Planetarium Laser Light Show That Will Blow Your Mind – From ArgonTV

[Applause] planetarium laser light shows and planetarium laser projection equipment have formed part of the history of laser and I am very excited because today I am being joined by what I think is one of the pioneers in the whole of the laser industry and there’s a handful of people who I can say a plane is in the industry and this gentleman is definitely one of those so I’m very excited to be here today and if you’re not excited pretend to be excited I’m very excited to be here today with what I’ve heard is the Steven Spielberg of lasers and I’m sure we will investigate that a little bit later but ladies and gentlemen please welcome to argon TV mr. Doug McCullough hey Tim thanks Randall applause Doug how are you I’m great thank you very much and thank you for joining me here at argon TV and as I said I’m very excited to be talking to you because I really feel that if it wasn’t for people like yourselves the I wouldn’t be here in this industry and the industry wouldn’t be what it is because you really are one of the pioneers of laser in my opinion and I’m very grateful to all the things that you did in the beginning but let’s go back all the way to the beginning what was it that inspired you to get into lasers and how did you get into the industry and how did you get started if this goes back into the 1960s okay so I was born in 1951 and when I was you know 10 10 to 14 years old somehow I would end up being the person who was in charge of slide projectors and 16 millimeter movie projectors it was like here give it to Doug he knows how to run this and so I was not really a great technical person I don’t consider myself a ninja year but for some reason these things just came naturally to me so fast forward to 1967 the Summer of Love okay and I grew up right outside of Washington DC and we had a brand new venue it was actually an old old movie theater that was going to be called the psychedelic power light company but the local authorities they wouldn’t give a permit for such a such a nickname a drug a druggie kind of name so it was just the Ambassador theater and they had hired all of these Late Show artists from San Francisco to come out there and set up of this psychedelic light show and so they had people like Jimi Hendrix perform there and you know other bands like that during the day and I came out to see this light show during the summer of love okay and and as soon as I walked in and I was just mesmerized by these huge huge projections and how they completely transform the environment and having a little audio-visual background I could look and say oh those are slide projectors with the color wheel in front oh that’s an overhead projector oh yeah and look at that they have liquids on an overhead projector and you know here’s a strobe light and so I just understood from a technical standpoint how they had put this thing together okay and around that time I was interested in having a rock band you know me and my buddies so I was playing bass I liked jazz jazz rock but I wasn’t a good musician I wasn’t serious about it so for our high school homecoming dance which was in the cafeteria I got on this thing that was called a hop committee all right this is in high school so that I could influence who would be selected to be the band for this and get somebody that was good because usually they were cheesy so we got this really really good band but we didn’t have any money left so everybody said what are we going to do for decorations and I said well if we can borrow overhead projectors and slide projectors and 60-millimeter from the science department okay the chemistry class I can put together a psychedelic light show

everybody says what you you can I said yeah so we did that it was an enormous success and immediately we got booked to do another show and then another show in another show and so this psychedelic light show was born it was called the Babylonian picked them light obbligato okay and so we started doing these psychedelic light shows all over DC with all of the top bands and it was a huge huge success and I realized that everything that I wanted to express creatively with music I could do visually with music and I was talented at it I don’t think I would have had a great career as a professional musician but I really had a knack for creating visuals of course this was all alive with music and my interest is just snowballed and it pretty soon it just became like an obsession with me that all the time I was thinking about creating light shows and you know when I would go into a department store I would go over and I would look at shower curtains and think about how this would be if it were a rear projection screen and then I would go in and I would look at chemicals and think of you know is this transparent and how this would work out with a liquid on the overhead and on and on and on and on so I started to to look at psychedelic light shows as an art form and studied it and I found out that it was something that had been going on for centuries you know if people had been thinking about and looking for a way to visualize music going back to a Jesuit priest who committed who invented this thing called the collar organ he was French so it had a French name which I can’t quite remember but it was Father Castile and so he invented this thing with with candles and and and filters it was called the collar organ well it was only moderately interesting until the invention of the electric light bulb and then this idea of what they called back in those days color music really started to blossom and there was a Russian composer named scriabin who who who composed a symphony that was to have a light score with it okay and then pretty soon there were these artists that started to develop color music the greatest of which was a guy named Thomas wilfred who invented this thing the art of light which he called Lumia okay and so thomas wilfred back in the 1920s and 30s was