Light in the visible spectrum is modulated using an array of modulation elements, and control circuitry connected to the array for controlling each of the modulation elements independently, each of the modulation elements having a surface which is caused to exhibit a predetermined impedance characteristic to particular frequencies of light. The amplitude of light delivered by each of the modulation elements is controlled independently by pulse code modulation. Each modulation element has a deformable portion held under tensile stress, and the control circuitry controls the deformation of the deformable portion. Each deformable element has a deformation mechanism and an optical portion, the deformation mechanism and the optical portion independently imparting to the element respectively a controlled deformation characteristic and a controlled modulation characteristic. The deformable modulation element may be a non-metal. The elements are made by forming a sandwich of two layers and a sacrificial layer between them, the sacrificial layer having a thickness related to the final cavity dimension, and using chemical (e.g., water) or a plasma based etch process to remove the sacrificial layer.