by Brad Gallagher
Displays have some huge advantages over projection. Namely, they can get really bright. This can be essential in grabbing people’s attention and providing sufficient contrast when you can’t control the amount of ambient light in a space. On the other hand, if you can control the lighting, projection allows some creative options that just allow for much greater creativity.
What do I mean by more creativity? Well, displays have been getting much more flexible in terms of designing creative displays. Very cost effective hardware is available on the market to mix and match different display sizes, install them at varying spacings and rotations, then spread a single image across all of those displays. We can even get displays that are not in the traditional rectangular shape.
At the end of the day, though, these are still mostly rectangles that look like picture frames. Contrast this with projection, where we can not only mask out parts of the image, but also warp the image to curved geometry with ease.
Anyway, if you haven’t noticed, one of the things that really excites me in video design utilizing both displays and projection is to create something that breaks the normal 16:9 rectangle ratio of a standard television picture. Obviously, this can increase your content creation costs, but it immediately sets you and your brand apart. With that said, let’s cover 5 Trends in Video Projection Consulting that are allowing for much more creative design.
Fast, Easy, and Inexpensive Mapping
Several years ago, a Software called MadMapper started making projection mapping much more inexpensive and intuitive. The software uses a Mac OS X based framework called Syphon to suck the image from another software (typically a VJ or performance software) and move it into MadMapper for warping to the physical media that you’re projecting onto in the room.
Today, several software packages provide similar interfaces as add on packages. This means that even if you aren’t working in a Windows environment (Windows vs Mac involves a lot of pros/cons in this application), you can still have access to simple and extremely inexpensive warping capabilities.
For architectural applications, this means the ability to inexpensively adapt projection and dynamic images to curved, angled, and complex building features.
Low Cost Software
It’s everywhere. The VJ market has really blown this one wide open, with a constant evolution of software products that have put very powerful tools in people’s hands for an incredibly low cost. Large shows and installations still use costly server grade hardware (for good reason), but the pressure from the VJ market continuing to add features has caused even the larger manufacturers to provide lower cost software options. Software packages like VDMX, Resolume Arena, and Arkaos Grand VJ XT provide a feature set for under $1,000 that would have cost ten times that amount just a few years ago.
Just as importantly, the huge and constant surge in computing power means that we have machines and graphics cards available that can handle the complexity these systems can entail.
One interesting feature offered by almost all of the products in this category is the ability to set up specific audio reactive features. This means that not only can specific and dynamic visual features be designed to meld with the architectural space, these dynamic elements can also change form in time with the ambient audio in the facility.
For instance, in one multipurpose entertainment facility I designed, there were several lanes of luxury bowling. A long wall that typically ended up with a mural was the perfect location for a row of blended projectors to produce a slowly morphing image that changed in time with the music in the venue.
These are the types of devices that allow you to connect a very high resolution output to multiple lower resolution outputs. These come in two different flavors. The first flavor is the Matrox TH2G (Triple Head 2 Go) units, which trick the computer into outputting a “fake” resolution that is then divided amount three (or sometimes two) projection outputs.
The second type of device accepts dual link DVI and outputs 4 single link DVI outputs. For years, the Datapath X4 was the swiss army knife of projection. At 3-4x the price of a TH2G, it’s more expensive, but still absurdly cheap, considering what it does. It’s also considered to be much more reliable and stable than the TH2G product. Recently, another company SEADA extended their market to the US (from the UK). Their product is extremely similar to the X4, but seems to offer some interesting benefits, based around their linking structure.
You need to be careful when using these products to make sure that they are compatible with the software that you are using. This is dependent upon whether the mapping function is linked to a software target or to the physical output on the device.
Super Short Throw Lenses
Super Short Throw lenses are a commodity for low brightness projectors used in small projection whiteboard type installations. On the other hand, there is only one manufacturer that I know that is making an interchangeable lens that fits onto high output projectors.
The Panasonic ET-DLE030 is unique and I hope that other manufacturers will follow suit here. The lens allows projectors to disappear above a soffit or below set scenery. The result is an image that blends into its surroundings, become a more integral part of the architecture.
These types of projection screens use multi-layer optics to reject ambient lighting, while focusing the light from the projector towards the viewer. The net result is that you can get vivid, display quality images from a projector and screen setup, even in a room with high ambient lighting. This is great for spaces like sports bars, or any area where you require higher task lighting levels for reading (like higher education classroom, or worship spaces where you need to retain enough light to read a Bible).
For some time, the only player in this game to my knowledge was a Danish manufacturer, DNP. Recently, Da Lite has responded to this competition by releasing a similar product called Parallax. Both include a height limitation, due to the manufacturing technique. However, DNP has a system that bonds the substrate to aluminum panels which can then be fit together in a custom frames. The seams are invisible past 10’ viewing distance. This is a much more expensive system, but still extremely cost effective, when compared to LED or other options.
In my mind, these types of screens open lots of new opportunities to allow for creative experiences and branding, where large scale images would not have previously been practical, due to ambient lighting. I think this is especially true, when combined with the super short throw lenses described above. The image at the top of this post is actually from the Panasonic literature on the DLE030 lens.
I hope this post has provided you with some creative ideas on how projection can be used to create powerful experiences, branding, and emotion. Don’t be boring. Break out of the box. Literally. Stop thinking in terms of rectangles when you think of projection. There is so much more that you can do. Do something different and people will stop to take notice. That’s the way it works in life. Be bold!
Brad Gallagher is an Audio/Video Design Consultant, who has worked with some of the largest Churches in the Country. He loves leading experienced teams on large projects and working with mid-sized Churches to do amazing things on a budget. Sign up for his blog for great Worship Technology Tips.