having these fantastic light shows with orchestras okay hmm world war ii comes along the economy changes nobody’s interested in this art of light stuff so it was pretty dormant kind of an underground scene until the 1960s when psychedelic light shows had this resurgence of interest okay of course it was much much more frenetic and energetic and what was being done in lumia but that’s what got me going with this with this idea of visualizing music so I looked at myself as a as an artist okay and I was doing something that was really a classical art form something more than just a fad but to me it was visualizing music so I was very very serious about it very intense I went to college for a year and they weren’t teaching anything remotely like this okay and we would have some fairly well-known people that would come and you know I would get talked into doing something you know for an event I did I did something with a with avant-garde composer John Cage and John Cage was so interesting because he met with me and he took a liking to me and said he just looked at me and shook his head and said nobody here understands what you’re about you need to get out of here as soon as possible and much to my parent’s dismay I dropped out of college and set upon doing you know light shows okay so this is like in 1969-70 well as it turns out that’s when the whole psychedelic era faded and hard metal rock and roll’s started to come in with Led Zeppelin and other groups that weren’t interested in

liquids and you know all this although all the peace and love vibes okay that went along with light shows but I persisted of course I couldn’t get a job anywhere so I was basically a starving hippie working on my my light show contraptions and like I said I wasn’t really a technician but what I would do is I would think about what it was that I wanted to create and then I would learn whatever I needed to learn to to do it you know learn how to wire you know learn about motors how to control the speed of motors you know very precisely in Reverse of directions it was a big big deal DC motors oh my god what a revelation that lesson and at the same time lasers were just starting to be introduced in art okay so I went to the Smithsonian to see a an exhibition that had some lasers and it might have been part of eat which was experiments and art and technology I was kind of a highbrow art thing you know kind of world-renowned they would they would they would come in with some very famous artists and and do certain certain setups or World’s Fair no big museums but I wasn’t really impressed with the laser end of it III thought you know it was just kind of like a squiggle moving around on on a wall and I thought well gee I can do that a lot cheaper with an incandescent light so why do I need to spend all this money for a laser but around about 1970 I was involved in a concert with electronic composer Morton subbotnik and Morton had a metro logic helium neon laser must have been all of you know it was no more than 25 mil alots I’m sure that at the most and so I took that laser and I had two pieces of pebble Plexiglas and I put those on a horizontally rotating turntable and got that thing going slow and shot the red beam through it and had the plexiglass rotate around and we got this beautiful interference pattern so that was my first experience about 1977 be yeah using a laser in a ship I was not that impressed but I did it okay and Morton liked it so all during the 70s I kept working with with my light show approach but I would do it with classical music and jazz all kinds of things and we didn’t have any lasers and this is my small group of friends and people that knew me were very very impressed but I couldn’t get any decent gigs anywhere I couldn’t I couldn’t make a living at it you know if I told somebody I was a light artist they thought it was a artist feeling like what’s a light arts what do you hang decorations of Christmas I mean what’s a light artist right so so around about 1976 maybe maybe 77 I became aware of this thing called Liz area which had just recently arrived in New York City and it started in Los Angeles and so they had it in New York City and that was about a six hour drive for me so I drove to New York City with my then girlfriend who later became my wife and we came to New York City to the Hayden Planetarium and I saw was areum and I was just blown away because here was a show that was selling out in the planetarium in New York City with people help the door and around the block and they would come in and sit down and watch this non verbal presentation of light and music and loved it and I was like wow this is it this is like the temple of light this is I felt like I had you know been propelled into the future okay and I was just so so impressed with what they’re doing I mean it made such a huge impression on me and so I contacted Laser images the company that did it to see you know if they were hiring and everything but they kind of just sort of

kukuda me and you know put me off they were in California and you know if we’re ever looking for somebody will we have your name on record and we’ll give you a call they never did of course but I was I was just so completely inspired by this and it really really gave me hope and so around the same time I started to take a hard look at myself from let’s say a psychological standpoint so that I wondered if I was so smart and I was so talented and everybody thought my light show stuff was so great okay why wasn’t I successful so what I looked at was what was between me and being successful was me I had to change the way that I operated okay and what I had to look at was my stance as an artist okay so as an artist I was to a large extent unconcerned with the audience reaction to what I created to me art was controversial okay art was not pandering to there you know to their taste to the audience taste it was to present something new maybe something that was shocking okay I don’t mean anything that was you know