designing for holograms: a revealing

While discussing this project with friends, I lost track of how many asked if I could make another Tupac hologram. I could not, due to a few problems. Confusingly, the Tupac case, so embedded in our collective cultural memory as the prime example of hologram technology, was in fact not a hologram, but rather a large-scale modern day advancement of a few centuries old stage trick,  a two-dimensional image projected onto a hidden screen, a trick that cost well over a hundred thousand dollars.

Disheartened and perplexed by this discovery, I decided to explore the technology of the holograph at a rather introductory level. With an accessible interaction occurring on a small scale, I hoped to be able to gain an understanding of the process which would better inform and encourage consideration of holographic technology on a much larger scale. On this blog site, I found a similar project, one which served as the foundation for my own exploration.

If  Tupac is not a hologram, then what is? Holography is a technique which allows for a three-dimensionally displayed image of an object through the interaction between two different light beams: exposure to monochromatic (laser) light, encoding interference patterns; and an illuminating beam, producing the image. It is often considered in relation to the photograph, of which there are many key differences, including the required apparatus, how the light of the object or scene is recorded, and the necessary lighting conditions for viewability.

With this basic understanding, I was able to began my exploration of the technology, using the Litiholo Hologram Kit and hologram procedure sheet generously provided by the physics department.

Materials included:

  • Laser tower.
  • Laser Diode
  • Lens/ Laser Mount Assembly.
  • Spacer
  • Holographic plate holder
  • 2”x3” film plate
  • Black card
  • White card
  • Toy car
  • Lighter
  • Sturdy table
  • Timer
  • LED Blue flashlight


  1. Place the holographic plate holder and plate support assembly against the flat end of the laser tower spaces so that the long slot on the holographic plate holder is closest to the spacer and centered on it.
  2. Turn on the laser diode. Place the practice film plate in the long slot in the holographic plate holder, resting against the holographic plate support. The object should be placed directly behind the plate as close as possible without touching it. Using the white card, verify that the expanded laser beam is hitting the film plate, then passing through the plate to illuminate the object. Should be preset, but important to make sure of.
  3. Place the black card on the laser tower spacer so that it blocks the laser light
  4. Turn off all lights. Remove hologram film plate from the box and inner bag. Place it onto the holographic plate holder with the cover sheet faced away from the object.
  5. Wait 3-5 minutes. Total silence and stillness extremely crucial.
  6. Gently lift the black card to expose the hologram. Expose for 12 minutes. Total silence and stillness still crucial.
  7. Replace the black card momentarily. Remove your object. Remove black card again to view your hologram. Look through the laser tower legs to see the holographic image that appears behind the film plate. If you can see the image of your object, it is a success.
  8. To see the hologram without a laser light, use a bright light coming from the same angle as that of the laser when the hologram was made.

I followed this procedure exactly as described three times, making three different holograms (two of a small red toy car, one of an orange Bic lighter).

Initially I expected to have some difficulty when first starting to toy with the hologram kit, understanding the need for the chosen objects to be incorporated so as to produce the clearest, most impressive images. With this in mind, I prepared for small- to medium-sized objects of a rather shiny caliber. On my first day, to my surprise, the department presented an arsenal of these caliber objects at my disposal, including castles and miniature Star Wars figurines, but I ended up choosing one of the shiny red cars.  After preparation and twelve moments of total stillness, I removed the object and turned on the laser, to see a clear, red, seemingly three-dimensional image of the car that was in my hand.

I expected to have some difficulty in trying to expand my thinking to a bigger scale. In my second attempt I wanted to attempt making a hologram of  an object of my own, an object that had not already been proven to work with this kit. Due to its size and light constraints, I had to think small, and chose to use the orange bic lighter I had in my pocket. I had difficulty arranging it properly behind the film plate, and had to put the toy car behind the lighter to prop it up. In this attempt, another hologram was made, but the image was definitely not as clear as the first, due perhaps in part to the visual appearance of the object itself. As well, unintentionally and ever so-slightly, I bumped into the table during the exposure process, thus altering it. Although totally silent, my slight movements may have interfered with this attempt.

And so I tried a third time, using once more the toy car, and with what I learned from my first two attempts was capable of producing an image remarkably clearer.

Holography today and of the near future has a vast range of applications across disciplines, including art, fashion, design, government and non-government regulated security, biotechnology, and perhaps most importantly, data storage. This ubiquitous existence was certainly running through my mind throughout this project, but due to the constraints of the kit in its smallness and touchiness, and my own inexperience, was not able to apply it directly to any of these disciplines.

If I had six more weeks to do this project, or if I had to do it all over again, I would have explored further the holographic ability of a vaster range of objects. Were I to use the exact same kit, the size constraints would certainly still exist and limit my exploration. In that scenario, then, I would perhaps find it fruitful to intentionally alter with the exposure process in a way which would allow me to manipulate the holographic image into a more distorted one. While not with immediate scientific value, I believe studying human perception and response to these distorted, three-dimensionally displayed images would prove profoundly insightful. For instance, what happens to the image when I am not totally silent, and how do different levels of noise-making affect the holography process? In other words, I would like to compare the environmental stimuli which afford the making of the holographic image as they relate the multisensory experience of human’s witnessing these images.

With access to more advanced holographic technologies, I would like to delve more explicitly into the aforementioned disciplines in which they are becoming increasingly involved, namely as it relates to data storage and design. The logo on a bank credit card is often a hologram, storing personal, computer-generated data. Frustratingly, most of the public are not aware of the ways in which holograms have already begun to invade their daily lives. In a larger scale project, with higher-end technologies, I would hope to bring awareness of the hologram’s existence in our daily lives, through the design and installation of images(either holographic or referring to the holographic) into the public spaces many of us often inhabit.  

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