WAVEFRONT Issue Summer 1987
L.A. IN OVERDRIVE
by Al Razutis
SOUTHERN California, the sprawling urban-suburban complex in
and around Los Angeles, has spawned many stories of fame, fortune and
despair. The first impression most tourists get is of an endless stream
of neighborhoods, shopping centres and asphalt roadways. LA. is a
product of troth entertainment industries and endless immigration from
the eastern urban centres, not to mention the northward migration of
Mexicans and Central Americans. It is a place where fortunes are made
and lost routinely and where status is commonly displayed alongside
HOLOGRAPHY IS MAKING IT BIG IN L.A., BIGGER THAN MOST VISITORS
REALIZE. COUPLE THE HIGH- TECH INDUSTRY BASE (AEROSPACE, DEFENCE,
ENTERTAINMENT, ETC.) WITH A PENCHANT FOR VENTURE CAPITAL AND YOU HAVE
THE RIGHT CONDITIONS FOR AN EXPLOSION IN RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT.
THE STEADY UPSURGE OF HOLOGRAPHIC ACTIVITY IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
SEEMS UNPARALLELED. ALREADY WE HAVE SEEN THE EMERGENCE OF ADVANCED
DIMENSIONAL DISPLAY, OPERATED UNDER THE DIRECTION OF CHRIS OUTWATER AND
CRAIG NEWSWANGER. T HIS FACILITY, KNOWN INTERNATIONALLY FOR ITS
LARGE-FORMAT INTEGRALS, COMPUTER-GENERATED INTEGRALS, AND CURRENTLY
ENGAGED IN MUCH OF THE TECHNICAL WORK FOR LARGE-FORMAT ART WORKS
(ALEXANDER, DIETER JUNG, SALLY W WEBER, AMONG OTHERS) IS THE OUTGROWTH
OF WORK BY OUTWATER AND NEWSWANGER AT W.E.D. ENTERPRISES (THE DISNEY
RESEARCH FACILITY), NAMELY THE SPECIAL EFFECTS DEPARTMENT. A MODEST
AMOUNT OF WORK ENDED UP IN DISNEY AMUSEMENT CENTRES,
AND WHEN THE CORPORATION DECIDED TO
close the holography section in favor of a cash buyout, the two
holographers scored all the hardware for a one-year buyout plan.
Today, A.D.D. is a state-of-the-art facility, featuring large
isolation tables, processors, printers and numerous accessories. It
specializes in 30x40-inch and 32x45-inch integrals as line items and
conducts large scale projects (such as 80-inch HOEs for artist Sally
Weber, profiled in our last issue). It seems destined to become one of
North America's leading holographic imaging centres.
Not far from A.D.D. is Holospectra, a laser-optics resale company
which also produces holograms,special laser effects for discos and the
entertainment industry,repairs and develops technology for holography,
and acts as consultant in numerous holographic applications.
Holospectra is the joint venture of two brothers,Bill and Bob Arkin,
who specialize in business and technical matters respectively.Their
factory is a conglomerate of laser repair facilities, holography production spaces,storage
for an eye-boggling array of plasma tubes and accessories,and a modest display area.The
company's prospectus describes its capabilities as including all forms of holography (transmission, reflection on silver halide, dichromate,integral, embossed),
although Bill Arkin indicated that the company usually demands a minimum contract
of five figures from potential clients.
Holospectra's main emphasis seems to be repair/refurbishing of
lasers and resale of new and used equipment for the industry. When I
visited Holospectra in the early spring of 1987, its holographic tables
and Multiplex printer seemed idle, attesting to a shifting focus of
projects. It is hard to imagine a more completely stocked (and crampet)
facility in terms of hardware odds and ends in the southland and one can
imagine that if this company was operating at full capacity in terms of
its capabilities,it would require an army of technicians and an armload
of contracts.And we have yet to leave the San Fernando Valley!
At the extremities of the Valley,outside Woodland Hills, resides
White Light Works Inc., the L.A.School of Holography and none other than Dave Schmidt
and Jerry Fox. Schmidt is the holographer/technician and
designer and Fox is the business end of this team,although their roles
sometimes overlap. Under the direction of Fox, White Light Works is
a production/consulting/distribution company which is affiliated with
and represents American Bank Note. As such, it conducts production,
sales and consulting in the areas of embossed holography, integrals,
image-plane reflection and a number of other display areas for trade
shows, advertising and education. Much of the in-house technology has
been developed by Dave Schmidt, a pivotal figure at the San Francisco
School of Holography and Multiplex Company (Lloyd Cross) in the early
1970s. Schmidt is a holographer par excellence, and since his move to
the L:A: area he has continued his technical developments in Multiplex,
image-planing and education. Many of the printing and processing machines at White
Light Works are constructed or designed by him (the processor is
automated to accommodate 20-inch-wide film) and he continues to work in
upgrading both imaging and economy. Schmidt also has an independent
Schmidt and Fox also conduct classes at the Los Angeles School of Holography, with
Schmidt and Fox handling technology and history/applications respectively.It's a
three-day intensive curriculum (cost: $375 for students; $450 for professionals).