risque or anything like that but I mean like shocking to the sense that shocking you know unexpected one thing that I did remember was we had a show was called let there be light and in the show I had a a sequence of electronic music that had the colors change as we move through these different energy centers in Indian religion they’re called chakras their centers of light and as you as you move up the spectrum you move up in terms of a greater consciousness and so when we got up to the highest consciousness of Samadhi or enlightenment the music stopped and we just went into pure light for a while and the audience just didn’t know how to respond they thought you know did the sound system break what’s going on here it was so funny to me to see that see the audience be crazy because they didn’t know how to contextualize this but to me it was art well what I started to realize was that I what I started to realize was if I wanted to have things work on a big level with all of this high technology and especially as we got into expensive lasers I had to become a businessman I had to make things work as an entrepreneur I had to make things work for my audience so I understood the distinction between art ok and entertainment entertainment and in my understanding was basically innocence manipulating the audience was catering to the audience preconceived notions ok so instead of playing John Coltrane a Love Supreme if I play Pink Floyd ah people could accept it and get very very excited and buy a lot of tickets to come see the Pink Floyd show as opposed to nobody buying tickets to see the John Coltrane show now it doesn’t mean that there was any less artistry and I’ll call that craftsmanship that went into the design and presentation itself but what I started to do was change my focus to entertain people and so all of my shows in all of my shows the attempt the objective was to entertain and hold everyone’s attention and it was very very interesting as I made the transition from light shows that accompanied live musicians to let’s say a planetarium show where everybody came there and the star the star of the show were the visuals that you were doing you weren’t a company you were the lead and

so the the onus the demand to entertain and hold people’s attention was much much greater if you think about a psychedelic light show and you’ve got you know Janis Joplin or Jimi Hendrix or somebody up there performing and the audience was going nuts and the liquids are going wild behind them it’s really cool but if you take away Hendrix you just play a recording and you look at the liquids doesn’t hold your attention in the same way so I really had to demand upon myself to be much much more innovative and clever in terms of the rate at which I changed visuals within a given presentation and it really was a was a fascinating learning experience there’s so many things with the development of a show like a like a 50-minute planetarium show that when it’s successfully put together meeting these demands is is very very interesting you know what do you do at the beginning of a show to grab the audience’s attention and satisfy by them so that everybody knows hey I’m in the right stuff and then to move on from there and to go into different moods so that you don’t just start a show and plateau with the energy level and it’s boring fast that what you do is you take people through a lot of different emotional moods as a matter of fact when I’m doing a show what I think of is what do I want the audience to feel and experience at this point and then working backwards from that then I designed the effects that are going to achieve that Wow it’s some people would ask me about putting together a show okay can I say well you know it’s kind of like a Shakespearean play and they laugh at me and they think I’m full of it you know but but the idea is that you need to introduce different elements in the show and take people through a lot of different moves and I always like to surprise people and have them experience something that they didn’t expect to experience on the show you know for one thing comedy okay have something really really funny you know that that you don’t expect in the middle of a show I’ll give you an example way back in the day in the 1970s one of our our great great points in the middle of a planetarium show we could be doing a show with multiple groups you know Alan Parsons Pink Floyd and you know all different different bands that would have suitable music and then right in the middle of it after a song we would do Dueling Banjos okay you know Dueling Banjos do you know it I don’t know oh it’s a it’s a it’s a it’s a banjo he’s a real bluegrass country piece that was popular with the movie deliverance way back in the early 70s and everybody would clap along with this thing okay and they would laugh because you’d have a little abstract laser image and another one and and and they became you know anthropomorphic where you know they would start to interact with each other and chase each other around then suddenly they’re fighting and pounding the heck out of each other you know with the two instruments Dueling Banjos the dueling laser patterns so that was just an early primitive example where we would take something that you didn’t expect and have the audience participate clapping and do something that was funny okay and another thing that was very very took me a while to learn was how to end the show seems simple but you know III it like took me a couple years to really really understand how it was that I would set up the end and then boom delivered it was just like a knockout punch okay and you needed to do it three numbers before three songs before okay so we interesting now just just making me think of of the importance of music you know music was my original inspiration and I think that people of course understand you know lasers and music they go together but the importance of music is just incredible for instance the music is what creates the what I would call the emotional context for everything that happens you

