3D Video Projection Mapping is an astonishing projection technology that allows to create dynamic displays out of any surfaces. High Tech software is used to distort any projected image in order to fit perfectly the uneven shaped screens.This relatively new technique made people around the world incredibly creative and they started to illuminate buildings, architectural elements, 3d elements, statues or sometimes amazing projects used in advertising as those for the Pepsi Can or for running shoes.
When I saw this video projection technique for the first time I started thinking about how I can create something similar. After making some short research, this is what the list of required tools for building this lighting project looked like.
- 1 projector
- 3D surface
- Software to create the animation
- Software to project the animation
Finding the right video projector
Everything depends on how professional is the environment you want to show your project. But let’s start with a basic interior project.
I will recommend for your first project, to invest in a cheap basic projector: why? Because as soon as you are done with your first project you will want to try something bigger. I suggest using the following website to choose your projector, as it is very important to find out the exact size of the projected image and the size of the room. I highly recommend a short throw projector.
What is a short throw projector?
The proportion between the distance to the screen and the size of the screen defines the short throw ratio. A projector with 1.5:1 throw ratio needs to be 7.5 feet back from the source to create a 60-inch diagonal picture. The main characteristic of short throw projectors is that they have a short throw ratio which allows them to cast large images in tight spaces. The Hitachi CP-A100 which has a 0.37:1 throw ratio, can cast the same 60 inch image being only at 1.4 feet away from the screen.
Short throw projectors are very often used in classrooms, small home theaters, small conference rooms or trade show booths.
Who makes short throw projectors?
Many projector manufacturers provide short throw lenses as an extra feature on their products. However, some of them make the short throw lens a default option on specially standardized projectors. These are:
- BenQ MS612ST DLP 3D Ready Short Throw SVGA Home Theater Projector
- BenQ MX613ST 2500 lumen Short Throw DLP Projector
- Epson BrightLink455Wi
- PROJECTORS, BRIGHTLINK 455WI RM
- Epson PowerLite 410W Business Projector (WXGA Resolution 1280×800) (V11H330020)
- Hitachi CP-X2515WN XGA 3LCD Projector
- Hitachi CP-A52 XGA 2,000 Lumens Ultra Short Throw Projector with Side Mounted Hybrid Filter (Silver)
- CP-AW250N LCD Proj Wxga 2500 Lumens Ntwk Ultra Short Throw
- InFocus IN1501 Mobile Short-Throw DLP Projector, 4 lbs, XGA, 3000 Lumens
- < InFocus IN1501 Mobile Short-Throw DLP Projector, 4 lbs, XGA, 3000 Lumens
- InFocus XS1 Multimedia Projector – 1024 x 768 XGA – 2200lm – 4:3 – 8lb
- NEC U300X – DLP projector – 3D Ready – 3000 ANSI lumens – XGA (1024 x 768) – 4:3
- NEC U310W – DLP projector – 3D Ready – 3100 ANSI lumens – WXGA (1280 x 800) – widescreen – High Definition 720p
- EX525ST DLP Proj XGA 6:1 2500 Lumens 9.5LBS
- Vivitek Qumi Q2 300 Lumen WXGA HDMI 3D-Ready Pocket DLP Projector (Black)
- Vivitek H1080FD 1080p Home Theater Projector (White)
What is the difference between a short throw and long throw lens? What are zoom lenses?
When there is no option of placing a projector at a small distance, the long throw lens projector is used. It helps casting smaller, better defined pictures from big distances. These images which would be too large if a regular lens was used. The long throw lenses are usually used in large venues where there is no opportunity to mount projectors closer to the screen because of architectural constraints, for example, in churches, or stage performances, concerts, etc.
Most projector lenses, either standard, short or long throw come embedded with the zoom option. The feature operates as on usual cameras and allows creating a larger or a smaller image without moving the projector.
How can I connect multiple projectors?
I recommend using Matrox Graphics eXpansion Module TripleHead2Go DP to run three independent projectors from your notebook or desktop computer even if that system only supports a single monitor output. It allows you to open a different application on each projector or stretch one application across three projectors for the ultimate video projection mapping experience. You can use this magic making black box on PC or Mac.
If you want to take the Matrox Triple Head 2Go DP to another level you can actually connect two of them which allows you to use up to 6 projectors from only one computer.
For sure you have seen on the internet video projection mappings on buildings, well they’ve used more than 6 projectors sometimes they use even 18 or more projectors. There is a very interesting setup I found on the internet recently for 42 projectors/displays using 15 Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital Edition units connected to three MIDI-synched Apple® Mac Pro workstations.
3D video mapping projection surface
After finding the right projector you will have to build the surface on which you will project your animation. Very interesting lighting projects can be created just using a simple piece of paper. However, by using 3D objects, one can get very creative.
Projecting on a flat surface
If your projection target is a flat surface, like a wall and your projector is at an arbitrary position, not perpendicular to the projected surface, the projected image looks distorted. UsingHomography (Transform 2D) you can easily pre-distort the image you project so that it appears undistorted on the surface.
Note: Using this technique you can always get a correctly looking projected image on a flat surface independent of the projectors position, orientation to the surface and its lens characteristics.
Projecting on a 3D surface
When projecting onto an arbitrary 3D surface, no matter how the projector is positioned and oriented towards the surface the resulting image will mostly look distorted.
Note though that there is one point from which the projected image looks perfectly aligned, that is: the position of the projector.
The photos below show a simple sculpture of 2 boxes with a windows-desktop projected flat on it. While in the left photo the projected image is distorted, in the right photo, taken from the projectors point of view, the projected image looks correctly.
Having seen the above you should now understand that the key to a correctly undistorted projection is to view it form the point of view of the projector.