Day one covers history, applications, art preparation, materials and equipment. Day two covers
the making of hologram masters (laser transmission, interferometry), and day three
concludes with making hologram copies (image- plane reflections) and the added bonus
of introduction to integrals, rainbows and achromats.
Instant enlightenment! The school (if you are in the vicinity) offers
summer courses July 24-26, Aug. 28-30 and will continue Sept. 25-27 and
Oct. 23- 25 of this year.
At the other end of L.A. resides L.A. Holographics, guided in
part by Alan Shapiro. The company specializes in film (yes, film) and
plate dichromates. Unfortunately I was not able to visit the facility,
but I did see examples of their work at Roberta Booth's Hollywood
photography holography studio.
Which brings us to Booth and the undeveloped side of holography
in Los Angeles, namely art. Roberta Booth and Gary Fisher are the two
curators and administrators of the long-running holography exhibit at
the Science and Technology Museum at Exhibition Park. They are currently
organizing another exhibit at the Museum to begin in January, 1988
(announced in our last issue). Booth is a photographer by trade,
responsible for some interesting stereo- and mono- photographic essays,
including fashion spreads and storyboards for film. She is also a
dedicated holographer, moving currently in the direction of white-light
transmission 30x40-centimetre pieces (which were on display at Richard
Ellis Architects in downtown Los Angeles). Her work has also integrated
slide projection and rainbow holograms as a kind of optical light
projection collage, combining the static (slide) image of figures in
landscape with the ethereal world of rainbow holograms.
This work is interesting on its own merits and by its very presence
reflects the rarity of holographic art in L.A.
Unfortunately I was unable to visit with Gary Fisher. Artists
interested in having their work considered for sale or exhibition should
contact Fisher this summer-fall. The planned exhibition sounds promising
and thoughtfully curated.
Eric Van Hamersveld, an early educator in holography (U.C.L.A.
extension program courses in the early '70s) and author of the
ever-popular Guide to Practical Holography (Pentangle, 1974) is also
ever present in the L.A. area. His work includes consulting work with two
businesses, and it must be remembered that he teamed up with Outwater in
the early '70s to conduct classes and develop holography as an imaging
Eric is now teamed up with yet another immigrant to the L.A.
area, Don Broadbent, formerly of the Bay area. Broadbent, well known in
the '70s for his manufacture and repair of small He-Ne's (I still have
one of those remarkable lasers) expanded into holography while still in
Silicon Valley. And then it happened: one of those things that dreams
are made of. National Pen purchased his company, Broadbent Development
Labs, relocated it south of Los Angeles in Escondido, then hired him as
the director of this new subsidiary of National Pen, now renamed
When I visited Broadbent this summer, he was gearing up for
dichromate production with several isolation tables (undoubtedly
capitalized by National Pen) with a commitment to research and
development and quite content to work in this new environment until some
retirement date which is undoubtedly some years away. Considering the
Broadbent/Van Hamersveld team, we can anticipate some great inroads into
dichromate production and distribution. The competition in L.A.
undoubtedly will be strong, but the market seems large enough to
accommodate all comers.
Back on the freeway--north, this time, to Newport Corporation,
home of much R&D in holography and related technologies. Situated in
Fountain Valley, just off the San Diego Freeway, this corporation was
founded in the early '70s by a small group of scientists from Cal Tech.
In the early days, I remember well going to a small lab facility to
speak with Dr. Milton Chang, the president, and to buy plates, optics
and accessories on a first- name basis. The location remains the same,
but the plant has greatly enlarged (resembling a small industrial park),
with numerous scientific and technical delegations being treated to
tours and product samples.
On my recent visit, Rudy Garza at the holography section showed
me some recent developments that Newport is marketing in display
holography (integral CATScan --that's brain-scan, folks--holograms from
Britain if you can believe it, complete with display units) and their
line of thermo- plastic, real-time interferometric cameras. Here, one
could view real-time interferograms on a video screen (camera compares
thermoplastic hologram with object undergoing stress), a phenomenon
which is conducted (recording, processing, display) in a matter of
minutes, then erased and replaced with another test condition. While
these applications are targeted for non-destructive testing/analysis,
their applications may even extend to the arts. Newport is not only
alive and well but growing amidst the ever-increasing technological base
of the greater L.A. area.
There are other instances of holographic activity (Pasadena City
College, U.C.L.A., T.R.W., Hughes, etc.) which I did not have time to
visit. L.A. is a mega-centre for technology and applications.
Given the 15-million population base of southern California--about
two-thirds the total Canadian population and more than some countries--it
is easy to see why Los Angeles and environs is becoming more and more a
centre of holographic production and its applications.
What stands out in disproportion to the technical growth is the
lack of significant numbers of holographic artists. But rumor has it
that some easterners tired of abysmal winters are preparing to migrate,
that other northern (S.F.) Californian holographers are thinking
What next? Perhaps we are in store for a new centre of both
technical, display and art holography in North America: Los Angeles and
environs. And then of course there is the San Andreas fault...