Projection mapping is a go-to technology for creating an impressive, immersive performance. Despite this popularity, AV professionals and event planners may still be hesitant to try it. After all, a successful projection mapping display seems like it would be an expensive and time-consuming endeavor. But is this really true?

In the past, we've compiled the basics that event planners should know when considering this technology. Taking this a step further, here are the details regarding what technology tools you actually need, plus how much should you budget.

Choosing and Purchasing a Projector

The first step in any projection mapping event is choosing the right projector. This will ensure that the visual image is as clean and clear as possible. The wrong projector can completely ruin a projection mapping event, leading to warped, blurry or distorted imagery.

Working with a professional is the best way to get high-quality technology, but here are some product details to watch for. When purchasing a projector, short-throw projectors can be a good option, according to display company Digital Pressworks. “A typical short throw projector has a throw ratio of about .5:1. That means for every half foot of distance the image will be about 1 foot wide. 30 feet of distance with a short throw projector will get you an image about 60 feet wide!”

When it comes to finding the right projector for your specific event, there's some simple math you can do. “In the desirable case in which you already know both the dimensions of the base and the position where you will install the projector, before choosing the purchase simply divide the distance between the projector and the wall to measure the base of the projection,” says media expert Marcello Pontalto.

Different venues will require different projectors. Be aware of what you're actually going to be projecting onto, and be sure to work with a professional to find the projector that will work best for your event.

Digital Deliciousness lists a number of considerations when buying a projector. When evaluating cables and power sources, it's important to ask yourself the following questions:

  • What connectors are on the back of your projector?
  • Are they the same type on your computer?
  • Will you need a video cable adapter to get a signal from one video connector to another?
  • What's the power draw of your projector, and can the average home DC plug power it?
  • Can your cables reach from the computer to the projector?

Also, be aware of the physical space you're about to install the projector in. If you assess that there's enough room in the space — and that there's a feasible spot for mounting the projector — you can proceed. These questions and considerations essential for ensuring a proper, high-quality projection mapping experience.


Considering Resolution and Brightness

Resolution and brightness should also be considered when getting started with projection mapping. For example, technical specialist Nicholas Bezuidenhout suggests 4K projectors for projection mapping needs. This will ensure a clear, easy-to-see image from all viewpoints.

High resolution is another consideration, and it's one that's easier to meet with a 4K projection tool.

“For video mapping, we recommend a minimum resolution of 720p, or 1,280×720, which corresponds to a High Definition (HD),” says software provider HeavyM.

Ultimately, your space determines the type of projection you use. Smaller spaces with the projector closer to it will have different needs than larger spaces where the projector is further away. Be aware of where you're going to put the tech, to get an idea of what you're going to need.

Tim Southwick at TripleWide Media suggests erring on the side of caution if you're unsure about what sort of image quality you'll need. “You can always project a 4:3 image from a 16:9 projector.” While this might be more expensive in the long run, a professional AV consultant will help to minimize such errors.

Chad Wheeler at Image Audiovisuals states that in addition to throw ratio, you'll also need to consider resolution and brightness. He suggests looking for a projector with at least 7,000 ANSI lumens.

Distortion is another concern to watch for. Projection designer Pete Lynn notes the importance of aligning panel and projection size.

“I think you should be trying to keep things as true as you can to the projector panel size, and be aware that the more distortion you do, the more elongation of pixels you create, the worse the effect on your overall image.”

Before the available intricate distortion capabilities are used, it's important to test focal lengths, zoom ratios and other high-level adjustments on the projector.

Things like warping and blending are also possible. Scott Harkless, director of sales at Alcorn McBride, notes that much of this technology is natively built into projectors.

“This is because the precision of the image processor in the project exceeds the precision that can be achieved over interconnects like HDMI, DP, and DVI. Furthermore, these hardware blending systems work well with camera alignment systems, so it's much easier to create and maintain nice blends.”



Considering Budget and Space Constraints

Budgeting is an important consideration when it comes to projection mapping. Paul Whitney, executive producer at bluemedia, points out a common misconception when it comes to paying for this technology.

“While some coordinators assume renting the projector is the biggest part of the bill, other expenses behind creating a projection map, such as creating the video itself, location and permit costs, show length and crew costs can add up quickly.”

Asking a professional to evaluate your venue before a purchase is the best way to determine what will realistically fit into your budget.

Regardless of price constraints, a higher spend may be worth it to create the experience you envision, says Adrian Scott of Go2 Productions. “What we're trying to do is move more into an interactive entertainment realm, where the show and experience is everything. That's gotten a little lost in recent years. It should be more about the experience, and wanting people to go back and re-experience it again.”

Today's technology is specifically designed to help event planners and experience designers create a unique, one-of-a-kind experience that they and their audience remember forever.

Finally, be aware that there's a time and place for everything. Not every surface, wall or building is compatible for a strong mapping experience, warns Event Leadership Institute. “If the object you are trying to project onto has large differences in depth, the projection mapping will be much more complex in order to provide a uniform viewing experience to the audience. Surfaces with minimal differences in surface depth are easier to produce and watch.”

Since projection mapping can be used both indoors and outside, it opens up a realm of possibilities for when and where such experiences can occur, says ATX Event Systems. Since technology will differ due to lighting and outdoor elements, this should be factored into a purchase decision.

If you think you have a good space for projection mapping, be sure to reach out to professionals in the space to see what they think, and they'll help you put together a plan for next steps.

Images by: Karsten GohmKrists LuhaersOlivier Miche