LaserTrace v1.0 Release Notes
LaserTrace is a software developed for the purpose of quickly creating laser trace effects. Users do not need to engage in video production or complex timeline programming. With simple settings, LaserTrace allows users to achieve trace effects on text and static images in various ways based on the set duration. It truly enables a quick learning curve, a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) experience, and significantly reduces the time spent on programming.
1. In terms of hardware, LaserTrace directly interfaces with Beyond software and outputs laser data to Zone 1 in Beyond. Therefore, the hardware used for laser connection is also the official Beyond hardware, such as the FB3 or FB4 box.
2. In terms of software, LaserTrace supports two modes of work: text mode and graph mode. In text mode, it supports single-line text in English, normal fonts in Chinese and English, and allows direct use of fonts without installing them on the computer.
In graph mode, LaserTrace supports converting static images and videos into laser output. You can play local files or use NDI video streams. Both static images and individual frames of videos can be trace using lasers. Alternatively, you can first process the video using AE software and then use the video-to-laser function in LaserTrace for trace.
The software provides six trace effects: point, erase, write, scan, cut and spread. The first three effects follow fixed trajectories for trace, while the latter three effects allow you to change parameters such as the direction and size of the trace.
For laser output, LaserTrace allows for perspective mapping adjustments to align the laser with the LED screen. The software’s rendering effects can also be output through NDI for overlaying with Resolume and other visuals.
The software has a left side as the input parameter adjustment area, a middle section as the effect preview screen, and a right side for output settings and interface-related settings.
At the top of the left side area is the text settings section, where you can click on the buttons on the right to switch between text mode and graph mode. The software will automatically expand or collapse the relevant parameter sections. You can also manually click on the up and down arrow buttons on the far left of each header to expand or collapse the corresponding parameter sections. The left and right arrow buttons on the far right of the header in the text settings section are used to display or hide all the parameters on the left side.
The buttons with a deep purple background in the entire interface are toggle buttons, while the buttons with a light purple background are trig buttons, such as the filled font button. For all numerical adjustment parameters, you can use the scroll wheel on the mouse to make adjustments, and you can also manually enter data in the corresponding value area. Right-clicking on these parameters will reset them to their default values.
When you expand all the parameter sections on the left side, a scroll bar will appear, allowing you to manually scroll up and down to browse through these parameters. Alternatively, you can also use the mouse scroll wheel on the scroll bar to achieve the same effect.
1. Text settings section: The first line is for text input. You can directly enter text or use Ctrl+V to paste text.
Font style: Here, you can choose between using a single-line font or a Normal font. Single-line fonts currently only support English and there are three options available. Normal fonts display all the fonts installed on your computer. If you don’t want to install fonts on your computer, you can directly browse for the Normal font file that you want to use. If the Normal font file field is empty, the specified Normal font above will be used. Otherwise, the specified regular font file will be used.
Next are the bold, italic, and Filled font buttons. When your preview image is in outline font style, you can use the bold and italic functions along with the deform function below to change the font style. Clicking the filled font button will convert the preview image to a filled font style, and switching between bold and italic styles will not have any effect on the preview image until you change the font to switch back to the outline font style.
Following that are the font size, font alignment direction, and overall width and height adjustments.
When you activate the deform button, you can adjust the tolerance and smoothness to deform the text. The “U Knots” button allows you to try to maintain the original shape of the font while deforming it.
2. Graph settings section: Clicking on the “Local Media/NDI Stream” button allows you to switch between using a local file and an NDI video stream. When you toggle this button, the corresponding functions will become enabled while irrelevant functions will become grayed out and disabled.
Next is the graphics preview screen. The red progress bar at the bottom allows you to drag and browse while playing a local media file. The local file can be an image or a video.
Following that is the play button for local media files. The fit-to-screen button allows you to switch between the original aspect ratio of the file and scaling based on height. This function also applies to NDI video streams. You can click the folder button behind the media file field to load multimedia file. The volume slider is used to adjust the playback volume of local video files.
When you activate the NDI video stream function, you can select an NDI video stream sent by other software from the NDI source
The next section provides options for processing the input graphics. If the loaded image has complex visuals, you can use the denoise function to eliminate unnecessary details. The other parameters can be used to process the graphics for better restoration of the laser image.
