Projection-Mapping: A Complete Guide

project mapping

The last few years saw an immense advancement in the technology of projection mapping.

Surfaces with complex shapes and dimensions can now be masked with dynamic visuals transforming reality into illusions of infinite dimensions.

You might have seen projection mapping at events like product launches, concerts, etc. Unlike flat projection, video projection mapping has the power to transform any object into a screen.

A brief history of projection mapping

1969: Haunted Mansion ride in Disneyland featured a series of optical illusions, including five singing bursts, disembodied heads, etc.

1980: Michael Naimark achieved rotating projection mapping by filming the performance of two artists by a rotating camera and then replacing the camera with a projector.

1991: Disney further improved its projection technology and acquired the earliest patent, “Apparatus and method for projection upon a three-dimensional object “.

1994: GE acquired another patent for a system for correctly superimposing images of computer models in three-dimensional space to a corresponding physical object in actual space.

1998: Further advancement in the technology was catalyzed by the work of  Ramesh Raskar, Greg Welch, Henry Fuchs, and Deepak Bandyopadhyay at  UNC-Chapel Hill.

1999: John Underkoffler introduced I/O Bulb (Input/Output Bulb), which is a camera coupled with a projector.

2001: Further developments happened in shader lampwork.

2004: Advancements of portable projector occurred. These handheld projectors used a combination of sensors to be aware of their location.

2005-2006: More possibilities of converting drapes into projection screens were explored by Oliver Bimber.

What is projection mapping?

This is a unique video projection technology in which video is projected onto a surface, turning everyday objects such as runways, stages, water, or even buildings into interactive displays.

The three-dimensional surfaces on which the video is projected acts as the canvas and the video blends with the shape and texture of the surface. This helps to create an excellent 2D/3D projection experience.

Traditional projections require a plane surface so that the image will fall correctly on the surface. On the other hand, projection mapping makes use of multiple projectors that are controlled through specialised software.

The most notable difference between different types of projection mapping is where and how ideas are on display. 

What is 2d projection mapping?

2D projections project on plane surfaces such as buildings, roads, walls or screens. Although it is not as immersive as 3D projection mapping, it still requires an extremely high level of technical excellence and precision.

The operator will have to line up the beam edges from multiple projectors to ensure that it appears like a seamless image.

What is 3D projection mapping?

Unlike 2D projection mapping, 3D projections project onto a three-dimensional object so that the image warps and acquires the shape of said object. This technology enables images to be projected onto irregular objects.

For example, 3D projections could display images on the surface of a car to alter the colour and even the design right before the spectators’ eyes.

This technology is more expensive and requires in-depth preparation when compared to the latter. Nevertheless, 3D projection mapping is extensively used on vehicles, landscapes, landmarks, shoes and clothing, food products, entire buildings, and even people.

The whole process begins by fitting images on a 3D graphic model of the object to be projected upon.

Read more in our article on 3D projection mapping.

What is interactive projection mapping?

What differentiates normal projection mapping from interactive projection mapping is that there is an element of human touch in interactive projection mapping.

This means that users can physically interact with the projections and influence the display shown to the audience.

For example, virtual ripples appear around the areas where a person places his feet when the user walks on the floor.

Benefits of projection mapping

The following are some of the important benefits of projection mapping:

1. No requirement of a flat surface

One of the most exciting benefits of projection mapping is that it is highly flexible as it does not need any flat surface. The video can be practically projected onto any surface, making it easy for creators to focus on what they want to project rather than worrying about the type of surface they need to project.

This will help the creators to deliver a quality experience to the audience.

2. Three-dimensional images

With projection mapping, it is possible to project 3D images rather than a regular 2D image. This will help creators enhance a surface rather than distorting it, thus helping to make the entire experience highly immersive and imaginative.

3. Portability

Projection mapping does not require physical sets and props that take a lot of time to build, transport, set up, and dismantle. The only requirement is a good projector, and you are all set for a magnificent show.

4. Flexibility

One of the significant advantages of projection mapping is that the projected content can be altered as per the needs of the projection backdrop.

For example, if the space needs to be transformed from a lecture to an elaborate ballroom, all you have to do is simply tap the button to change the space. This will take care of any physical transformation.

5. Imagination 

With projection mapping technology, there is no limit to visual effects that creators can experiment with. Whether it is simply a logo for a company or an immersive virtual world for an audience, it is possible to create any imagery projected on the desired surface with advanced software technology.

