ILDA Lasers

ILDA laser projectors.
What they are, how they work.

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Quick Overview

An ILDA laser is a type of laser projector that uses a DB-25 connection to carry its signal for control.

ILDA lasers are previous generation laser systems, using an older control methodology based on analog signals that communicate to an XY scanning laser projector, via a piece of laser control hardware. This was the original laser show setup, and dates back several decades. It’s currently being phased out, as easier and more efficient setup configurations take its place (such as FB4).

Examples of ILDA lasers can be seen here:

What does ILDA mean?

The term ILDA stands for International Laser Display Association. Eventually "ILDA" became an acronym for the file format used to send content to a laser show system, as well as a nick-name for the type of cable required in the setup (the cable is actually a DB-25 male to female cable, but the term ILDA was often used inside the industry, and stuck).

As the file format was using the term ILDA, and the cable setup also got the nickname ILDA, eventually people started calling these types of lasers “ILDA lasers or ILDA projectors” and it because industry standard talk.

How do I use an ILDA laser?

With an ILDA laser, you generally have a PC running laser show software (such as QuickShow), a piece of laser control hardware connected to the PC via USB or ethernet (such as an FB3QS), and then an ILDA cable going from the laser control hardware to the back of the projector.

To help you learn how to use an ILDA laser, we've added our short, but comprehensive overview video of ILDA lasers. This covers how ILDA lasers work, and the different ways you can control them.

What is the ILDA file format?

Pangolin’s founder William R. Benner Jr. was one of the original developers of the ILDA file format, and we at Pangolin know it well. The ILDA file format was used for many years, but it’s being replaced now, as the format itself has some severe limitations from both a quality and security standpoint.

Unfortunately, the ILDA format can be easily hacked, which means as an artist, your content can be distributed without your approval or authorization. Additionally, the ILDA file format has quality issues, and output of ILDA frames, generally have distortion and inconsistencies, which are not acceptable in professional laser setups and displays.

Limitations of ILDA lasers

ILDA lasers have several limitations. These include:

  • ILDA cables can be troublesome to run, due to size, weight, and the overall “thickness” of the cable itself.
  • Performing multi-projector laser shows can be challenging to setup, not only due to the issues with ILDA cable itself, but because the ILDA interface can only indecently control a single laser system at time. Which means you will need several different pieces of Ilda laser hardware to run a truly multi-projector show.
  • The recommended maximum run of an ILDA cable is 150ft. After 150ft, you may start to lose signal, thus resulting in a lower quality output resolution.
  • Another one of the main limitations of using an ILDA laser is that the cable can be hard to find and replace at a moment’s notice. And ILDA cable is also pretty expensive comparatively speaking.

NOTE, ILDA cables are nothing more than DB-25 cables, with a male and female connector. Years ago, these cables were sold at a wide variety of stores, which is one of many reasons why ILDA chose it as the golden standard. But with the evolution of technology in the entertainment industry, it's become very difficult to find in public stores. And today ethernet cable is generally preferred in professional laser, and lighting setups.