Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Jack White's Angels of Lazaretto

A friend of mine refers to Jack White's brain as a gyroscope, always spinning at full speed, staying upright even when at a crazy angle.

She's right. Jack White has stuffed his upcoming vinyl album Lazaretto with so many gimmicks that it takes him and Third Man's Second Cheese Ben Blackwell nine minutes of video to explain them all. Locked grooves, double sets of grooves (so there are two ways to start one side of the album, depending on where the needle drops), grooves in the label area (so the indented label plays a (scratchy) tune) and... a hologram.

The explanation of the hologram starts at 6:00 minutes.

What's particularly weird about the hologram is that, unlike every single time any musician anywhere has said "hologram" this actually is one. (The "performing" holograms you see bandied about are actually a Steampunk-age illusion called a Pepper's Ghost.) Created by Tristan Duke, the hologram is made by abrasion, a form that does not require a laser to make visible.

I haven't seen the album yet - nobody has - but I assume it's this Tristan Duke, whose holography is seen in this short video.

Apparently he's done work for the Museum of Jurassic Technology in LA, which is one of my favorite places. I wonder what he did there? He seems to have worked in 3D before - stereo pairs and laser holography are both mentioned, but I don't really remember either of those featuring much at MJT.

The fundamental technique is pretty simple, which isn't something people normally say about holography. You take a simple drawing (like a wire cube), draw dots along each line and fix the drawing to a table. Then you take a pair of dividers, if you have them, or rig up something with a pair of compasses if you haven't, put the point on the first dot and scribe a wide arc onto a piece of Perspex (e.g. a CD case) fixed to the table near the drawing. Then the arc for the second dot, and so forth until you either finish, get bored or your dividers slip. Assuming you do finish, go outside and reflect the sunlight off your CD case and you will see your cube or whatevs leap into rainbow-glittery life.

Here's me doing a blunderbuss.

You can see some of the arcs just under the sunlight bit of the CD case. And no, I'm not going to post a picture or video of the finished hologram because I know a lot of holographers and although I haven't learned a lot about it, one thing I have firmly established is that there isn't the slightest point putting a hologram on the interwebs, because everyone looks at it on their 2D screen and writes to you to tell you that it can't be a hologram because it isn't in 3D.

Yes, that pair of compasses has indeed been modified to hold a seamstress's unpick-a-stitch tool because that's what I had in the house. You could use something less arcane or just make a one-size divider by pushing a nail through one end of a dowel and another at the other end of the dowel, to make two points about four inches apart, one to place on the points and one to scratch the arcs.

Here Duke is explaining the technique in much more detail (23 minutes).

After much in the way of maths and optics, he explains that he can make a "master" hologram, as one does with a record, where instead of scribed scratches he has used a cutting tool to raise a burr that protrudes above the surface. Also like a record, it can be electroplated to fix the burr and make it stable. This is like a negative hologram and (with a printmaker, Richard Nielsen) he can then use a press to make embossed holograms. Not that the Third Man record hologram is printed - it sounds like he drew it by hand on the record master. Or whatever that stage of making a record is called. (Record pressing is much more complicated that you'd think.)

Even if you don't want to listen to 23 minutes of explanation, it's probably worth knowing the fun pub-quiz fact that abrasion holograms were discovered by accident - they can be seen on cars that have been polished with abrasive cloths in a circular motion. Apparently no-one tried to reproduce this deliberately until 1994.  All the holographers had a jolly good laugh, because hand-drawn holograms! Haha! Anyway, apparently Duke has found a way to mass produce them and, unlike most holographers, has found someone to buy one!

And you can be sure that despite the cynicism expressed above, I'll be buying my own copy. This is a record that is seriously dressed up to ensure you not only buy it, you actually take it out of the sleeve and put it on a turntable.


KaliDurga said...

Fascinating explanation. I can't wait to hear that you've actually unwrapped this record. We'll have to make a date to chat about it!

Lyle Hopwood said...

Good idea. A sync listen + watch hologram date!

KaliDurga said...

Maybe later that week, Thursday or Friday eve?

Lyle Hopwood said...

It's a deal!


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