What the heck is projection mapping and how do I do it?
A lot of people ask me this so I created this page to demystify the process a bit. Projection mapping is a term used to describe a process where a video, when projected, is manipulated or “mapped” to fit exactly the contours of an object, building, or anything really. This process is used in commercial and entertainment contexts but is also used in contemporary art. Changing the shape of the video projection is done with projection mapping software. As an artist, I use projection mapping in ways that create meaningful interactions between the image and architecture, often referencing the history of the site and/or connecting the site visually to other times and places. These projections end up being works of public art and gallery exhibitions.
BUT… there is much more to it than just connecting a computer to a projector!
So, here we go! The projector needs to project an image big enough to fill the space wanted. It also needs to be installed in a place (ideally out of audience reach, and not moved before the event), and hooked up to laptop. I “map” the video live, while it is being projected onto the building, to make it fit exactly where I want it. This usually requires a night of testing before the official opening/event.
Here’s me doing some projection mapping in Richmond, Virginia!
WAIT, that’s not it! What about cost and changing weather and security and videos that play every night for a long time!?
When I am invited to exhibit an architectural video projection, whether indoors or out, there are several steps I take to make sure everything goes smoothly. Here are a few:
1. Know and work within a budget.
- Whether the budget is $3,000 or $300,000, I work with curators and institutions to do thoughtful and interesting projects that are scaled accordingly. I can also provide custom proposals if there is not a set budget. The budget is important because it will dictate where and how large the projection can be and here’s why:
- The bigger the projection needs to be, the brighter it needs to be. The more ambient light in the surrounding area (like outside and in public spaces), the brighter it will need to be. The brighter a projector needs to be, the more it costs to rent/purchase. There is really no limit on projection size because multiple projectors can be stitched together to create as large of an image as needed.
- Here are some examples of my projects and the brightness of the projector used (Projector brightness is measured in lumens):
A Place in Time, Indianapolis, Indiana, 2016 (with Susanna Crum)
One 20,000 lumen projector
Illuminate Oregon City, Oregon City, Oregon, 2013-2015
One 18,000 lumen projector
Between Here and There: Richmond, Richmond Virginia, 2014
Three 10,000 lumen projectors (this was one video file stitched over three projectors)
A Running Loop, Louisville, Kentucky, 2016 (with Susanna Crum)
One 10,000 lumen projector
Channels, Lodz, Poland, 2012
One, 3,000 lumen projector (interior space with no lights)
2. Site and Duration of video projection. This is usually a conversation with the curator or institution that takes into account desired effect and budget.
- Lower lumen projectors can be used if the projection is indoors where light is controllable.
- If the projection is outdoors for a short amount of time, like a night or two, the projector will need to be brighter and have temporary protection from weather, such as a tent.
- If the projection is outdoors and on display for longer than a few nights, the projector will need to be installed in weather proof housing, be fully automated, and be secure where it is installed.
- Here’s some examples of install set-ups:
3. For long term indoor/outdoor projections:
- Automate! My long term projections are fully automated, meaning that they turn themselves on and off nightly. The time they turn on is programmed to change monthly according to when the sun sets, earlier in the summer and later in winter, to maximize the projectors lamp life and to make sure the video is playing as soon as it is dark enough to see it.
- Control Remotely! The projector can be controlled remotely via any computer hooked up to the internet. In the rare occasion that the projector didn’t turn on or off, I, or anyone else with access, can go online and turn it on or off remotely. Within the online controls, it is also possible to view the remaining hours of the lamp and filters, and even get an email if something is malfunctioning. I am happy to say that I have never had a projector malfunction in any of my automated outdoor projections, and one was up for two and half years!
- Work with the locals! Whether I need structural engineering, permits, scaffold fabrication or tech support, I look for companies that are local to the site of the exhibition. I have worked with artists, acrylic suppliers, city public works, tech firms, engineers, electricians, internet providers, and others to create successful long term video projections that require little to no maintenance. I coordinate all sub-contractors and stay in regular contact with an on-site liaison (usually a curator or institution representative).
3. Create Content:
- I am an artist and collaborate with other contemporary artists. The content addressed in projects is meaningful and many times based on months of research. Please read my biography to find out what I make artwork about and why. You can also find information about specific projects on their individual pages.
- I use professional gear and software to create original video and animated graphics. I sometimes appropriate historical images, film, or ephemera (especially when collaborating with Susanna Crum!), to create commentary and context for a specific site.
- I love collaborating! If you are another artist or cultural producer and want to work together let me know! I have found that working in teams with other creative individuals allows projects to become more than just the sum of its parts, and is just an awesome experience.
Please contact me with any questions or inquiries!
Here’s some pictures of me doing what I love (shooting video and installing projections):