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Digital Signage: New horizons for projection mapping

Last fall, Toronto’s Casa Loma was visually transformed for a Halloween attraction, ‘Legends of Horror.’
Photo courtesy Big Digital

Elsewhere on the grounds, EMD Show Systems controlled several other projection effects and managed sound design through 10 separate channels. In total, visitors toured more than 1.5 km (0.9 mi) through the estate, including the lower gardens and tunnels, many of which has been previously unseen by tourists.

“We had been working on this concept for more than two years with a team of 30 show production crew members,” explains Nick Di Donato, president and CEO of Liberty Group. “The event featured a cast of more than 100 actors. We were excited to work with the best partners to put this project together.”

Inside efforts
Indoor applications have also displayed much creative potential. Projection mapping at stadiums and arenas, for instance, has become a highly popular method for boosting the crowd’s energy during pre-game and halftime shows. With the affordability of the technology, even colleges have developed and staged full-court presentations.

Smaller-scale implementations have proven just as impressive. In 2013, as country singer Carrie Underwood performed at the 55th annual Grammy Awards, her dress served as a projection mapping surface, featuring butterflies, roses and other bright images.

“We had the dress specially made,” she explained backstage at the time. “I should take it home and we can watch movies on it!”

Indeed, there are many possibilities for custom-fabricating surfaces for projection mapping. Canvases may be made of paper or cloth, but one of the best options is corrugated plastic sheet, which is flexible, highly reflective, waterproof, more durable than many other materials and available in flame-retardant versions. It can be held together with tape or Velcro, so it can be folded up and stored easily. Producers are limited only by their imagination and modelling skills.

By stacking LCD projectors for this cylindrical trade show display, the project’s budget was reduced and less power was drawn on-site than would have been the case with DLP technology.
Photo courtesy AOIN

Doing it all
One company that has handled projection mapping projects both big and small is All of it Now (AOIN), a creative design agency that uses digital projectors for all sorts of events. Managing partner Danny Firpo came to the industry from the club scene, where he had developed dynamic visuals working with disc jockeys (DJs).

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“I got into projection mapping about six years ago,” he explains. “Compared to my earlier work, it felt like a more cohesive set of tools for telling bigger stories. I started by experimenting with styles in nightclubs before getting into more outdoor events and projecting images on everything from trees to boulders. Even a brick wall adds so much texture to the content.”

Firpo describes his current role as equal parts artist and technician, requiring both right- and left-brain thinking, with an understanding of everything from content design to hardware rigging.

“One of the biggest challenges is testing out a new venue, which calls for a thorough site visit,” he says. “We take photos for previsualization (previs), which is great for composition purposes. In a perfect world, we have the architectural drawings for reference too, but that’s certainly not always possible.”

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