have the music that’s moving you emotionally and then the lasers the visuals deliver the punch lasers have to deliver but if the music’s not right for your particular audience it’s not gonna work you you actually made a comment that I was gonna talk about and I think this is an appropriate time to talk about this and I can I’m very ready if someone told me that you’d said this but the comment is are you seeing it or are you hearing it yes well that’s that’s the goal you see the goal is that everything is so well synchronized and expressed okay that like we say you don’t know you don’t know what it is you just it’s there and and if a show is well designed a person doesn’t have to have any background artistic background or anything they just they’re just moved you know it’s just like boom boom boom boom the drums are happening it builds you know the color modulation the harmonics are there you don’t have to know anything about art you just it’s beautiful it’s like you know you look at an animated rainbow I mean wow right just fantastic and you know your your interviewers dream because I hardly need to say anything I can just let you talk to powers and and I think we could probably you know do five or six hours of this but well I mean some of the stuff you’ve been talking about so far is literally mind the people you’ve met in the beginning how you got started the people you met and the inquisitiveness of your mind of how you look at things and say how does this work how can I apply this what can I do with this what can i yeah and you said something earlier that I really resonated was that when you saw the show you just felt like wow this this is like something I’ve never seen before you you it was the same for me when I first time I saw a laser I was 28 so totally different background to you I was pretty much failed high school dropout because I just didn’t fit in my mind weren’t in a totally different way to everyone else and it’s not that I wasn’t smart I’m a very smart guy I just didn’t understand or see why I should do all these stupid exams when I could be doing things so I was kind of I left school at 16 and I didn’t know what I was gonna do I drifted through all different you know things but I was entrepreneurial you know I hardly ever work for anyone else unless I absolutely had to and then one day I had the bright idea of buying my own nightclub I thought I’d be done Tim you know and have all the trimmings that go with that and I did I bought this nightclub with a partner of mine I was 28 I had no idea what I bought no idea what I was doing and then we took the place over my DJ said to me you know we have a laser here and I said what’s a laser and he said oh sit down and watch this it will blow your mind and it did he turned this 100 milliwatt argon laser on and my whole life changed in an instant I just my mouth fell open my eyes popped out you know the cartoon style my high like this and I was like wow and I didn’t know anyone who had a laser so I knew I had something really special and this was 98 1998 and I was kind of in the same position with you when you first saw it it was just breathtaking yeah made me want to do it I said this is it this is my place I found my home in life no yeah insane that’s what I’ve done yeah and it changed my life so and is the same you know I look at things and I go what if I put this in my shop I remember doing it I had a 500 milli watt laser one time we were doing a show for the Canadian Embassy in Manila and they wanted the brother or Alice effect sure so I got a glass of water yeah I put some hair gel on the outside we put it in front of the laser we just turned it and we had this beautiful effect on the wall they were like we like that and you make so many comments I mean wow what an intro what are we getting to a to a discussion about lasers how fascinating it would have been I mean I would have loved to be proud of that those early days how fascinating it would be to involved in all those people to meet you know Hendrix and all those guys and be involved in the early early days and just your absolute persistence of not giving up and then the mind shift you know that you went through where you realized it’s not about you it’s about I mean no one cares about me when they come to see a show it’s all about what’s

in it for me your mind shift of how you shifted from what you wanted to what the audience wants I think is is really fascinating and I was actually talking to someone about a totally different subject about Facebook why does no one respond to any of my facebook posts and they said because you make it all about here where no one gives a crap so I started shifting my whole facebook group and my profile now is all about lasers and other people and you and Bill Benna and Tim Walsh Roberta McFadden and all these other people and all of a sudden my facebook exploded yes you know and I’m posting interviews like this which is not about me it’s about you yes so you know in its foreign audience who are interested in in your story that’s what a fascinating story you’ve had it’s really incredible to be for me to be talking to you because as I said earlier without you there would be no me so you know it and Tim Walsh made this comment as well you’re the day I interview and he said in the early days like the 70s and the 80s when the latest started becoming popular a laser was 75 you know $100,000 so a claim could only afford one or maybe two lasers for a show we had to be very creative yes to make those two little beings look fantastic now they just think a hundred lasers and and it looks brilliant you know and and the the technical requirements with water and the power you know for that one laser we’re so extreme huge laser was incredible incredible well I’m happy well let’s just take a quick break really happy to be talking to you and in a moment we’re gonna get back and talk about the planetarium laser light show and I’ve got some