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Imagine trudging into a convention center with expectations of seeing the usual white fluorescent lights and long, drawn-out presentations. As you walk through the doors, you are immediately surprised to hear sweet sounds of crickets and frogs. You feel a slight breeze and the warmth of the sunshine on your skin. As you look around, you are surprised to be surrounded by the invigorating feel of life-like flowers, shrubs and a colorful forest. This convention turns out to be more of a serene escape into the wilderness than a business-like function.

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Now, of course, the convention described above is not really in a forest. With the help of projection mapping in events, guests are able to walk through an ordinary venue feeling as if they are in a completely different environment.

Wondering how you can implement such an engaging effect at your next event? Then you’re in the right place! We’re going to explore:

  • What projection mapping is
  • The benefits of using projection mapping in events
  • Getting creative with alternatives to true projection mapping
  • How to decide on the type of projection you use
  • How to keep your budget in mind
  • Where to look for inspiration and some interesting ideas

What is projection mapping?

Projection mapping, simply put, is using technology to project imagery onto a surface. The projections can be as simple as indoor stage effects or as complex as video onto buildings and industrial landscapes. The purpose of projection mapping in events is to provide a more engaging experience for attendees, through visual stimulation.

The idea is to use technology to manipulate lighting onto varying surface types and turn common objects into interactive, 3D displays. In fact, it’s increasing in popularity because it’s a vehicle for video trends in events. In essence, it’s like painting with light – a way to add textures, colors and even feelings to an environment. You really can project anything – from sponsor branding, all the way through to cinema-style narratives.

This video might help you understand the complexity behind projection mapping in events:

Why is projection mapping used in events?

  • Wows attendees for improved engagement
  • Can provide an element of interactivity
  • Adds a memorable feature to your event
  • Is imminently shareable on social media
  • Can give impressive ROI in terms of publicity

Another way of thinking: creative uses of projection

If you’ve looked at examples of projection mapping, you’re probably more familiar with those on a larger scale, that create an immersive experience. But, we also wanted to draw your attention to an alternative way of thinking about projection mapping. And that is creative uses of projection.

You see, if you think in terms of creating an effect for your event, you don’t always need to think about what’s on offer at the top end of the price and size scale. What we’re really trying to say is, don’t feel pressured to come up with an idea that tops even Freightliner’s projection mapping efforts on the Hoover Dam.

Working with your AV team, you can often create an impact that’s unique and relevant to your event, without the need for 3-dimensional projection of video that has to be custom built. In fact, projecting onto a non-traditional, but flat surface is possible with off-the-shelf products. Let’s take a closer look at the aspects you should consider when finding the right creative use of projection for your event.

projection mapping in events with lightingHow to decide on the best projection effect for your event

So you’re hooked on projection mapping in events, but you don’t know where to begin? Ask yourself these questions to gain a better understanding of how you can incorporate creative uses of projection in your event:

1. Do you have a budget? If so, what is it?

Stay true to your budget by being realistic with your goals, being creative with your resources, and maximizing the use of space. Although you may perceive projection mapping in events to be expensive, it can be done affordably.

If your budget is limited, it can be a good idea to consult with your AV company before you have your heart set on an exact projection idea. They will be able to advise what is within the realm of possibility in terms of the types and scale of projection so you can ensure you achieve the best bang for your buck. Before you speak to your AV company check out our ultimate guide to AV quotes to best prepare for your meeting and help you navigate through technical aspects and terms.

2. How large is your venue space?

The larger the space, the more projectors you will need, and the higher the cost of projection mapping in events. Remember that you don’t need to create an entirely new environment with a projection for attendees to have a great experience. So, try and focus on the focal points of your venue – those that draw the eye. Also, consider where you think guests will visit most so that the projection will be seen often. Probably the entrance, bathrooms, buffet tables and speaker podiums. Another important factor is to think about what surface has non-reflective properties so that the image displays accurately.

3. What will you be projecting?

The size and complexity of detail of the images that you will be projecting will have a direct correlation to the cost. To try to stay within budget, try and focus on smaller details that will catch the viewer’s attention. For example, guests might enjoy smaller or interactive video projections at their tables rather than a giant wall mirage.

Disney has a fantastic idea for using projection mapping in events. They have projected classic Disney characters onto plain white wedding cakes. As you can see, this is only a small projection in size, but it’s big in impact.

4. How far along are you in planning your desired event?

If the planning process for your event has already begun, it is still possible to use projection mapping. To maximize cost, creativity and collaboration, however, try and plan your projection mapping as far in advance as possible.

Creative uses of projection that are small or simple in design should be planned at least six weeks before your event. And for those that are more complex, start consulting with your AV company as soon as you are able. Giving a longer lead time will help to bring the price down and ensure the finished product has time to go through revisions if needed.

