Digital Signage: New horizons for projection mapping

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).

“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.”

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.”