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projector mapping

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

Projector mapping is the use of standard video projectors to display 2D and 3D images on real-world objects. It is also known as projection mapping or video mapping.

Projector mapping projects images over real-world objects for artistic effects, interactive multi-media, holographic or interactive displays and augmented reality that doesn’t require headsets. All of these projections can be used almost anywhere, not just on flat, light-colored surfaces or screens as has traditionally been the case with projected images.

The technology for projector mapping is used at grand opening events, music concerts, presentations, product launches, advertising and sports events, among many other possibilities.

The production of projector-mapped imagery takes some time and artistic labor. First, the desired projection surface and its features must be photographed in high resolution to provide templates for artists to work from. From the templates, the artists can plan composition, effects and interactions with the features of the surface. These interactions can be complex, such as a character walking both in front of and behind a building’s pillars.

Once artists produce or use the 2D and/or 3D images and video to create their desired content, they typically use software to fit the imagery to the subject’s surface. However, this step can be carried out by hand as well. The resulting overlaid imagery can create dramatic visuals and convincing effects. Visually, these effects almost replace the viewable features of the surface and can be used to create instant patterns and paint jobs, 3D characters, apparent deformation, damage or destruction of the subject.

The quality of projection mapping depends largely on the quality of the projector, with higher brightness levels making for a more convincing effect. Lighter surfaces allow more convincing effects without as much brightness. Generally, the technology works best at night or in low light environments.

See also: video projector

A beginner's guide to projector mapping:

This was last updated in May 2017

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