How Do Holograms Work?


Quick Answer

Holograms capture three-dimensional images by recording the interference patterns of a laser beam as it bounces off an object, according to HowStuffWorks. A holographic camera sends out two beams of light: one that strikes the film without interference, and one that reflects off the object to be captured. The interference pattern created by the difference between those two beams creates the three-dimensional image.

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Full Answer

Instead of capturing an image visually, like a photograph, a hologram is similar to an audio recording. The laser beams capture information about light's reflection off of an object in the same way that an audio tape captures information about the vibration of air molecules. Depending on the type of hologram, it either requires another laser beam or reflected visible light to turn that encoded data into a holographic image. The holograms present on credit and debit cards are reflection holograms, which are easier to make but contain less detail than projection holograms.

Since the laser beams contain carefully regimented light waves and the holographic film captures high-resolution visual data, the resulting image appears to be three-dimensional. Despite the additional depth in the image, viewers only observe the side of the captured object that the laser beam strikes.

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