questions would ask you about that but I’m so excited because right now I’m talking to Doug McCullough who’s from laser show design and we’re talking about planetarium laser light shows and we’ll be back in just a minute [Applause] welcome back to argon TV I’m really excited and we’ve been having this enthralling discussion with McCulloch from laser show design and he’s been talking about how he got started in lasers and planetarium laser light shows and and all that the beginning the history of laser as I call it so very excited so great to have you here Doug and I wanted to read from this because this is a quotation that I was I found about you he said lasers are not just another gee-whiz special effect but a powerful tool to communicate ideas hmm I believe you said that yes yeah and I find this really interesting that you can use these beams of light to tell stories and I just wanted wanted to ask you you could share some thoughts about the whole storytelling aspect of the lasers and the planetariums and and how it how it all works well I was talking earlier about going to see a Lazar iam show and I was so inspired that it just you know really made me want to get involved with lasers I have to tell you at first I was very resentful of lasers because I felt like why do I need this expensive equipment I can do all these similar things with incandescent lights you know abstract imagery multimedia we were doing but I was persuaded by my then girlfriend who became my wife Joanne that what we really needed to do to be successful was incorporate lasers so we did it and what we did initially was very very primitive it was all abstract okay abstract imagery like Liz areum with some effects to create what they would they then called the Lumia so it was abstract amorphous effects and Cyclades basically but we started to we wanted to do more with the laser and I started to see that the laser was kind of the the realization of the collar organ from hundreds of years before that

here was this one really unique light source that you could do so much with to visualize music well there had been a show called love light back in Boston before I was working with high-power lasers was around 1976-77 and what they had done at love light was they had used a graphic tablet to digitize vector images and have graphics projected and laser something that was areum could not do well that was really really fascinating to me because I had always loved animated cartoons you know back from the 1930s okay and an early Porky Pig and Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck all this stuff by the early stuff I just thought was so outrageous and so funny and the animation was so wild surreal and so we found this defense department engineer who was working with a computer at his home and he claimed that he could you know create vector images with the laser and so we started working with this guy on the side we’re talking about 1979 so this was very very this was right in the beginning of you know laser graphics and there was actually a company that kind of was an outgrowth of Lovelight they were called laser displays in Boston and they were doing it but very not really animation they would take a graphic and then they would put it into a rotator and kind of rotate it around and was a two-dimensional image but you know that was pretty cool back then you know if you could do more than one graphic and a laser show this was like wow big time so anyway so we started working on this and we developed laser animation where we could load in 24 images and we could do frames we could have a little character that could run and we could do a character that would stop running and then it would do a metamorphic transform to another image and then you know all kinds of little you know a little animation tricks that we could do so in 1980 we had our first laser show with graphics so going back to this idea of telling a story now things really really opened up and I had a had a creative orientation towards the shows where even before we had the graphic capability I would put together a show that might tell a story for instance our first planetarium show was called laser Drive and what it was was a kind of trip through outer space okay so that we had a voice come on there was a female voice that was supposed to be the on-board computer and so this voice would say we were preparing for a liftoff and you do the shtick and so we go into liftoff and then we’d be out in space and we have a song and then after that song the computer voice would come back in and introduce what we were going to do next oh we’re approaching a bat black hole we did Pink Floyd one of these days was our journey through the black hole but the point is that we were able to with the soundtrack create a storyline as the context for the whole show and as we added in the graphics capability now we were now it just really really opened up so we were able to do some very very unusual and experimental things for example there was a Japanese poem but I really really liked and so I had I hired an actor you know and in Washington DC at the Arena Stage you know Shakespearean to to do the voice-over for this translation of this Japanese point okay about the you know the flower petal it was a love story okay like a myth and so he would do this thing and we would have the very simple laser graphics doing beautiful poetic artistic transformations and simple little things with this point that we did in the middle of a laser show and that was one of the shows that we would do for a matinee audience you know not the late night you know Zeppelin or Pink Floyd show but the title of that show

