Projection Mapping 101

During the past year, we’ve seen a lot of great digital decorating displays for both the Halloween and Christmas decorating seasons. The spectrum of creativity and diversity has been amazing – as our fans have long proven, there is no one correct way to digitally decorate!

Of the many techniques we have seen, it is clear that one technique is definitely rising in popularity: projection mapping.

In its simplest form, projection mapping is the technique of projecting onto something other than a flat, white screen to create a three-dimensional effect. By that definition, AtmosFX’s own 3DFX Form is a simple version of projection mapping, in that it aims to make the mannequin-like shape appear to come alive. But possibilities of projection mapping can be so much more than that. You’ve likely seen projection mapping at sporting events, large-venue concerts, theater productions, museums – even on the facades of buildings or landmarks. The trick is having powerful enough projectors and projection-mapping software that allows you to define the area on which you want to project.

Obviously, not everybody has the audacity (let alone the projector firepower) to project onto a renaissance-era building in Italy. But we are seeing our own AtmosFREAKS creating amazing displays using AtmosFX Digital Decorations and projection-mapping software on their own laptops.

There are plenty of software options out there – a good list of options are located here. AtmosFX does not endorse any individual projection mapping software program or company – you will have to discover what works best for you. That said, one downloadable option that some of the AtmosFX staffers have been playing with is VPT7 (Video Projection Tool v.7). Created by H.C. Gilje, it is relatively easy to use – and it is free. Plus, there’s a great “how-to” video on the website that walks you through the software in very simple steps. (Plus the ambient sounds of birds chirping throughout the video is very relaxing!)

At its most basic, projection mapping software allows you to draw a unique “canvas” – or multiple unique canvases – on which you can project effects. For example, you might draw a square, and when you hook your laptop into your projector and run your display through the projection mapping software, it will only show in the square you’ve just drawn. You can draw any canvas you like – multiple circles, a trapezoid, even irregular shapes like Berlin’s Fernsehturm – and assign a specific projection to be shown each one of those canvasses you’ve drawn.

A common effect that has made the rounds on YouTube and elsewhere are a series of boxes stacked on each other, with each face of the box becoming an individual canvas on which you can project. When put all together, the results are positively electrifying. Here’s a link to one such video and here’s how description on Tinkernut on how to do it. In terms of how you might use this with your own AtmosFX Digital Decorations, consider projection mapping’s versatility when you have only one projector, but you have multiple windows on which you want to project. As long as the projector can reach all of the windows, you can use the projection mapping software to get your projector to display on each window – even different digital decorations.

As a very simple example, consider the windows above. The three vertical windows in succession typically would be used for a horizontal image across all three panes. But, using projection mapping software, we can assign draw three vertical rectangles – three “canvases” – for each pane of glass, with a different digital decoration assigned to play in each vertical box. With the projection mapping software, a single projector can display a different decoration in each pane.

Needless to say, this is only the beginning. Depending on how ambitious you are, you can use projection mapping software in countless other ways. How do YOU use projection mapping at your home or office? Comment below or send photos and videos to to show us how YOU do it!- -Looking for more resources on projection mapping? is a great place to start.

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