Projection mapping, also known as video mapping and spatial augmented reality, is a projection technology used to turn objects, often irregularly shaped, into a display surface for video projection. This is used by artists and advertisers alike, whether on buildings, small indoor objects, or stages, and by event planners to augment interior spaces and add experiential elements to their events. Due to the latter, projection mapping is a very interesting concept to me, and made quite simple with Mad Mapper, a small projector and practice.

For my first attempt ever at projection mapping, I set up my stage, a waist-high roller table with white paper on top, against a white wall. I assembled and stacked 6 white boxes I brought (1, 2 and 3 high) on top of the table, snug against the wall and with each other. Atop a Manfrotto tripod, I rigged an InFocus LightPro IN1142, rated at 700 lumens, which is built around a WXGA (1,280-by-800) DLP chip paired with an LED light source. Connecting the mobile projector to laptop via HDMI cord, I was able to pair my screen and interact with my design by importing videos, dragging and cropping. I used a grid in Mad Mapper to aid in lining up my elements and to determine that I had ample projection. At first, I had plans to use two projectors, one projecting from the side, and one above. I learned that one placed in between the two locations and set back a bit would suffice.

An important concept I learned in mapping is connecting your landscape and background elements with that of your projection. It creates a stronger connection between the two, and augments the theme or story you are trying to tell. In my case, I decided to project videos of my three cats, in various positions of sleep. As cats are notorious for loving boxes, whether sleeping in, jumping in and out, or just squeezing into one that is obviously way too small, I decided to project my concept on to boxes. My piece was titled, “Why Cats Love Boxes So Much,” which I projected in Mad Mapper by importing a clip I screen captured using Quicktime. I found an online neon sign text generator, which also allows you to add an interactive glow, which I loved and thought created nice emphasis.

After projecting my three cats in repose, and adding the neon sign, it still appeared as though something was missing. I search on GIPHY and found a loop of Maru, who is extremely famous in Japan and in the states. Maru is seen jumping out of one trash can into the next. Adjusting my boxes so that they displayed as 1, 2, 2 and 1, I shifted my three cats around, and added Maru at the top. Using Mad Mapper, I was able to crop out the bottom of the trash barrel. If Maru, was not jumping beyond the top of each trash lid, I would have applied a mask to black out the background just above the lids. That being said, Maru added the final element I think my display needed. I would have preferred to film my cats jumping up the stairs, with a black backdrop, to really emphasize the “joy” of boxes, and jumping to new heights!

Outside of class, I am excited to use video mapping and projection for my work with Veterans. In the fall, I plan to host an awareness event for a piece of legislation I developed, to reform transition assistance for active-duty Servicemembers in the military. So far, I can think of ways to include virtual reality to put attendees into the shoes of Servicemembers, to better understand why this bill is necessary to improve the lives of our Veterans during their re-entry into the civilian sector. Using video mapping, I think I can really enhance the stories of Veterans by projecting on to various walls of the event space, whether during a cocktail reception or the actual presentation.

One idea would be to tell a story of a Veteran, perhaps he is speaking on one wall, while the other two walls show the various components of his life, changing out of uniform and into civilian clothes, looking into a mirror without purpose, and then transforming these visuals into ones of success, where he is at a networking event, feeling strong and compelled to shake hands. Then show him walking into his first day of work at his new corporate job and meeting many wonderful people. I can certainly add various artistic components and think of props that would propel the visual display, but for the time being, I think this would be an amazing display, as opposed to having a Veteran just standing at the podium. OR, it could be in conjunction with such a speech. All of this is very exciting to me and I cannot wait to implement what I have learned on a larger scale and for a greater purpose!

P.S. Here are two other projects I loved seeing from my fellow students! Funny and clever! Great to see a non-traditional backdrop as with the toilet idea, which would be great for a restaurant or fundraiser for cleaner waters. I adored the butterfly cut-out. What a cool display this would be for the Brooklyn Botanical Garden or Butterfly Museum in Key West!