So in order to achieve an undistorted look consider that the real project has to be viewed from the same position where the projector is located.
Virtual replica of the real scene
When you build a virtual replica of the real scene setup, there are three major steps to follow:
- Choose a 3D model surface on which you plan to make the projection. Place it accordingly to your virtual coordinate systems origin.
- Take measurements for the position, orientation and lens-characteristics of the projector.
- Find out the field of view of the lens and the lens shift from projectors manual. Look for pictures similar to the ones below.
You just built a basic setup which matches the virtual scene to the real world.
View from a position where you cannot place the projector
There is always the issue of creating a 3D mapping project from the perspective where it is impossible to put a projector in the real world. As well, you might want several real world projectors to share the same virtual perspective.
To overcome this issues you need to go through two major steps:
- First, render the scene from the perspective you want
- Second, render the scene from the desired real world position of the projectors WHILE the result of the first step is being projected onto the 3d models surface from the point of view of the virtual camera.
Examples: Projecting on two sides of a house with one perspective
In the example below, the goal was to project 3D-illusion effects on both sides of the facade.
These effects work only from one perspective, therefore the spectators view was chosen in the middle of the two projectors, to get full view of the designated area.
The above picture demonstrates that the 3D-video mapping only works from the specified “spectator” position.
A very easy way to start mapping your surface is to use Photoshop. I found this video on YouTube and it was really helpful for my first project.
Software used: Resolume and Photoshop
- The resolution of the second screen should be the resolution of the output in Resolume (e.g. 640*480).
- In Photoshop you create a file with the same resolution (transparent or black background)
- Drag the window to the second screen.
- Press “F” two times to go into full screen mode and hide the rulers if visible (cmd+R).
- Choose the pen tool “P” and select “shape layers” in the bar at the top (first button).
- I usually choose red as the foreground/shape color.
- Now draw one square with the pen tool. If you draw a second shape, a new layer will be created automatically.
- With the shapes it is possible to fine tune the squares, if you didn’t put the corners exactly just use the direct selection tool “A”.
- When finished (delete the background layer and ) save the file as transparent png.
After the layout was done I used After Effect to create the animation. If you are new in the motion graphics and visual effects use After Effect tutorials by Andrew Kramer, I found these tutorials very easy to understand. Also he has great plugins and a wide collection of visual effects & motion graphics. After your animation is done import it into Resolume and make the final adjustments if your animation doesn’t align correctly with the 3D surface.
Move your projection anywhere
With the recent progress in technology, projection techniques become unlimited. How do you project patterns or animations that move on people, on floors and ceiling, or create special effects during stage performances such as sparkles behind a flying fairy? VMS - Video Moving System- is an incredible lighting solution. It is a motorized mirror linked to your projector that helps casting light and projections anywhere you want in the room. The VMS represents a motorized mirror linked to your projector that uses simple light steering systems to be operated. It can cast classic light projections as well as visual art projects anywhere you want in the room.
The function setting are very user friendly,and are programmed with four buttons and a display. The device operates in two modes:
- simple mode – controls the movements and the reset command using 5 DMX channels
- advanced mode – operates using 12 DMX channels and different beamer functions.
The projection can be enhanced by exact pixel reproduction – using a special coated mirror – and by exact mirror movement – through 16-bit-control. Though the device seems very simple to use, for more advanced projects a lighting designer is needed. The video below gives more details on how the VMS works:
Video Projection Mapping Software for PC users
3D video mapping projections can be easily done with the help of Resolume 4. The software comes in two editions, first, Avenue, largely used by Video Jokey’s, and Arena, which combines Avenue with some extra features typical for media servers, screen warping, soft edging, DMX and SMPTE timecode input.
Screen Warping & Soft Edge
With the help of the new features of Resolume 4, you can now create slices from your mapping project and use those on different surfaces. Using bezier transformations, the software allows you to distort the image as you want. Therefore there is no need of strict rectangular surfaces, because you can warp your video on curved screens. Slices that overlap can be soft edged with the software’s advanced features. Using two beamers or more, you can even wrap your projection around 360 degrees compositions.
Watch the video for a better understanding of how Resolume 4 can be used:
Video Projection Mapping Software for Mac users
My favorite video projection mapping software for Mac is MadMapper + Modul8. This solution is probably the most widely used in the video projection mapping industry. Both software are developed by the same company and are built to work together. You must check out the following video to understand the power of this software.
!!! One More Bonus Tip !!!
MadMapper 1.3 brings the addition of the highly anticipated MadLight feature. Now the power of simple, fast and intuitive video mapping is extended to the realm of lighting design! Easily integrate the control of light into your mapping projects so your video and lighting work together for a more immersive experience. MadLight communicates to lighting with the help of ArtNET, a widely accepted protocol for controlling stage devices. ArtNET data is converted to DMX, so you can integrate MadLight into your existing stage productions. Once your computer is connected to the DMX light chain, you can create a DMX fixture from the creation tab, and select an area of your video that you want to use as a light source. The pixels within the defined area are then converted into data that control the color and intensity of the light.
In the lighting industry, the sky is the limit. 3D Video Projection Mapping is an unbelievable technique used in creating art projects with amazing special effects for stage performances, night clubs, festivals, exhibitions, etc.. Either used by a VJ for video projections, night club performances, or a lighting designer to bring to life bridges and buildings, or even a visual art designer to make projections on water vapors or smoke, this technique will continue to evolve as far as human imagination can get it. Software: Adobe After Effects CS6 Resolume Autodesk 3ds Max 2013 — Includes a 1 year Autodesk Subscription Cinema 4D Broadcast R14 How to DVJ: A digital DVJ masterclass vvvv modul8
|Read about the best Video Mapping Tool|