Projection mapping

These days, all kinds of media are competing for people’s attention but projection mapping truly stands out as a cool form of entertainment with an enormous wow factor. It is an impressive projection technique that creates the optical illusion of movement on static objects – in most cases buildings – and turns them into a dynamic display. Thanks to the live 3D animation, projection mapping transforms virtually any surface, even the most irregularly shaped, into attention-grabbing stages.

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While bringing brands to life in popular public venues, 3D projection mappings powered by Barco projectors have been blowing audiences’ minds all around the world. Our image processing portfolio and large venue projectors offer the perfect mix of ultra-brightness, seamless image blending and rugged reliability.

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Projection mapping at King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture

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A short history of projection mapping

People have been projecting images onto things since the early days of movies. However, projection mapping as it is known today is the result of a variety of different influences from the late 90s. Over the years, it has been referred to as either 3D mapping or video mapping. Early examples include images projected onto mannequins at theme parks or museums to make them appear animated. From 2007 onwards, video artists began to use it as a technique in installations, experimenting with the graphic side. Later again, it began to appear in contemporary dance and theater. 

Inevitably, specialized projection mapping software began to appear. Parallel improvements in projection technology enabled it to move into the public space, and very quickly projection mapping became an urban art. The earliest examples include a hypnotic, minimalist show by French electronic artist Etienne De Crecy in 2008. VJs also started mapping at nightclubs and other events.

From 2D to 3D projection technology

About the same time, mapping took a jump from 2D to 3D. Public buildings became used as what is known as "canvases" in the industry. Event organizers Zhangjiakou City cooling tower illuminated by Barco UDX-W32 projectorscreated increasingly sophisticated events that brought the structures to life. This required the creation of computer models of the façades that are being used. As the projectors became more powerful, so did the ambition of the designers. The projections grew in scale, and storytelling became a significant part of each event. 

As a result, powerful projectors have enabled awe-inspiring projections on increasingly large structures, but also projection onto water fountains, statues and the Hoover dam. 

A more recent trend is towards large-scale projection inside buildings or industrial landscapes as part of exhibitions. The pioneering Carrières de Lumière in southern France projects spectacular images from art and history inside an abandoned marble mine. The Atelier de Lumières did something similar in Paris using the works of Gustav Klimt in 2018. 

Sharing visual experiences on social media 

One of the things that make projection mapping so powerful is that it’s ideally suited for social media. As the building’s architecture plays the leading role, it’s actually interacting with the spectators, compelling viewers to record the video projection and share it online. In this way, the message reaches an even bigger audience. Captivating audiences with an unforgettable visual experience is crucial to build brand awareness. 

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