a few. If you've ever wanted to add the amazing live abstracts from the Radiator into your programmed laser shows, now's your chance. Please help us reach this goal. We're so close. Just a little more!
Announcing: Laser Visualizer
The Laser Visualizer, to be integrated in the radiator, will provide live, real-time laser visualizations on a computer monitor, TV, or video projector. It is notoriously difficult to make good video of laser projections, but our team member Christopher has developed professional techniques for recording his laser performances, and we aim to emulate the organic look and feel of his technique.
The Laser Visualizer update will allow anyone to preview the output from their radiator to a video monitor. This can be used for practicing your performances without a projector, or for recording or streaming a performance online. Additionally, it can be used for making beams with a video projector which allows for safe audience scanning effects, or as a unique video source for VJ performances.
Please note that we are not changing the scope of the project, and the visualizer module generates output based entirely on the laser signals generated by the radiator laser synth engine. However there is significant work required to implement the smooth, high-performance video rendering required to make this possible, which is why we are setting this as a stretch goal.
We are Neon Captain!
Neon Captain is a team of three highly skilled and passionate artists and developers: Christopher Short, Andrew Kilpatrick and QP Tharmviboonsri. We are located in the Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA and Montreal, Canada.
Christopher Short is a laser artist from Santa Fe, New Mexico in the USA. He is an award-winning laser artist who has designed and built his own laser equipment and has produced laser shows that have been seen around the world. He is well-known and highly respected in the professional laser show industry.
Andrew Kilpatrick is a classically-trained musician who has been designing and building audio and music products professionally since 2008 under the Kilpatrick Audio brand. He is an expert in electronics design and embedded software. He is passionate about using technology to make better tools for artists.
QP Tharmviboonsri is a graphic/product designer and artist originally from Thailand and now based in Montreal, Canada. He designs products for Kilpatrick Audio, a well-known boutique brand of electronic musical instruments. He has over 15 years of experience as a visual artist and designer working in user interface design, advertising, print, web and branding.
Risks and challenges
Any product development project comes with challenges such as part sourcing and availability, manufacturing, not to mention day-to-day challenges of completing and bringing a product to market. With extensive experience in design, technology and manufacturing our team is equipped to handle this project.
Our team has designed and manufactured dozens of products in the music and audio sectors and has a network of reliable suppliers and manufacturing partners that we have worked with directly for many years. We are a hands-on group with all design, assembly and testing done in-house. All custom parts and assemblies are made by expert suppliers which we directly contract and oversee.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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