Saturday, August 1, 2009
Moments in Holography History - 1st White-Light Viewable Embossed Holographic Prototypes of Michelangelo’s David
[visuals note: The visuals show two viewing perspectives of the same embossed hologram of David. ]
At the beginning of this century while going through some ‘almost’ lost treasures of my past, I uncovered a plain brown envelope with a number of 4” x 5” acetate plastic sheets separated by tissue. Further investigation revealed that these were the first prototypes from the early seventies when Michael Foster and I, under our Cottonwood Research and Development Corporation, were ‘tweaking’ Foster’s holographic embossing process. The technique used at that time replicated holograms on plastic that needed a laser to view them. Most holograms up till then needed a laser to create them and view them.
I was surprised that the smell of acetate was still present in bag. After almost 40 years! Acetate was the chemical we used to replicate holograms from the holographic master onto plastic sheets.
Our subject matter was a small sculpted version of the bust of Michelangelo’s iconic “David”. We were evolving our previously replicated holograms which required laser illumination to view them and make them white-light-viewable.
Foster was making successive holographic masters that incorporated new optical approaches he was experimenting with to increase the white-light viewability of the replicated holograms. I was doing the physical embossing to create a replicated plastic hologram from each of his new masters using a very clever embossing process he’d devised.
So each hologram in this batch was a hologram made from a new different holographic master during our experimenting that night. We were always nocturnal. The process enabled us to see the holographic image of David from a white-light source. But, as you can see from the pictures, the image of David had a spectral spread around it. Still this hologram is probably one of the first embossed image holograms ever made which had the capability of white-light viewability from a holographic master plate capable of mass-producibility onto plastic without laser exposure. Both techniques were major breakthroughs at that time.
The first public viewing of a hologram from this session was made in San Jose at the Tech Museum during their Talent and Tapestry Event in 2001.
We later incorporated the Steve Benton ‘Rainbow” technique which eliminated one parallax dimension (in this case the vertical axis) to create white-light viewability. Our first ‘prototypes’ of these holograms were purchased by Laser Focus Magazine to sell in an ad in their magazines. This probably was the very first commercial use of embossed ‘display/image’ holography. These holograms (actually holographic prototypes) were available for purchase only months after the breakthrough was made. Talk about bringing an invention to the market place in a short period of time…this certainly qualifies. Luckily, breakthroughs in holographic imagery can be seen as they happen thus making them available as a product for purchase instead of just a part of a more complex system that has to be further developed before in becomes a product or gadget. Holograms are actually both. They are the holographic substrate that records imagery as well as the display device that reconstructs the holographic imagery when illuminated with light.