was visual music was a title for that show and nobody seemed to understand visual music so we changed it to laser Tunes it seemed to you know be more understandable to matinee audiences but the idea was to to to use the lasers in such a way as to tell a story which I still do today I’m still doing shows and and and somebody described our show as a series of stories that every song is like its own little vignette its own little story okay you know it may have animated characters in there you know sometimes things can be rather obvious you know if you have a funny little country and western song knowing you kept your you know your hillbilly characters in there and you know they might be out fishing and you know do all kinds of antics and that’s just part of the song you know it’s all pretty much indicated by the lyrics okay I think just jump in I think of this something that actually made groups like Pink Floyd and Genesis so interesting in the time that they were were big because their songs were stories in fact yes yes some of the their whole LPS as we used to call him in the old days yeah it wasn’t like like 10 separate stories it was one continual story going all the way to prove that you could get attached to and well again going back to the whole planetarium idea so we did our first planetarium show in Miami in 1979 and we just had great success okay lazarey ‘m was the big company this was sort of like David and Goliath okay they had 25 you know shows worldwide and they were in all the major markets and we just managed to get into Miami because the director somehow didn’t like lazarey him okay so he wanted to do something different so he brought us in and we just had tremendous success and so then we went to all the smaller planetariums that weren’t big enough for lazier IAM and then finally we got to the point where up in Canada and Calgary and Winnipeg the directors there said yeah we have lazier IAM come in in the summer but we want to give it a give you guys a shot so we came in and we had much greater success than miseria and then from there we got into Boston we had greater success than was there iam and so we were building up building up building up and then finally in 1973 we knocked Liz areum out of Hayden Planetarium in New York City and up until that time all of our shows were were featured a variety of musical groups okay it wasn’t just one group but when we went to New York I said okay we’re gonna do all Pink Floyd so we did laser Floyd that was our show and it was a mix of all different Pink Floyd music it wasn’t just one album okay was a mix laser Floyd huge success better than was a gram better than was Aryan and so the the thing that we were able to do really for the first time was exploit the graphic elements and the abstracts simultaneously and where they would interact so for instance you know and and another brick in the wall leading into it you know there’s the sound of the helicopter right and the guys yelling you know hey you you know and so we would have this sound we would have like a helicopter we’d have the blades up above in the planetarium I’m going around with the lights and then we’d have this little character running we called him the guy in the leotard but he was like you look like a character from the Blue Man Group this is way before the Blue Man Group but we sort of develop this look for the Pink Floyd shows and so we had this guy running and he would reappear all during the show in different situations you know he’d come back and comfortably numb’ and he’d come back during bringing damage you know he would show up from time to time but he was this really it was just like a Blue Man Group guy very amorphous as a matter of fact Pink Floyd would use a similar character in some of their music videos but we would have this helicopter thing and then the guy would be running and then we’d have an abstract boom that would come out of the helicopter and come down and come huge in the dome like right down on you and when it would come down boom and it would knock the little animated guy sit on his face and he jump back up and start running again so very

very simple but what it was was the interaction of the abstracts okay with the graphics and so this was something that we really really exploited in our planetarium shows okay and you know we went on from Pink Floyd the big the big challenge was what are you going to do after Pink Floyd okay we try to show that was a multi group and it was only moderately successful so we felt like well we’ve got to come back with a single group Led Zeppelin so we did laser Zeppelin and and that was almost equal to Pink Floyd although I will say that the sound of the audience was louder than Pink Floyd the way that they thought the Declan audiences would scream and yell it was unbelievable so we did we did a whole series of shows that originated in the planetarium in New York City the Hayden Planetarium and then other you know laser companies would see what we were doing and then you know you’d see Lazar iam copy us we were now basically creatively leading the way so that we would do a Pink Floyd show then they would follow with Pink Floyd show in La Zeppelin Zeppelin like that excuse it was kind of funny to see to see that reversal yeah and I I think you know you’re talking about some really interesting points and and sometimes I get comments saying you know we we want to know the how to’s more than the histories and the emotions behind it but I feel that as I have these discussions with people like yourself the real secrets are in the conversation that we’re having right now the passion the feelings the even the fact that you you looked somewhere else though I mean a big competitor wasn’t oh yeah that was something I did because I’m based in Manila now and that was some of the one of the things that we did like Manila has become this cutthroat red ocean where people the companies are fighting for the show so we went to the provinces yeah you you a little bit about this I feel that laser shows are what I would call a referential arc meaning or artform meaning that very very little of it is original that what it is is taking other imagery other ideas that are in the cul visually and then incorporating it into your presentation so for instance I would always be looking for inspiration movies television commercials