I'm not sure if Movie&TV is the right StackExchange site for this question, but I did not find an FX-site. Here goes:

In Gambino's SNL performance:

There are projectors of some sort, that create (the illusion of?) cones of spirals and spiraling dots, lines, and surfaces.

They seem to be 3D as in when he is standing in one of the cones, some lines pass in front of him, and some behind him. I do not think it is CGI, but I can't explain it with a usual projector with haze (even(however that would come to pass) a cone-surface haze) you would still have to project light into it, which would light the haze up along a line until it hit something opaque (body, wall, floor...) lighting that up in a spot, too, so if you fired the light in from the side, the haze would be lit up all along the path of the light, as well as in the case where you fired from the peak of the cone.

Is this some high-tech two-photon setup where you fire two invisible wavelengths, that have to intersect to produce a visible glow?

Is there some fast-rotating screen or string that's invisible in the haze?

Does it just look 3D and in reality is just a screen in front of the actors (made of gauze or haze) that is cleverly lighted?

  • Looks like standard lasers to me,,,but I'm no expert. – Paulie_D May 11 '18 at 9:07
  • Old school light shows always were wall-to-wall "sheets" of light - because if you fire a laser through haze, you get a straight line to the wall, if you then turn the laser from left to right, you get a triangular "sheet", with the point at your laser, and the base at the wall. --- What you don't get with lasers is Star-Wars-like "laser-bolts" beginning an ending in thin air which is exactly the effect that crops up in the video, but (imho) without the CGI of Star Wars – bukwyrm May 11 '18 at 9:11
  • Welcome to Movies.SE! Questions about how specific effects are achieved in movies and TV shows are indeed on topic here. – F1Krazy May 11 '18 at 9:20
  • I think it's haze but I've seen a lot of lighting effects and known how they are done and these have me stumped. More amazing to me than the planes around Gambino himself are the spiral shapes going upwards at the end. If it's haze then maybe it's a new kind of haze that is more clear when unlit. But haze alone doesn't explain those end spirals. – Todd Wilcox May 11 '18 at 21:05
  • @ToddWilcox: Exactly, those are the same principle, i would wager, but i cannot make any sense out of it. – bukwyrm May 12 '18 at 20:02

This thread on Reddit somewhat explains the effect:

A very clever use of the camera frame rate, rolling shutter, and a CMOS censor, combined with timed projection. You would only be able to see this in camera, not live.

Another user adds:

The laser fixtures are KVANT Spectrums.

And I’m not an expert on camera work but I do work electrics for SNL on their remote shoots and occasionally in the studio so! ( worked on the friendo therapy music video this week )

I was told it was a camera / shutter sync to the lasers which were programmed to make those effects but only on camera. In the studio it just looked like solid beams. They of course used some atmospherics to make the light a bit more visible.

Really cool effect they achieved they had a guy who specializes in laser design / effects and programming come in just to do it.

The person who claims to have produced this effect also paid a visit:

My name is Joe Picard. I'm a DP, I invented this technique several years ago and refined it with the help of Adam Labay. That was our work on Saturday. I like to call it laser-banding. We've done it for a couple other projects and have done some other special work together as well.

You can see some other cool things at joepicard.com.

In another Reddit thread there is a longer explanation, though this explanation gives :

Those Lasers were designed by the companies Future Weapons, and Nice Lasers, they are both champions of lasers (check out Gareth emery’s laserface video on youtube for more of their work!).

The appearance of moving lines is a process of lining up the frame rate of the laser lines being drawn with the framerate of the camera. the bent lines is an occurance of Rolling Shutter used in video capture.

In person, you can't see that effect, it's only visible on a recording.

Heres how it works: If you project a line that sweeps back and forth 32 times times per second, with a camera that only captures one frame every 1/30th of a second, you will see a pattern that oscillates back and forth once every 15 seconds (32/30 = 1 with a reminder of 1/16, giving the 16 second effect). Lasers of course use much faster drawing paterns than 26 "lines" per second, and this can allow a range of cuncurrent timings, if you notice there were several paterns being thrown by the ceiling mounted fixture, you can see that the fixture was capable of outputting several paterns at once, because it can draw 50,000 points per second, with a vector between the points


So what you see is 2D effect that make a 360 trip around Gambino.
Julius Popp created such waterfall to spell words. You can watch video here

Other videos usually are called "art of waterfall". This is to create this falling yet continuous area/surface.
Now you put that on a tondo and create extra moving part. In early cinema it was called Zoetropes (or wheel of life).

Think of a sheet of paper. Lay it down and make a small circle (or ship or pony) in left lower corner. Now drawn another circle little to the right and up until you end up in right upper corner. If you take this paper and roll it into cylinder from one point of view you will only see circle at some point. But if you spin it you will get the illusion of circles going up or falling (depending on which way you spin). Now just replace the paper with air and circles with short beams of light made by lasers and voila.

  • So you are saying there is a spray- nozzle above gambino that spits water down at an angle. And this nozzle is itself being spun around, creating a cone of water. The nozzle spits the drops in such a way that the observed patterns are created, and a laser in the same plane (well, cone) lights them up? Im not sure you can get the kind of movement that is on display. Also, you'd need a trough at the bottom to catch the drops. – bukwyrm May 15 '18 at 14:54
  • @bukwyrm No no no. The water just help to visualise how it's work. The light need something to manifest itself. In SNL it's black background and some fog. And you see the light because it bounce through that particles. christchurchparties.co.nz/lightinghire/lighting-hire/laserhire but instead of installing the laser like in usual EDM party they shining from top. And that also create this cone effect. – SZCZERZO KŁY May 15 '18 at 15:07

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