projection mapping

What is the difference between 2D and 3D Projection Mapping? 

  • 2D is projecting an image on a surface utilizing its curvatures for depth.
  • 3D is a more integrative process that converts any object into an immersive video by using the main aspects of an object’s basic form to create a map of points to create more visual depth and interactive content.

Step #1: Laser Scan the Canvas Surface

The fundamental difference between 2D & 3D is that 3D projection mapping integrates the shape and contours of your canvas.  There are several different options of methods to choose from.

This process can last anywhere from 4 hours to 2 days to complete, depending on how diverse the canvas is and how complicated the graphics are.  It is usually scheduled about a month in advance of the actual event.  Because of the nature of the work, you need unobstructed views of the structure, so this work is done late at night and in early hours of the morning when there is less outside activity interfering with accurate mapping.  

The 3D CAD drawing of the projected surface that results from this process should be accurate to within 1.9 microns, which is less than 2 millionths of a meter. 

Step #2: Optimize Audience Perspective

As the event is designed to cater to the audience, getting the correct perspective optimization is paramount to enhancing the client experience.  For example, if the image is aerial and the audience will be looking up at the projected images, then the video content would have to be filmed from a low angle to emulate their point of view. 

The digital architectural drawing will need to be converted by your projection mapping specialist into a specific design format.  You will then need to pinpoint a position which will be the audience focal, commonly known as the audience perspective reference. 

Step #3: Graphic Content Creation

The different forms of content could include video footage, graphic animations or a combination of the two, which will be developed in the back end with the goal of giving the audience the best experience from their perspective.

Step #4: Preview & Testing Visuals

Once everything is imported into media servers, the flat movie files are then applied directly to the texture map of the projection surface previously created.  This will allow the projection mapping specialists to see how the content reads when projected onto the canvas’ topography.

Step #5: Setting Up the Projectors

Finally, after positive test results from the previous step, virtual projectors are added to map out their ideal position, rotation size, lens ratio, projection distance and size of lens.  

If the space, or object to be made as the canvas, is complex, then custom rigs can be made. 

Step #6: Final Adjustments for Real Life Situations

The final step is for the projection mapping specialists to marry the digitally-recommended projector positioning with real life venue limitations.  These limitations could include actual structure, seating layouts, interior design and decoration obstructions and whether outside lighting or weather has any impact on the projection processes.  As most venues have constraints preventing the equal distribution of projector positioning, adjustments will need to be made to customize the experience to the physical venue.

These adjustments can be made using a combination of the media server’s mapping controls and the projectors’ warping facilities.  There is usually a 10-15% overlap for blended projection on the media server’s plotted projection locations.  This allows for fluidity in projections giving a seamless edge between images being projected onto the working canvas. 


3D projection mapping is a technology that uses the latest in visual design to create custom content for any surface. It can be used on anything from walls, ceilings and floors to tables, chairs and even people! With this new level of complexity comes an increased need for creativity as well as technical expertise.

By Hemant Kumar

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