television commercials fantastic some stupid commercial on television for some you know stupid little Christmas thing or a car dealership and I look at that and go wow that one idea right there the way that that thing came out three dimensionally that’s a great idea I’m gonna use that and so the thing is that you need to be learning you need to be visually open okay and and there’s not really a how-to you know like a manual like okay do this this there’s this no it doesn’t really exist because it’s it’s you know you can study something you can you can speak and learn about writing if you can express yourself writing and you’re able to translate that visually okay that’s it that’s the leap you know whatever your whatever you’re looking at you know a lot of times we’ll be working on a piece and you know we’ll have like 80% of it done and then there’s a section near and we just all might brainstorm about it you know if I’m working with an animator and we might just sit around for an hour and talk about cartoons and and tell some jokes and you know and and come up with some kind of idea about well what if we do this here you know and we start to work on it and if you have a really really good animation artist and I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work with many the key is to come up with a good drawing okay going back again to laser shows a lot of the laser shows have bad drawings they they just look terrible okay with me it’s not a question of you’ve got to have a zillion frames of the animation just give me one really good view full frame that’s evocative okay one beautiful picture of a woman’s face doesn’t have to be too detailed as a

matter of fact the less detail that you have the more that’s left up to the imagination okay going back again to what is it that I want somebody to feel what do I want them to think during this piece and then design it from that backwards that’s the way to go in my opinion that’s the way to succeed how interesting and you made a really good comment just now about watching the adverts as a source of inspiration or a source of information because you know how much money they spend on getting these adverts correct and which market research they do and if you see if you watch those and incorporate those their techniques into what you’re doing you should have a really good project and and one of the things I’ve always been grateful for in this industry is like I’ve done so many conferences it’s it’s crazy and I sit at the back of the room listening to information that people pay for in the audience I get it all for free and I’m being paid I get it all for free and I’m working with some of these big big companies that telecommunication companies that you know the big giants in food and they’re sharing all their strategic plans and and all the ideas with the audience and I’m sat the back of the room making all my notes and listening to them so there’s there is there’s been this whole world of information that’s right in front of us and if we asked look at it we get some great answers but I I also think it’s so interesting to hear your story of animation because you know we live in a world now it’s so digital and everything’s just so easily readily available for us right in those days there was literally nothing we you had to create it and I think it’s just what a fascinating time to be living in and so what about the rollout what impresses me when I look at other people shows is not necessarily like how many lasers and how many scanners and how sophisticated it is that’s important but that’s not maybe what impresses me most it’s what somebody does with what they have they can have something very simple but a way that they use it and I’ll give you an example recently there was somebody and I can’t remember his full name at it I believe his first name was Adam and he took a a Microsoft logo design and rear projected it through a black scrim how simple how simple and how effective it was I was absolutely blown away with what an incredible application that was of lasers again going back to the idea of not just 2g with special effect but a tool to communicate I’ll give you another example one time I was working on a corporate presentation where they wanted to put over the idea this was in the late 80s and they wanted to put over the idea that your telephone system wasn’t just a telephone it was a you know it could be internet and it could be used to for document creation and all these different things and so what they did was they created all these television monitors with all of the different uses and then we had a laser that was positioned up high and with sound effects you know the cheesy sound effect we’d have a beam that would shoot over it would hit the monitor and the monitor would glow argon the same color have a burst below and that would resolve into what the device was that was being linked up okay via this communication system and so again all it is is a laser beam but we’re using it to show connectivity in three-dimensional space okay and of course to introduce this new corporate idea it was a big big hit you know once they did it once it was like okay now they sent us on the road we had to do it everywhere every time they were you know doing a presentation they you know we’d have to do the whole laser setup for it kind of cool that was back in the late 80s yeah you know the the power of the story is fascinating and I’m gonna talk to the audience now I bet you are absolutely enthralled at what you’re hearing so far and you probably don’t realize that we have been talking for almost an hour and five minutes about this unit I just looked at the clock and I go home you know this is how powerful a story can be is that I am literally I could talk to you for another three or four hours really obviously we can’t do

