Making the magic happen with projection mapping
Top four projector technology tips to consider when putting on a show
Seeing the façade of buildings change into something entirely new in front of your eyes is something magical. Whether it’s a major monument, modern office block or historical building, projection mapping has the power to transport us into the world of imagination.
Alongside this, its use in theme parks for storytelling and creating immersive experiences and its use for outdoor advertising and brand recognition have made projection mapping an important tool for anyone in the events, entertainment and media industries.
But what’s the technical secret to these incredible experiences? What makes mapping magical? Here are our top four projector technology tips to consider when putting on a show.
1. Bright but light
Projector developments in brightness and resolution are helping to deliver the mesmerising projection mapping that we see today.
As a result, powerful and bright laser projectors are a must for cutting-edge shows. But often, with more powerful projectors comes increased size and weight, which can make transport and set-up difficult. Look for projectors that offer maximum brightness for your needs in the most compact and lightweight designs.
Castle of Light projection mapping experience
This was the case when Panasonic projectors helped bring history to life at Edinburgh Castle. Tales from Scotland’s past illuminated the iconic landmark, in order to entertain visitors. The mesmerising 90-minute journey of light, sound and wonder, entitled Castle of Light, treated visitors to an evening of dazzling animations. It was an entirely new experience for the 900-year-old castle.
“The projectors were remarkably bright for their size but because the laser units are so small, the power consumption is low and even more importantly, they were pretty much 100% reliable,” says Alastair Young, director at War Productions.
The powerful but relatively lightweight design of Panasonic projectors was also important for the creative team that helped to celebrate man’s understanding of Space with spectacular projection mapping onto Stockholm’s iconic City Hall (Stadshuset) as part of the Nobel Week Lights festival.
The team deployed a total of 30 3-Chip DLP projectors. A 20-foot-long container, with two long windows for 18 of the projectors, was stacked on two levels and pointed at the wall of the building. Then two aluminium boxes, 8 feet long and containing 6 projectors each, were used to cover the tower.
“It was so important that the projectors were compact and easy to set up in the restricted space we had to use,” says Johan Törnström of Creative Technology, the technical specialist that brought the projection mapping to life.
2. Simplify your set-up
Projection mapping experiences are incredibly complex and designed well in advance by specialist creative teams. However, the key to creating a seamless visual experience is also dependent on the set-up of the projectors on-site. This process can be incredibly time-consuming when speed is of the essence.
As a result, look for manufacturers that have built-in user-friendly functionality in their projectors. Look to those that provide geometric software to simplify tasks such as lens adjustment and projector alignment, geometric correction, edge blending, uniformity adjustment, brightness control, colour matching adjustment and masking.
This was another essential reason for the choice of projectors when Young set up the Castle of Light attraction:
“All the video projections had been designed to fit exactly but all the correction, blending and any masking – in fact, all the inevitable slight touches that have to be done on-site – were all achieved with the projectors.”
3. Reliability is key
When visitors are expecting a show, the show must always go on. So, reliability is non-negotiable. Look for projectors that have built-in reliability, such as features designed to avoid blackouts. These would include multi-drive laser light sources to ensure the projector can still operate if one fails. There are also fail-safe input systems that ensure a switch to a backup without loss of image.
For example, when the Yotel Hotel in Edinburgh wanted a creative and captivating 360-degree projection mapping experience for its conference and event space, it turned to Panasonic and its partners.
Now, spectacular moving landscapes surround guests as they take breakfast in the room, from unicorns wandering through magical forests to a sequence featuring the man in the moon. All in immersive 16,000-pixel wide vision. Businesses also take advantage of the capability for sponsorship and branding opportunities at their events.
One important consideration for the hotel, and the installation partners, was that the solution delivered high-quality visuals but remained easy to use and reliable. Creative director Andy Stentiford explains:
“Using laser projectors means that we avoid the issues you get with conventional lamp projectors, with the need to change lamps and clean filters. These costs are no longer necessary for the client. They essentially have one purchase at the start of the project. Then they have the projectors operating for a guaranteed lifetime, and they’re maintenance-free.”
4. Look at the lens
Another important consideration for projection mapping experiences is the projector lens that creates the immersive impact.
Look for a manufacturer that can offer an incredibly wide range of specialist lenses – such as ultra-short-throw in periscope, mirror or front throw style design – to enable the best possible viewing experience in any size or shape of room, with low ceilings or high. Using these types of lenses, visitors can get up close to the content without ever casting a shadow. This ensures that the technology never distracts from the immersive experience.
Specialist lenses help recreate Moments of History
The ultra-short throw lens on 38 projectors was essential in enabling projection architect Martin Hejl to create the stunning projection mapping in the 112m underground corridor that joined the historical building of the Czech National Museum with its new modern building counterpart. The projected exhibition called, Moments of History, charted the transformation through time of Wenceslas Square in Prague.
So, the next time you find yourself amazed by the latest projection mapping experience, take just a moment to reflect on the technological projector innovations that are making these exciting events possible, before getting lost in the moment again.
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