Laser show dictionary

There are lot of terms related to laser shows you should know about. This is a short list of the most important.

The most important terms of lasers


ILDA is the first name in lasers 🙂 and it means International Laser Display Association. One and only organization gathering almost all important laser show companies. You can find more details about it at

2. ILDA cable/connector

Standard connector and cable for laser projectors. It’s 25 pin DB-25 connector (like old parallel port used for printers in the past). Here you can find pin description:

Pin Function Pin Function
1 AXIS X + 17 Interlock B
2 AXIS Y + 18 Red –
3 Intensity/Blanking + 19 Green –
4 Interlock A 20 Blue –
5 Red + 21 Deep blue –
6 Green + 22 Yellow –
7 Blue + 23 Cyan –
8 Deep blue + 24 AXIS Z –
9 Yellow + 25 Ground
10 Cyan +
11 AXIS Z +
12 Not connected
13 Shutter
14 AXIS X –
15 AXIS Y –
16 Intensity/Blanking –

3. ILDA projector

Laser system, which uses standard ILDA connector as an input for laser signal.

4. ILDA award

Every year there’s an ILDA conference somewhere around the world and you can win ILDA award, if your show is great of your new hardware is interesting. It’s like an Oscar for laser show guys or girls (not so common unfortunately).

5. Laserist

Guy who does laser shows and loves it (typically).

6. PPS

Points Per Second. It’s the speed of scanners. Typical projectors use 30000pps or more.

7. Analog modulation

Ability of the laser projector to fade intensity of red, green or blue laser.

8. TTL modulation

Laser projector is only able to turn on and off each color channel. You can get only 7 colors using such laser system (if it’s RGB).

9. DAC

Digital Analog Converter. It’s hardware device, which is able to convert computer generated laser image into ILDA cable signal. Typically, there are USB and Ethernet controllers used now. But there were also some parallel port, PCI/ISA slot or audio card interfaces in the past.

10. DMX

standard control protocol for intelligent lightning like moving heads, wash lights or almost any kind of show lightning. There are also DMX controllers for laser systems available (e.g. Moncha.NET).

11. Watts (W)

Power of laser systems is measured in Watts (or mW = miliWatts). The more Watts your laser provides, the brighter and more dangerous it becomes. E.g. you can burn someone’s eye “pixels” if you point more than 5-10mW laser beam directly in to the eye (I know, it depends on the divergence, pulse and all other stuff).

12. Divergence

“Spread” of the laser beam. The more far the laser shines, the higher the diameter of the beam you get. Low divergence is good for maintaining the brightness of the laser for a long distance. But it’s again also dangerous, if the beam hits someone’s eye.

13. USB laser controller

DAC, which is controlled over USB. The benefit is, you don’t usually need power adapter for this device. The problem is, you need to install the device driver before you use it.

14. Ethernet laser controller

DAC, which receives the data from the computer over Ethernet cable. Usually you need power adapter for this device. But it’s usually more easy to use (especially when using more laser projectors).

15. DPSS

Diode-Pumped Solid State laser. Type of the laser. More details at Wiki.

16. Wavelength

Generally determines color of the laser. E.g. typical green laser uses 532nm wavelength, red about 650nm and blue typically 440-480nm.

17. Scanners/Galvos

Is the device which does the drawing job. It’s made of two mirrors and they move so fast they create stable picture (for human eye).

18. Blanking

Ability of the laser to turn on/off quickly when drawing visible/invisible lines. E.g. see the following image:

blanking 3

When the laser finishes drawing of the first line, it has to “jump” to beginning of the second. If the laser would not turn off while moving to beginning of the second line, you would see a thin (low intensity) line between these two lines.

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19. LaserMan

Usually dance performance with laser beams. The performer plays with the laser beams to the music. Example:

20. Color balance

Each laser in the laser projector might have different power (in wats). To have nice e.g. white color you have to adjust the intensity of each laser. This is called color balance.

21. Beam attenuation map/Brightness map

For safety reasons you can usually define brightness areas in the laser show software. E.g. you can lower the brightness in the areas, where is the crowd.