The following three parameters are used to restore the laser image. The Output Threshold adjusts the brightness threshold for the image output, with pixels above this brightness value being output. The default value is 0.1. The Sampling Size parameter is used to adjust the precision of the restored graphics. A smaller value results in finer detail by sampling more points. The Border Width parameter is used to adjust the pixel width for removing borders, helping to eliminate unnecessary border graphics.
3. Trace section: The Subdivide option is used to resample text objects for finer detail. It is automatically disabled when you activate the graph mode because the graphics themselves have already been resampled during the conversion process. The Vertical Adjustment allows you to adjust the vertical position of the text object for alignment purposes, particularly useful when engraving in the up/down scanning mode. This option can also be used in graph mode.
Next is the Active button and Trace Mode options. When you activate the Active button, all Trace effects will function properly. When you switch to graph mode, the Active button automatically switches to the off state to allow you to adjust still frames or use the Video-to-Laser feature.
The first three Trace modes work in a fixed order, while the last three Trace modes allow you to switch the working direction: left, right, up, or down.
The Scan Size parameter is mainly used to adjust the width of the scan when using the scanning mode. The default value is 0.001. The Range parameter is used to control the size of the operating range for scanning Trace modes. If you have a wide scan width and a vertical direction, it may not complete the scan at the end position. In this case, you need to increase the range value. The default is 1.1.
The Start Trace button is used to trigger the engraving process from the beginning. The Play/Pause button is used to toggle the playback state. During playback, you can drag the progress bar to preview the effect at any time. When paused, clicking the Start Trace button will reset the progress bar to the starting position. The Trace duration is measured in seconds and the default is 10 seconds.
The Loop Mode option is used to switch the playback mode for Trace .
4. At the top right corner, there is a save button to save all parameter settings in the software. Next to it is the real-time frame rate at which the software is running. If this frame rate is below 30, it indicates that the computer hardware may not be sufficient to run the software smoothly.
Next is the Output Settings section: the top half is related to laser settings, and the latter part is related to real-time rendering screen settings.
In the laser settings section, you can change the laser color, brightness, and adjust the perspective mapping of the laser output to match the LED screen display. If you want to quickly reset this mapping, you can click the Reset Mapping button below. The Size Scaling option allows you to adjust the overall size of the output to the BEYOND software.
Next is the BEYOND Output Activation and settings related to outputting to the BEYOND software. The Vector Frame button allows you to directly send vector graphics to the BEYOND software, letting it handle all calculations related to blanking points. It is recommended to enable this option. The VertexRepeat option can adjust the number of repetitions for scanning points in all lines. The default is 0, which means it directly appears as lines. Increasing the value will make the points in the lines brighter.
The lower part of these options is used to adjust the settings related to the rendering screen. You can use NDI to send the real-time rendering screen to Resolume or other software that supports NDI input for screen composite output to LED screens for performances. Here, you can adjust the delay time of the screen output to synchronize with the laser. The NDI output name here is the software name (LaserTrace).
In the Interface Settings section, you can adjust the colors of the UI background and button background. You can also adjust the transparency of the UI background and the title bar background.
This software is in its initial version, and there may still be some missing features that require further development. We also welcome practical suggestions and feedback from users.
Here are some preliminary features that are planned for future development:
1. Customized shapes: Although the current functionality of text and image/video can meet basic application needs, adding the ability to create custom shapes will further enhance the software’s versatility. However, this may require users to have a certain level of proficiency in other software tools.
2. Text layout options: Currently, the software uses a regular spacing approach for text layout. However, due to variations in letter widths, irregular gaps may appear. A future improvement could include different text layout modes, such as even spacing or automatic adjustment of gaps, to ensure more balanced and consistent spacing between letters.
3. Expansion of trace modes: The current trace modes include basic and commonly used effects. Future development may involve adding different trace effects to offer users more options and artistic possibilities.
4. Timeline programming support: Developing timeline programming capabilities may involve a longer-term iterative process. This feature would allow users to precisely control the timing and sequencing of actions, providing more advanced and complex programming capabilities within the software.
We encourage everyone to share their ideas and thoughts in the comments section.