Working with the costs of projection mapping in events

Like with most event technology, you can spend a lot, but the good news is, you don’t have to. One of the main questions we get asked about using projection mapping in events is: what will it cost? If you’re looking for something on the lower end of the scale and for a smaller venue, you could consider projecting the brand logo and altering the color throughout the event. Or, using PowerPoint to create textured slides that are projected onto a plain surface.

True 3D projection mapping, particularly that incorporating video will be at the high end of the cost spectrum. Especially those that include live feeds. A note about video: pre-recording is preferred wherever possible or at least having a recorded background to ensure fewer glitches occur during your event.

Now, let’s take a closer look at factors to consider to keep within budget.

In-house vs. outsourced

Does someone on your team have the capability to provide creative uses of projection? If so, it may be cost effective to purchase the latest projection mapping video software and create in-house. Or, as we mentioned earlier – see what fun can be had with PowerPoint. Additionally, you will have to rent any equipment you don’t already have. For example projectors, a server, and a hard drive for the day of the event.

In-house Benefits:

  • Maximum customization
  • Clear scope of the project
  • Potentially lower initial costs

Many event profs will of course not have a team that has the skills and the time to undertake it themselves. And, it may cost more to train them than to outsource.

There are projection mapping companies that can create what you need, particularly if you’re planning something specialized like projection mapping onto car and buildings. Alternatively, AV companies have these capabilities too, which is good news, because it means you can ensure your uses of projection and all other AV requirements tie in well together. We suggest consulting with your AV company first and being realistic about expectations. If you’re looking for something fun with projection, then you and your AV company can come up with some ideas together. And trust us, they live for this kind of creativity and collaboration!

Outsourced Benefits:

projection mapping in events on floor2D vs. 3D

Why choose full-scale 3D projection mapping in events if you don’t have to? 3D is much more expensive than 2D and requires a lot more time and preparation when creating the video or imagery.

Projection mapping at events can be just as impressive if you decide to incorporate 2D images projected onto a flat surface. As we mentioned earlier, it’s all in choosing the right location for your projection. If you opt for 2D, try and incorporate it strategically onto surfaces and in places that will showcase the effect.

Potentially reduced costs elsewhere

If you decide to incorporate projection mapping in events, you could find that you don’t require as many physical props and décor that you might previously have planned for. This could reduce the costs of storage, transportation, setup and ultimately, the cost of the props themselves.

If you’ve traditionally used gobos in your events, using a projected logo can actually be a cost-effective alternative. Keep these ideas in mind, because it allows more space in the budget for projection elements.

Where to look for inspiration

There is an abundance of inspiration available for projection mapping in events, and if you’re particularly interested in video projection, then YouTube is a great place to start. Here, you’ll be able to find examples of creative uses of projection from all over the world.

One other thing to consider is that projection mapping videos can be interactive. Think about games, mind puzzles, and real-life demos as tools for engaging your attendees even further.

A couple of  interesting ideas to explore if you’re looking for something more manageable and in the wheelhouse of your AV company:

  • Using projectors to light up an ice sculpture. Don’t get hung up on the content having to be video. Instead, try stills or slides where you fade one graphic to another over the ice to create a sense of texture.
  • Use basic animation on PowerPoint like rotating to create an effect, rather than being concerned with full-motion graphics.

There are no limits to where creativity can take you when incorporating projection into your events.

Summary: what event profs need to know

Before you approach your AV company, you should have some understanding of what you want. By that, we mean, using the right terminology to help your AV experts provide an accurate quote and finished product of what you have in mind. For example, if you ask for a quote on projection mapping, it could result in a quote that incorporates way more features than you initially had in mind – possible something as awe-inspiring as 3D video projection. It’s ok if you don’t know all the details of what you want, but be as precise as you can when explaining it. It might be best to approach them by asking for creative use of projection and then refine from there.

Pretty much anything that can be projected can be projection mapped so don’t be afraid to ask. Even live feeds can be projected if your budget permits.

We also don’t want you to be afraid of it! You can add a splash to your event with it costing a lot of money. You don’t need only to think big. Try making more concentrated, fun experiences for your attendees.

Make sure your projection effect is going to be cohesive with your event. Don’t do it just for the sake of it, but make sure it elevates the entire impression of the event. You don’t want projection mapping to be the only thing your event is remembered and valued for.

If you’d like to a look at some of our favorite examples of projection mapping, then check out Endless Events’ video mapping Pinterest page.

And please, let us know if you have any more questions about projection mapping in the comments.

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Editor’s Note: This was originally published in July 22, 2015 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Kristen Cooper

Author Kristen Cooper

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