Based on the venue details and the client’s budget, Firpo determines what mix of projectors to use, in which configuration. He explains he often favours using a larger number of small projectors, rather than the more expensive proposition of relying on just a few high-end systems.
“We once stacked 10 LCD projectors on top of each other for a 6-m (20-ft) tall cylindrical projection at a trade show, whereas another company might have pulled too much power with a DLP system,” he says. “We used a previs ‘fly-through’ to win that project, as we were able to help the client understand why we needed what we needed and how bright it would be. It mainly comes down to calculating the throw distance. For a large outdoor festival, that might be to 9 to 18 m (30 to 60 ft), but indoors, there are very short distances for trade show and retail applications.”
In one example for a holiday charity event, AOIN digitally projected a cascade of candy and cookies that appeared to flow down a flight of stairs.
In another, the ceiling of the Jash Yellow Stage at the 10th-anniversary Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin, Texas, was mapped with six projectors to simulate a planetarium.
“When artists like Danny push the envelope for what can be done with projection mapping, they inspire other clients and help create further demand for the technology,” says Gavin Downey, a senior product manager for Epson, which manufactures digital projectors. “We solicit their feedback, which in turn helps us improve our products.”
By way of example, manufacturers of digital projectors have improved the ease of mounting and integrating them with third-party equipment.
“A lot of the impact comes down to the lenses,” says Downey. “You need to focus on the best optics, sharpness and lens shift. Having a wide array of lenses available with significant vertical and horizontal shift provides greater flexibility for artists.”
Most recently, AOIN rear-projected imagery onto the windshield and two windows of an Infiniti QX30, such that the person sitting inside views dynamic content from a driver’s perspective, as though he/she were moving along a road. (The windshield mapping is also visible to viewers outside the vehicle.) Given the size of each window panel, this project exemplifies the comparative advantages of projectors over the more typical formats for digital signage: LCD panels and light-emitting diode (LED) arrays.
“If those windows were custom-cut LCDs, the project would be cost-
prohibitive,” says Firpo, “and with LED screens, you’d feel like you were seeing the product, not the content. Part of the magic of projection mapping is how immersive it is.”