Projection mapping is the projection of a three dimensional scene onto a flat surface like a building. It requires carefully mapping the underlying surface to create projections without distortions caused by surface changes like doorways and curving ornamental architecture. The result is a highly visible image effectively painted across the structure, with three dimensional elements that can make it appear to come to life. This has applications for art, advertising, and a variety of other campaigns in public spaces.
The first step in a projection mapping project is a map of the surface to be projected upon. This map can be fed into a computer program that will work with a set of projectors to adjust the image and create a smooth, uniform projection. The projection mappers can use a variety of techniques including animal, shooting and projecting real-time video, projecting video clips, and so forth to create the desired effect. Multiple projectors create a three dimensional image that is viewable from several angles. It is also possible to film the event for broadcast or distribution in other venues.
Ambitious projection mapping projects can interact with the structure or the bystanders. Animators might create a series of scenes that make buildings appear to sing and dance, burst open, and perform other acrobatics. When projection mapping is done at night with careful controls and the right lighting, the illusion can be highly convincing for passerby. Other displays may be user-configurable by participants who can interact with cell phones, tablet computers, and other devices to change what they see.
The advertising implications of projection mapping are potentially significant. Advertisers can use the technology to turn any surface into a billboard with equipment that sets up and breaks down quickly. These events tend to attract attention, and in some cases can lead to a viral video as people upload videos of what they see. This creates free advertising for the sponsoring company and generates buzz about its brands and activities.
Works of art can also integrate projection mapping. A projection can become part of a live performance piece, with characters who may appear to interact directly with the film in a carefully rehearsed production. The projection itself can also be the artwork. Political and social commentary can be distributed using this mechanism, which can allow activists to quickly grab attention by projecting on a major building, and fade away again before they can be apprehended.