but I’m absolutely enthralled with this and I had no idea that we’ve been going for one hour that’s the power of the story and if you get it right your audience will be absolutely captivated too so I’m really grateful for you sharing these ideas we’re gonna take another little break I’m so excited I’m so enthralled and so impressed I’m talking to Doug McCullough about not just planetarium laser light shows but the whole history of laser and even the mind shift and the mindset of how to do lasers and how to tell stories and everything fascinating we’ll be back in just a moment [Applause] so welcome back we have been having the most exciting conversation I’ve had recently about lasers the history of lasers and planetarium light shows with them and it’s absolutely enthralling and I thought what we will do now Doug is maybe you know we’ve talked about the past and the history of laser for so long let’s come up to date a little bit and tell us about your company which is laser show design and what you’re doing now and how people can get in touch with you okay well I am doing theme park shows now okay planted the planetarium laser show market unfortunately I sort of dried up okay but fortunately I’ve been able to do nightly shows for Six Flags theme park the one that I’m currently doing them well actually I shouldn’t say currently because due to the pandemic all outdoor shows like that in the US have been canceled okay so it’s been canceled for this summer but in up until the middle of March we were avidly in the middle of producing a show for Six Flags Darien Lake and those would be a 24 minute show approximately that incorporates full color lasers projected onto a huge screen would be 40 by 60 feet alright and and then we have fireworks we have three lasers set up to do overhead midair beam effects we have 14 fog machines that we remotely control to shoot out the fog depending on which way the wind is blowing we have some theatrical lighting that we use during the show moving lights mostly as audience blinders or to illuminate the audience we have a pool in front that has a water screen so occasionally we do rear projection on the water screen we’ve got propane cannons I said fireworks really we have all kinds of layers of fireworks you know from close up out in front of the screens right behind the screen the screen by the way is a mess so that it actually kind of turns transparent at night and you can see the fireworks clearly right through the screen so we get this incredible 3d layering that goes on and so I do 24 minute shows and those happen every night you know after the rides closed the park audience usually about 80% of them who’s ever in the park comes out to the to the side of the lake there and sits on the grass and watches the laser fireworks show beautiful you know I absolutely love these kind of shows back in 1992 which was why I actually started in laser for this specific project I was actually taking the Expo 92 in severe pain and we had six water screens in a 360-degree circle we had a bunker in the middle and it was a huge event you know as you say what the park comes and watches the show and it’s the it’s the final part of the day I absolutely love these shows so if you ever need anyone to carry a coffee just call me and you know get me a visa to get into America I’ll be over there yeah so that I love these kind of big shows that you know fascinating beautiful beautiful way to share your talent that’s great and you know I think you know with what’s happening in the world right now we are in a crazy position but you know the show must go on and you know in the not-too-distant future we will be doing shows again and I can’t wait because I think when we all get back to shows it’s going to be one hell of a party I agree well that’s what the part tells me they they say we can’t wait to get you back here it’s going to be a big part of our reopening and you know we you know the the whole communal experience that you have at that type of show is really fantastic I mean of course you get that sort of thing at a rave as well you know

it’s just so well it’s so communal so exciting Wow is the word I use I love watching the audience is you know after you do a show four or five times you know where the audience reacts and when the glue you can wait for it and you know it’s as I say I I totally get where you’re coming from with this and I can’t wait I’d love to see some of your shows so you know look for all opening again our laser show design how do people get in touch with you as a company what’s the best way well probably they could they could do an email or get in touch with me through the website it’s just laser show design comm duh get laser show design calm you know the email for that so they can they can get in touch with me that way I do occasional corporate shows and special projects and and sometimes I’m hired as a consultant for other people show you know to do creative work so I actually have done a bit of that the past year brilliant and you know I wanted to also talk about and we don’t really have the time because I think would be another three or four hours talking about it I really wanted to talk about all the awards and the achievements that you had and and you are multi awarded you know a multi water talent in your life and you created so much like the 360 degree is it Ami’s amish scan for the planetariums yeah and there’s so much history I think we’re gonna have to come back and meet you again sometime and I hope you will come back to augment TV again in the future and you know share more of your stories you looked but I want to thank you so much for being part of Ag and TV sharing your knowledge sharing your stories and your insights and how you look at things it’s been an absolute wild ride for me and I really appreciate you being here well thank you so much it’s been a pleasure thank you so I’ve been talking to the one and only the very unique Doug McCullough from laser show design we’ve been talking about the history of laser planetarium light laser light shows and mindset and everything else and I look forward to seeing you all again at a future episode and I would say me [Applause]