Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Hologram Projector project

I've been working with Eric Maslowski of the UM 3D Lab to see if we can resurrect a Hologram projector that is currently in the Stearns Collection of Musical Instruments.

"What?" I hear you say. Here's the story.

This was born from an encounter between an Engineering professor (Juris Upanieks) and a Music Education professor (William Malm) at a party inaround 1970.  The Engineer was talking about this cool new technology called holography and the Music Guy immediately thought that this could be a great tool for teaching.  Rare instruments could be displayed to an entire class at once, in full 3D.

This was developed out at Willow Run Airport.  The university operated Willow Run Laboratories (WRL) from 1946 to 1972. WRL housed a number of physicists and engineers and produced many innovations, including the first ruby laser and work on holography.

In order to capture a full 360 degree view of each object, they built a black box big enough to accomodate the instruments they wanted to capture - maybe about 6' square.  They used rolls of film originally made for aerial surveillance photos, about 14" wide and in long rolls.  They ran the film around the length of interior of their black box, with the instrument in the middle, and through an aperture in one of the walls exposed the film with a laser.  Once developed, this film could be run through the hologram projector to show the instrument rotating 360 degrees at will.

Basically, it was a monochromatic holographic QTVR movie.  But this was in the early 1970's, and it was totally rockin' for that time.  The Bill Malm said that when they demonstrated it to a group of engineers the Rackham amphitheater at that time, they all gasped as one.  Pretty rewarding reaction from a bunch of jaded skeptics.

So the Stearns collection got it because it was images of some of their musical instruments.  But they have now decided that they would like to be rid of it, which is why they contacted the UM 3D Lab.  And why Eric,knowing my interest in these kind of things, contacted me.

Below are a few photos. the first one Eric took during his initial visit to the Stearns Collection to see this thing.  We hope to make a return visit soon, and I'll post about that visit.  The other two are from the UM press in the 70's and show the projector in operation.


Holographic film description of a Japanese string instrument and a Malaysian double reed.
At the bottom you can see the label for the "Film Drive" to rotate the object.
And yes, there were also tape recordings of the sound made by these instruments.
(You can see the "Sound" label in the lower right.)
The viewer was able to select which tape loop they wanted to hear.

 The projector set up.  The laser is in the back and the film spool can be seen in the center foreground.
William Malm and Juris Upanieks are pictured.

 Bill viewing one of the films with the alternate "personal viewing" arrangement.
You can see the pegs and head of the holographic instrument through the glass.

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