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What to Consider Before Investing in a Projection Mapping System?

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Posted July 10, 2019

Have you envisioned creating a spectacular display for audiences or customers, but thought it was too cost-prohibitive? You can now go beyond basic to dazzle your audiences with video, animation, and 3-dimensional displays that were once the domain of large corporations. Projection mapping offers an alternative to the same old thing when it comes to entertainment, education, and advertising.

This advanced method of projecting images onto a range of surfaces creates attention-grabbing visuals in stores, theaters, and even onto buildings. They were once reserved for big budget affairs, but now these bright, high-quality video displays are available for virtually any business or venue.

Projection mapping installation. Image credit: PublicDomainPictures via Pixabay (Pixabay licence)

Projection mapping installation. Image credit: PublicDomainPictures via Pixabay (Pixabay licence)

Advances in technology have put projection mapping within reach of organizations of all sizes. How cost-effective is it? Many of these models can be purchased at affordable prices including this list of units under the $200 dollar price range. It’s the projector bulb technology that has made what was once quite expensive tech to be relatively affordable.

However affordable projection mapping has become, you should still carefully consider your options when choosing a projection system. In an effort to help our readers sift through the clutter and get the facts they need to make informed decisions, here are some things to consider before buying a projection mapping system.

What to Look for in a Projection Mapping System

We’ve divided this overview into two sections, the requirements for the venue you’ll be using and the specifications of various projection systems. The space where you’ll use the projection mapping projector most will inform what type of projector will work best for your purposes. Specifics about the projector itself will complete the picture so that you can choose the device that’s right for you.

Lighting Conditions at Your Location

The amount of ambient lighting has a direct bearing on nearly every aspect of projector selection. It affects the quality of your images and is a determining factor in the resolution and luminosity you’ll need. You’ll have to take into consideration natural and artificial light sources and how much of either will be directly reflecting on the screen or other projection surface.

You can usually control how much light is present in an indoor venue, but what about celestial bodies, streets lights, and vehicles if you’re planning an outdoor exhibition? Plan for alternative venues or other measures if there’s a chance that this will be a problem.

Image Size and Throw Ratio

This is one area where a simple formula will tell you all you need to know. The distance of the projector from the projection surface will impact clarity and image size. You can figure out how far out you’ll need to set up your projector by determining the throw ratio. This is done by dividing the image width by the distance from the projector to the screen or other surface; it’s normally between 0.03 and 12.

For example, if your image width is 12 feet and the allotted space to set up the projector is 15 feet away, you’ll need to find a projector with a throw ratio of about 0.8.

Projection mapping-based art. Image credit: PTeknik via Pixabay (Pixabay licence)

Projection mapping-based art. Image credit: PTeknik via Pixabay (Pixabay licence)

Your Screen or Projection Area

For best results, you should choose a compatible fabric or screen surface to project your image toward. Shiny materials will enhance the amount or reflection, and dark or dynamic materials like cloth will distort the image. For best results, choose a relatively stiff or fixed surface with a light-colored, matte finish.

Projector Specs and Other Considerations

Now, we come down to the projector specifications you’ll need for your projection mapping display. These specs will also be determined by the factors surrounding your display venue and purposes as well as the amount of money you’ll need to invest in a projection system.

For example, if you’re only going to host short presentations at an indoor venue like a classroom or conference room, you can choose something with a lower throw ratio and resolution. If you’re going to be projecting images onto a skyscraper or an outdoor screen in a public square, you’ll need a higher resolution, luminosity, and contrast ratio.

Image Resolution

The image resolution is the number of pixels present in a given space. Run of the mill video viewed on a computer or other device is usually 720p. High-definition (HD) pictures are at least 1,280 x 720 pixels per square inch or more. The higher the resolution, the sharper the picture quality.

Luminosity

We’ve all had the experience of watching a movie in a theater and having the lights come up or people coming in and out of the theater to visit the concession stand of bathroom. For a second, the image on the screen is blurred by the overhead bulbs or the light coming in from the lobby. Lumens are the amount of light emitted by the projector. The term was originally based on how far away you can see the amount of light produced by a single candle in feet, which is determined as 16 feet. Therefore, a candle is determined to emit 16 lumens; A standard 100W incandescent bulb emits 1,600.

The number of lumens in a projector determines the brightness of the projected image, and it’s one of the most important considerations in projection mapping. In a dark venue, you can get away with a lower number, but even a measurement of 20,000 lumens isn’t enough to make a projection mapped display viewable outdoors at midday. The larger the image or further away from the screen, the more lumens you’ll need to make it watchable.

Contrast Ratio

The contrast is the amount of light and dark in a projected image. No projector can reproduce a perfect black, but the contrast ratio can make darker colors appear black in relation the amount of lighter colors present. The contrast also has an effect on the luminosity, and it is affected by the amount of ambient light present in the display area.

Contrast is presented as a ratio of light to dark, such as 1,000:1. The higher the number, the greater the contrast. If there is a lot of ambient light present, you’ll need a projector with the highest possible contrast ratio.

Equipment Life Expectancy

If you’re going to purchase equipment rather than leasing, you want to it last. Projectors come in two main varieties, laser projection systems and LED projectors. In general, LED projectors are weaker on other factors like luminosity and contrast ratio, but they have a much longer lifespan than traditional lamps. The expected life of an LED bulb in a projector is up to 20,000 hours. Laser projectors have a similar lifespan as LED projectors, but a much greater luminosity. Consider luminosity of more than 6,000 versus less than 3,000 for LED.

Final Thoughts

If a picture is worth a thousands words, how much to you think dynamic 3D images will raise your profile? Following the above guidelines will allow your company or organization to kick-off any event with a splash of color, sight, and sound without breaking your budget. The ROI will allow you to recoup your initial investment in no time.

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