Using OneNote to make holograms

OneNote has been written about ad-infinitum as a tool for note taking in meetings and classes, as a general information repository and as a collaboration tool but I’d like to introduce you to another use that I’m putting OneNote to.

Making holograms.

Or more specifically, documenting both the process I go through when creating a hologram and the results from that process in the form of notes and pictures.

As most of you will probably know, OneNote is a great repository for all sorts of information. It has allowed me to combine a number of sources into one place so that when needed, I can easily refer back to previous results when I’m making a new hologram.

Holography is a complex process

For those that aren’t familiar with holography I’ll give a short description. Those that are familiar can skip to the next section.

In the strictest sense the holography I engage in is the recording of interference patterns in a gelatin emulsion.

A more appealing description is that holography is the act of making interesting 3D images using a laser and light sensitive film.

To do this I use a laser, special table and a number of lenses and mirrors to guide the laser light where I need it. If you think of a set up for a photo shoot you’ll have the general idea. Now add in some stringent stability requirements that mean there can be absolutely no movement (just standing next to the table will result in your heartbeat ruining an exposure) and you’ll have some idea of the challenges involved.

Below is a view of the table I use.


On the table is the holder where the film goes (the U shaped frame) and an assortment of mirror mounts and light blocking cards. Plus all the other little things that go into making a hologram.

After setting up the scene and lighting I expose some film to the laser light and end up with an image like the one below.


This process can take anything from hours to days depending on the complexity of the scene I’m shooting and final hologram I’m working toward.

Keeping track of variables

Some of the things that go into making a hologram are:

  1. Room temperature and humidity.
  2. Light readings.
  3. What film and chemicals were used.
  4. The subject of the hologram.
  5. How the film was prepared and when.
  6. And so on.

A sample of the datasheet that I used for tracking these variables is given below


As you can see, there’s a lot of information that can be tracked as part of the process.

Ideally this would be kept in an inkable form tool but for my purposes OneNote does a fine job.

I can easily write anywhere on the form, erase at will and add information as I see fit.


While I could also do this with a paper form, and was for several years, what OneNote also allows me to do that paper can’t is easily add additional information such as photos of the final film and holograms.


Done the old way I’d have to print the photos out and keep all of it in a traditional folder with clips and staples to make sure they all stay together.

This is a big help down the road when I want to know how the hologram looked (brightness, noise levels, etc) or how foggy the film was at the time the hologram was made.

Frequently I need to compare this information with how the hologram appears as it ages and by storing this information in OneNote I can very easily add to it as time goes by. I also have a very convenient "file" to refer to when starting new experiments. Since I take my tablet just about everywhere I always have that file with me if I need to refer to it.

Audio recording

I also make use of OneNote’s ability to index audio recordings by recording many of my sessions in the lab. I tend to talk to the recorder as though I’m going to make what I call a "labcast" and store that with the rest of the data on the hologram I’m working on. This gives me a good searchable commentary on what I was doing as I was preparing to make or processing the hologram.


The one thing I’d like that OneNote doesn’t have is the ability to set a particular page as read-only.

Because I tend to copy an existing page when starting a new hologram, the parameters are frequently the same as the last hologram I made, it’s easy to get off and start editing the wrong page.  Being able to set a page read-only would ensure that the data I’ve recorded is never accidentally modified or erased.


A tablet PC and OneNote are excellent tools for keeping track of lab data. Microsoft has made a sleeper of a killer application and while I will readily admit, perhaps too readily, that I’m not a Microsoft fan I recommend OneNote to anyone that has any need for data storage.

Give it a try.

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Published by

Michael Harrison

Husband, Programmer, Irish dancer, tinkerer, astronomer, layabout (as much as possible)

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