6. Continuous use

This technology is ideal for large events such as plays at the theatre, professional sports games and more. Unlike traditional projection methods, these displays do not have to go away after the event.

You can reuse it innumerable times for different scenarios by adjusting the projected content.

This will help to avoid buying a variety of advertisements and pros that will be used once.

Uses of projection mapping

Here are some uses of projection mapping that we see in the world around us:

1. Advertising

Projection mapping presents a unique and innovative way of publicising a product, brand, or launching an event. The ads are uniquely designed to captivate the audience as compared to traditional advertising methods.

This distinctive approach to advertising can substantially impact social media and gain a phenomenal audience response.

Just imagine how often you see exciting advertising campaigns on well-known landmarks or buildings?

The most common answer is not always.

By launching a striking advertising campaign with projection mapping technology, your brand may get noticed by the masses within a short period. Besides, chances are high that they will remember your ad for a long time.

Large companies such as BMW, Nokia, John Players Gold Leaf, Samsung, etc., have already started using this technology in their various marketing campaigns worldwide.

2. Live concerts

Projection mapping can be effectively used to enhance the stage experience during a live performance or a concert event. The technology can seamlessly blend with the stage performance and intensify audience enjoyment by giving surprising visual effects.

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With specially designed imaging software, it is possible to create stunning visuals that will go hand in hand with the stage performances.

Unlike regular stage shows, the possibilities of live concerts using projection mapping are limitless. 

For example, if the musician is singing soft melodic songs, you could try various backgrounds such as the ocean, mountain view, etc.

3. Theatre

The technology of projection mapping can help to enhance the audience experience in live theatre.

It is up to the creators to be imaginative about creating an atmosphere that will enhance the performance. The visual animations will set the tone of live appearance while captivating the audience.

There are thousands of free videos online that you could experiment with.

Carefully synchronising music with video projections can make a massive difference to the overall result. For example, depending on the bass or treble, you could transform the appearance of different shapes to add impetus to the score creating a magical visual effect.

4. Video games

The technology of projection mapping can be used to enhance the video game experience.

How about bringing the actual on-screen video game characters on stage or your living room wall so that you can directly interact with them?

Several video game development companies have started using projection mapping technology with video games.

One such team, INITI located in the Czech Republic has put together a video game experience using motion-tracking technology and projection mapping.

This is a fantastic idea for family game nights and entertainment areas to bring together people and nurture friendship.

5. Decorations

The transformative power of projection mapping helps creators decorate buildings and monuments with beautiful colours and vivid images.

This technology is highly flexible so that it can make even the most complex structures into a canvas for whatever you want.

The image of the building has to be first scanned when it is most quiet to avoid any obstructions. Once the designated space is mapped correctly, the professional projection mapping specialist will align the graphics and images so that they blend naturally with the structure.

Projection mapping examples

In the last few years, the world has witnessed a sudden rise in the popularity of projection mapping technology. Big brands around the globe have started using it in their campaigns. Here are a few examples:

1. Google

The world-renowned company jumped into the projection mapping game long back. In 2015, Google set up interactive posters at different parts of San Francisco, which served as public voting booths. 

Each poster displayed ten nonprofit organisations that are committed to building a better community in the area. The company also offered a $250,000 donation to the top six selected by the public.

This campaign was a massive hit, and the public gave a warm welcome as it created a bond between the American people and Google.

2. Nestle

A few years ago, the famous beverage company created an interactive point of sale campaign for their Quality Street brand-a selection of boxed chocolates and sweets.

This campaign was launched in 10 ASDA stores. The shelving was brought to life with the power of projection mapping technology, creating immense excitement in the audience.

The campaign was a massive hit, and the company reported a shoot-up of 41% in sales in those outlets where the campaign was rolled out.

3. BMW

The famous luxury car brand has effectively used projection mapping during their BMW 7 series sedan launch. The company used a unique blend of art and technology to enhance the customer experience during the launch.

The launch used highly advanced projection methods to map perfectly sized images onto a series model. From the first line drawing with distinctive lines on the side profile to the clay model and finally, to 3D drawing, visitors can follow the evolution of the BMW 7 Series.

An additional screen was set up to provide background information on various stages of work.

Final Words

If the development of projection mapping technology continues in the present direction, soon, traditional video projection systems will be replaced by this new form of technology.

In the future, it will become easier for more people to gain access to projection mapping. Laser projectors will also find more use as they are compact, quieter, and produce less heat.

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