The International Laser Display Association (ILDA) held its 11th international laser conference in Lincoln, NE, last November 15-18. More than 150 laserists viewed laser light shows, participated in technical seminars, and examined new equipment.

Solid-state, compact lasers generated much interest at the conference. These efficient, low-wattage units are quite rugged, because they have no breakable gas tubes, and do not require water. Until recently, lasers have only been available in green and red, but at the conference Laser Power Microlasers introduced a 0.4W solid-state blue laser. The availability of very efficient solid-state lasers increases the possibility of a compact RGB laser being introduced, which will greatly increase laser use in entertainment venues.

Safety, in particular the controversy surrounding audience scanning, was a subject of many technical sessions. Much of the discussion on audience scanning concerned the amount, duration, frequency, and intensity of laser beams and their potential for damage to the eye. Procedures for beam measurement, the calculation of the exposure level both singular and cumulative, and even how to define a precise maximum permissible exposure (MPE) level are areas that safety experts and some laserists have yet to reach agreement on. Efforts in the United Kingdom to enforce internationally recognized MPEs have caused laserists to work together to educate governmental authorities about the laser industry. ILDA president Chris Ward announced that the organization would cooperate with the British Entertainment Lighting Association (BELA) on a range of safety and equipment issues. "I hope our two groups can work together over the long term to create a better environment for all of us," Ward said.

Awards were presented in various artistic and technological categories. For technical achievement, first place was awarded to William Benner of Pangolin Laser Systems for the development of the CADA-MOD circuit board. This will allow laserists to directly record their show's control signals on the newest type of ADAT tape machines, while retaining backward-compatibility with older ADAT machines. The circuit board also allows users to record DMX512 control signals directly onto ADAT tape.

Artistic achievement awards were presented to ILDA members in a dozen categories and were earned by 13 different companies. The "Web of Life" animated production, produced by Lightspeed Design Group of Bellevue, WA, earned first place in the multimedia category. Created with stereo 3D computer graphics and laser illustrations, it is now being shown at science museums in Vancouver and New Jersey.

Orlando-based AVI-Imagineering with Lasers (formerly Audio Visual Imagineering) won 11 awards. ABC LaserEvents of Leusden, the Netherlands, earned a first place award for a display celebrating the opening of the Landgoed't Loo theme park in the Netherlands. Germany's Tarm SLL Technik won five awards in various categories. Lobo Electronic, also of Germany, earned six awards, including one for its presentation at SIB 97 in Rimini, Italy.

Plans are being developed for the 1998 laser conference. ILDA's offices are located at 4301 32nd Street, Suite E-8, West Bradenton, FL 34205. Phone is 941/758-6881, and its website is at www.ILDA.wa.org.