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How to make holograms at home

With a new kit that uses a special film, you can now make your very own holograms. By Gary Krakow.
The kit is simple to set-up and use. It makes real holograms right on your dining room table.
The kit is simple to set-up and use. It makes real holograms right on your dining room table.Liti Holographics

The first hologram I remember seeing was in the first "Star Wars" movie -- the projected, three-dimensional picture of Princess Leia. Today, holograms are everywhere -- just take a look at your credit card or driver’s license.

Holograms are very cool, but I never thought I could make one in my own home. I always thought that producing one required lots of special, expensive equipment, plus a lot of time, effort and expertise. For large-scale, professional holograms that’s true -- but now one hologram producer has created an amazing kit that simplifies the entire procedure.

Holograms are three-dimensional images produced by capturing a laser light interface pattern on special film. Laser light is used because it is a very pure source of one color (wavelength) of light with very orderly waves. The word hologram comes from two Greek words holos (whole) and gramma (picture).

To make a hologram, a laser light is split into two different beams. One is reflected off of an object and then scattered to the film, while the other beam goes directly to the film. The two beams meet at the film, causing a pattern of microscopic bright and dark lines. The film captures this pattern, which is the hologram.

To view the hologram when it’s done, you usually have to develop the film then place it back in its original position and illuminate it with only one beam coming directly from the laser. The recorded holographic interference pattern will now diffract the laser light passing through it, creating a 3D image of the original object as if it was still there.

It sounds very complicated and from what Paul Christie, President and C.T.O. of Liti Holographics told me, it is.  Christie is what I would call a hologram geek.  He’s been into these laser photos for years and years.  He has a professional hologram business in Newport News, Va., and in his spare time he tinkers.

At his business, Christie and company use industrial-size lasers and special, sophisticated vibration-free equipment. Professional holograms require zero motion during the process and must be produced in totally dark rooms. That’s for professional holograms.

But as part of his tinkering, Christie has created a new kind of "instant hologram" film.  It still uses lasers to make the three-dimensional image, but it doesn’t need developing, vibration-free equipment or even a dark room. Christie has built a little kit that uses the new film and says you can use it to make holograms at home.

Last week, Christie proudly showed me his invention. In a very bright room, he set up his plastic hologram kit. There are a bunch of black plastic pieces that fit together to keep everything at the proper distance from each other. Everything you need is in the box from the laser, a supply of special film (2 by 3 inches on glass plates) and even a metal toy car to use as the photo model. The tiny red laser diode is powered by AA batteries (included).

The process is simple. Put all the pieces together, put the car (or any other small, solid object) in place, aim the laser (half at the car and half behind it), put the hologram film in place then quietly wait 5 minutes for the image to be formed.

Liti Holographics

All I have to say is it that worked exactly as advertised.  The room wasn’t anywhere near dark and although we tried not to bump the table, I wouldn’t call our test space vibration-free.  A few minutes after we started we had a small transmission hologram.  When viewed using the same laser you can actually see a three-dimensional picture.  I was amazed.

And this system is only going to get better.  Christie says he’s currently working on an improved film that won’t require a laser light to see the image.  That way you can take your hologram with you wherever you go.

As for price, the Litholo Hologram kit sells for $139 and is available on the Liti Holographics Website.   If you’ve ever wanted to experience a home-made hologram this is a great way of experimenting.