Lights, Camera, Illusion! The Marvels of Projection Mapping

It is easy to say that with the large amount of visual media technologies that are available today, vast numbers of people are able to capture and create footage that nobody would have previously thought possible, for example, the use of time-lapse photography in video production. So, when I mention the use of projectors in modern media it may not, at first, make you jump around wildly with excitement. This is because, let’s face it, many of these old school projectors have been collecting dust while new high-definition screens and post-production special effects take the limelight. But not to worry! The use of projectors in something called projection mapping has been taking the world by storm without many of us actually realising it.

Projection mapping is a technology that, rather than playing video footage on a flat screen, is designed to fit to the shape of any object to make it appear as if it is moving by itself or coming to life. We even have, in its simplest form, projection mapping in our own backyard, with the Enlighten Festival being a new attraction to the city of Canberra. The festival itself started running annually in 2011.

In 2013 the short film ‘Box’, a masterpiece of modern projection mapping technologies, was released to the world. It was created by the San Franciscan engineering and design studio Bot & Dolly. The video was an experimentation of sorts, taking existing technologies used in the media world and combining them to create real life optical illusions. This is summed up by Tarik Abdel-Gawad, a design technologist at Bot & Dolly, who claimed

“..People are accustomed to seeing anything happen. That’s what was exciting about ‘Box’, I think; actually being able to create a physical world that people could actually walk into and see that was mysterious” (Bot&Dolly 2013).

Projection mapping, however, can be used not only in a studio with a number of cleverly programmed robots; the technique has a whole range of different purposes. For example, projection mapping has been used in a stack of advertisements for brands including Samsung, who rather than projecting onto buildings, cars, or any other similar solid objects, used a person as a screen in an advertisement created by the company in 2012. This type of technology has even been featured in movies including Now You See Me, a 2013 film about a group of magicians, where projection mapping helped enhance an illusion created in a particular scene of the film.

So where does the future lead for projection mapping? There have been a number of interactive uses found for the technology, which opens a whole new world of opportunities for potential games and other media to be created. Perhaps, one day, it may even become a part of our everyday experience.

If anybody is interested, the video above is a making of video for Bot&Dolly’s short film ‘Box’.

REFERENCE 2014. Bot & Dolly | Box. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 15 Feb 2014]. 2014. E-mpire – IllumiRoom: Video Projection Mapping Meets Video Game. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 15 Feb 2014]. 2014. Enlighten 2014. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 15 Feb 2014].

Hepburn, A. 2014. Samsung: 3D Projection “Face” Mapping | Digital Buzz Blog. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 15 Feb 2014].

Jobson, C. 2014. Box: A Groundbreaking Demonstration at the Intersection of Robotics, Projection-Mapping, and Software | Colossal. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 15 Feb 2014]. 2014. What is projection mapping? | Projection Mapping Central. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 15 Feb 2014].

YouTube. 2014. Now You See Me Building Projection Scene. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 15 Feb 2014].

YouTube. 2014. Box. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 15 Feb 2014].

YouTube. 2014. Box by Bot & Dolly | Behind the Scenes. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 15 Feb 2014].




1 comment

  • gcmedia 4 years ago

    Hi Claudia,
    Firstly, what an incredible video and example of interactive media. A magical experience, even just to watch the vid. When I was watching the video I was reminded of an illusion (most associated with photography) called Camera Obscura, which is where light is passed through a small hole in a darkened room and the outside world is magically projected, upside down, on the walls of the room. Could it be the ‘lo-fi’ inspiration for the technologically advanced projection mapping technique? For some great examples of Camera Obscura check out: