5 steps to spectacular 3D projection mapping for events
For many years we have approached projected images as simple 2 dimentional flat pieces, used predominantly to relay presentations in a hotel conference rooms. But with the emergence of powerful media servers, we now have the ability to use projection to transform plain objects into mind blowing visual art instalations through a process known as 3D Projection Mapping.
What is 3D projection mapping?
Projection mapping is an increasingly popular and effective way to transform spaces and create awe-inspiring moving image displays. In its simplest form projection mapping involves blending images from multiple projectors to display 2D images onto a flat object that may not traditionally be used as a screen – anything from the walls to the floor of your venue. This helps you create immersive experiences and display content in exciting ways.
3D projection mapping takes this to the next level – converting any surface, regardless of shape, into a video screen – so you can use buildings, cars, bridges and just about any surface you can think of as a canvas for your presentations – providing limitless opportunities for creativity.
Practical considerations for using 3D projection mapping for your event
Besides your creative and brand goals, the two biggest practical considerations for deciding whether 3D projection mapping is right for your event are time and budget. Planning, creating and rigging the projection of content onto 3D surfaces takes time, skill and some pretty advanced technology. Just how much time and money your project will cost depends on the scale and complexity of your projection surface, and the content you’re producing – but don’t expect to produce an impressive 3D projection mapping project quickly, or on the cheap.
What’s involved in the process of 3D projection mapping?
Step 1 : Laser scan the building
The fundamental difference between 2D and 3D projection mapping is that 3D projection mapping accommodates the shape and contours of your projection surface. If up-to-date 3D CAD’s are not available, then laser scanning the projection surface will provide the template to start the 3D process.
The laser scanner used to create the 3D map of your projection surface is a common tool used in the construction industry and, because the hardware is highly specialised and expensive, most AV companies will rely on a professional scanning company to provide this service and then construct the 3D model.
Laser scanning is normally done about a month before the event and can take anything from 4 hours to 2 days to complete – depending on how big the surface is and how complex the architecture of the object. In the case of 3D mapping of a building, the scanning requires unobstructed views of the structure and is often done in the early hours of the morning, when there’s likely to be less activity.
At the end of this step, the AV company will have a 3D CAD drawing of the projection surface that is accurate to within 1.9 microns – which is less than 2 millionths of a meter!
Step 2 : Apply the audience perspective
The audience’s position is an important consideration when creating content to project onto a 3D surface – the content needs to be optimised for their perspective to ensure the best experience. Eg : if the audience is going to be looking up at the images projected, then video would be filmed from a low angle to emulate their point of view.
Your projection mapping specialist will convert the digital architectural drawing of the projection surface into a design format and then identify a position which will be used as the audience perspective reference. This is handed over to the content creators.
Step 3 : Create the content
Content might include graphic animations, video footage or a combination of the two – created for the best experience based on the audience perspective. The final content is rendered into movie files and returned to the projection mapping specialist.
Step 4 : Preview
Everything is now imported onto media servers where the flat movie files and are applied directly onto the texture map of the projection surface to see how the content reads when played out on the building’s topography.
Virtual projectors are then added to map out their ideal position, rotation, size, lens ratio, projection distance and lens size.
Step 5 : Adjust for real life
The projection mapping specialist now needs to marry the digitally-recommended projector positioning with real life limitations. Ideally all the projectors used in a projection mapping project should be in line with each other and equal spaces apart, but circumstances at the venue seldom allow for this. Adjustments will need to be made using a combination of the projectors warping facilities and the media server’s mapping controls Detailed projection locations are plotted out in the media server with a 10-15% overlap for blended projection, which gives a seamless edge between images displayed from different projectors.
The future of projection mapping
We’re still discovering the for 3D projection mapping applications and, as the technology develops, so the possibilities multiply – from printing 3D models of buildings and using desktop projectors to provide clients with miniature real-life previews of their 3D projection mapping projects, to creating interactive 3D projection mapping displays that change based on the audience’s actions, to projecting onto human faces – the possibilities, it seems, are endless.