By Jennifer Kiefer For Louisville Magazine
December 21, 2018
Ryan Daly is a “laserist.” Translation: “One of my favorite things to do is sit around and click buttons on lasers,” he says.
A few years ago, Daly, who founded the Louisville Film Society and the Flyover Film Festival, began transitioning from film to projection mapping (e.g., using projectors to transform walls into canvases). Soon, he found himself in need of lasers. And his friend from high school, Garrett Crabtree, one half of the local DJ duo Glittertitz, is the kind of guy you call when you need lasers. The two designed Halloween and Christmas shows at the site of the former Waverly Hills Sanatorium, and by 2015 they founded Lapis Laser Display. (Fun fact: Daly says not even 100 laserists showed up to the 2016 International Laser Display Association Conference in Baltimore. He and Crabtree were there, of course.)
If you’ve seen any laser work in town (besides the shows to music by Pink Floyd or Radiohead at the Rauch Planetarium on U of L’s campus), it’s likely that it was by Daly and Crabtree. “Lasers are a really unique beam of light,” Daly says. “You kind of have to experience it for yourself.” Their light beams have scrolled across the ceiling above a headphone-wearing crowd during a silent disco at the Speed Art Museum. A neon-purple outline of a horse ran in place for a Derby party at 21c. Green laser lights created a cone around a dancer for the Louisville Ballet’s production of Swan Lake. For that one, Crabtree needed to cue the lasers live for each performance. “The ballet just about killed us,” he says.
Their current project is a holiday-themed laser show inside a geodesic dome, a similar (but much smaller) version of the famous structure at Disney World’s Epcot. In early November, Daly and Crabtree constructed the dome offsite in Butchertown, so they could complete a test run of the show. Specialized software mapped the six lasers. Think visions of sugarplums dancing in red, neon-hued Dancer and Dasher pulling old St. Nick, green boxes with bright red bows. All to a holiday soundtrack mixed by Crabtree. Their inspiration was a show they did in a cave for the Speed Art Museum. “We always had in the back of our brains: How could we do that again but control all the elements?” Daly says.
The 20-foot-tall geodesic dome will nestle inside the loop of the Big Four Walking Bridge from the day after Thanksgiving until a late-night New Year’s Eve party. Beyond the sloped sides will be a holiday village with steaming mugs of hot cocoa and cookies. What Daly and Crabtree are calling the Holiday Laser Dome will be a 15-minute show that, Crabtree says, will hopefully become “a Louisville sort of tradition.”