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The Shard Laser Show Proved Lasers are Lame

Last night, the London skyline was lit-up with lasers and lights as part of the pomp and circumstance surrounding the opening of an apparently-empty building known as The Shard. Yes, a giant sharpened phallus is out of odds with the state of the country as a whole, and whether it’s even attractive is a point of debate – but it is the tallest building in Europe for the time being, and therefore a valid excuse for Brits to brag.

However, even with the sun down, the sky clear and with a view from the tenth floor, the effect of the laser light show was terribly disappointing. Twelve lasers and 30 searchlights are seemingly not enough to create anything approaching an impact across London.

Shard view

Of course, search the web today for pictures and you’ll find some real impressive ones, captured with cameras costing thousands and with the colour saturation whacked into the stratosphere. But the effect through mere eyes was much less impressive, especially when the show was teased with the eye-popping image below – which could double as a screengrab from some sort of apocalyptic alien invasion movie.


That there was a sense of familiarity to this image is part of the problem. Growing up with the bustling, light-and-smoke-filled cities of films like The Fifth Element and Blade Runner, and – more pertinently – the laser light show that was the 1982 film Tron, how can reality possibly keep up?

We’re sure that if you were close enough to have your retinas scorched from under your eyelids by one of the things, it’d look wonderful. But from a kilometre away – still pretty close in London terms – looking upward into the sky, the laser beams looked as though they were fizzling away into a slight green smear.

“Yeah, that kinda sucks,” agrees man from Tron

It seems as though films like these have fundamentally mis-sold what lasers are, when you really get down to it. Lasers dissipate in air just like normal lights, and that rules-out those near-solid sky-wide lighting effects seen in films. Lasers have much greater range that traditional spotlights, but that doesn’t mean everything.

Films are, of course, well within their right to force feed us bowlfuls of nonsense, but perhaps the folks behind the Shard unveiling were a little too ambitious in trying to convert the nonsense into a visual feast.

Laser cutting

The with green spokes sticking out of its sides, the Shard had a hint of that creepy tower from Lord of the Rings or – for the older ones among you – a fleck of the energy tower from Tron. But like looking at a friend’s child’s ham-fisted attempt to copy a well-known piece of art, as much as you might try hard to make the right noises, deep down you know it’s rubbish. Disagree? Let us know in the comments.

Roll on the Olympics opening ceremony…
Comparison Coincidence?

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