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An Eventprofs Guide to Projection Mapping

By Christina Green

Have you used projection mapping at your events? Have you felt the limitation of what you can project against, wishing you could project on a more fluid background? No longer. Take a look at what you can expect in the near future.

A bride surrounded by a spotlight of stars. A fairy glides across the surface of a multi-tiered cake. Inspirational messages bounce from one t-shirt to another.

Are these crazy dreams that event planners have?

No. They’re all possible with projection mapping. If you haven’t used it, get your creative hat on and start thinking about all of its event applications. If you are using it, we’re about to share the future of projection mapping with you.

An Eventprofs Guide to Projection Mapping

What is Projection Mapping?


Projection mapping uses video projectors but instead of projecting onto a traditional flat screen, the image or design is mapped to a 3D object. This allows event planners to take an ordinary object and transform it into a projection screen for dynamic presentations. Unlike traditional projection where the image would become distorted over a 3D screen, this adjusts to make the projection look like it’s part of the object.

If you’ve never heard of projection mapping you may know it by its super fabulous futuristic names – spatial augmented reality or 3D video mapping. The technology is often used in concerts, advertising, theater, games, and other shows. Projection mapping is a rapidly growing form of new media and provides an incredible “wow” moment for attendees.

Check out these breathtaking examples:

If you want to see even more examples, take a look at this blog post.


A Few Things Event Planners Should Know About Projection Mapping


Projection mapping can be used with pre-recorded video projections or a live feed. You can also project static images like a quote or images with movement like twinkling lights. The more complicated the video or live production, the more expensive the undertaking. The average projection mapping project costs about $10,000 for one-minute of 3D video. That only covers the actual video production. You’ll also need to cover the cost of the projectors, the media server, and a hard drive.

Another thing that affects pricing is the size of the area you’re projecting against as well as the intricacies of it. Larger more intricate façades will be more expensive because they require multiple projectors and complicated coordination of the projections. Planners with smaller budgets can consider projection mapping in small areas that get a lot of foot traffic or views, like a speaker podium or buffet table.

A venue walk-through with the technology vendor is essential. They’ll want to map the area and understand the timing. You’ll want to solidify the content early on. Most projection mapping companies will require 4-6 weeks lead time as a minimum on something that’s about four minutes long. The earlier you plan, the better. Any last-minute changes could drastically change the price and the vendor’s ability to meet the production deadline.

Another way to cut costs is by opting for 2D instead of 3D. Depending on your design or projection, 3D may not be required to achieve an impressive effect. Talk to the production company about options that will speed along the production process and decrease your costs.

With projection mapping, you can create any sort of ambiance you’d like. You can turn a warehouse into a jungle or a brick surface can look like it’s undulating. If budgets allow, this can help you stretch venues to fit your needs. For example, you love the inside of the venue but you’re not sold on the hall and the foyer. Maybe you want something more modern. Now you can create it through 3D mapping.

Hate the sterile environment of a convention center but need that space because of the size of your event? Now you can transport attendees out of that cookie-cutter ballroom to nearly anything your mind can imagine (and budget can cover). If you’re looking to give your guests a “wow” moment you will find it with 3D mapping.   

The final thing that’s important to keep in mind is that while projection mapping isn’t cheap, it does often provide a return on investment in notoriety and social shares. This can be a real boon to event planners who are looking to improve numbers at next year’s event. 3D mapping makes a big impression and because of that, attendees talk about it and share videos often.

What’s New in Projection Mapping


Projection mapping first took the mainstream world by storm during Madonna’s Super Bowl performance in 2012. Projection mapping is even all the rage in Christmas lights this year as well, albeit in a much less sophisticated way than what you would use for your event. Still, why hang lights when you can simply “project” them dancing across the front façade of your home?

Up until now, the most effective use of projection mapping has been on surfaces that are not moving or move in a predictable and rigid way like an item on a track. The limitations on items that can bend and flex were the adjustments needed for constantly correcting the design.


The technology now exists to project onto items that move in a non-fixed way like material waving in the wind. This form of dynamic project mapping increases the event planner’s possible uses of this technology.  

The technology was developed by Ishikawa Watanabe Laboratory and it dynamically adjusts 1,000 times per second with a 3-millisecond delay. To our eyes, the adaptations appear instantaneous. The technology is also able to recognize multiple targets and project unique designs on each. For instance, if it was used in a fashion show for three models with different interactive clothing, it would recognize what image went on model 1, 2, and 3 and change the image as they were passing by.

In Conclusion


Now that the technology has become more mainstream and versatile and the price point more affordable, we can expect a lot more creative uses will spring up. While they may not all be Hollywood productions, you can use projection mapping on small scale to make a big impression. Are you ready? How will you use projection mapping? Share your ideas with us.

about the author

Christina Green
Christina R. Green is a digital storyteller and writer for associations and businesses, including journals such as the Midwestern Society of Association Executive's magazine and industry blogs. She's a voracious reader but has been known to stop reading if there are too many exclamation points used.
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