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What is video mapping?

Despite what one might think, video mapping has very little to do with mapping – at least, in the traditional sense. So, then, what is video mapping? The best “video mapping” definition is that it’s a highly evolved projection technique that turns almost any surface into a dynamic projection display. Some date its commercial appearance to the Haunted Mansion ride at a Disney amusement park in 1969, where images of singing heads were projected onto static busts for the enjoyment of the ride’s participants. But the technique has evolved greatly since then and today can result in extremely convincing and immersive video contents displayed onto surfaces as varied as building facades, bridges, fountains and statues.
Aside from the singing heads mentioned above, examples of the application of video mapping abound: think – for example – of a simulated snowfall projected onto a building in winter or of movie images projected onto buildings to promote new feature films. Unsurprisingly, video mapping has found much application in the world of architecture, where it is also referred to as architectural lighting and where it is used to enhance a viewer’s experience of a building, statue or other artwork. It can be used on exterior surfaces as well as in interiors, for example to recreate a 3D interior of an historic building. 
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How does video mapping work?

The end result of a video mapping project is always clear: engaging visuals projected onto buildings, bridges, fountains – any surface can become a content platform. But before the viewer is enchanted with magic-like visuals, there is a lot of pre-production work that takes place.
So how does video mapping work? It is a multi-step process that can be broken down essentially into four steps: 
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1) the façade of the building or structure that will serve as the ‘canvass’ is mapped by a lighting designer who uses special digital mapping software;


2) once the façade has been mapped, it is recreated using 3D design programs that accurately reproduce its proportions and take into consideration any defects, like gaps, holes, etc. that may appear in the façade;


3) the digital artists do their work, creating whatever the client wants to project on to the ‘canvas’ – special effects, optical illusions, artistic reproductions;


4) using advanced projectors placed at the appropriate distances from the facades, the 3D image is projected onto the surface and adjusted so that it perfectly “maps” onto the structure itself. The digital artwork is thus complete. 


What are the benefits of video mapping?

A highly versatile technology, video mapping offers several benefits, including:


  • Breadth of application: by enabling the creation of highly engaging, immersive visuals that can be adapted to almost any type of outdoor setting, video mapping can be used to enhance artistic venues and exhibitions, outdoor sporting and other types of events, commercial communication and entertainment experiences;

  • Messaging strength: by captivating audiences with spectacular visual and optical effects that ensure a high level of attention and engagement, this technology is an ideal medium for transmitting ideas and messages;

  • Urban regeneration: by creating temporary or fixed lighting installations to spotlight a building, artwork or other outdoor feature, video mapping can transform derelict areas into attractive spaces.


For example, by partnering with the experts of Enel X Global Retail, cities that want to breathe new life into downtrodden areas can design a lighting project that will render that area appealing to residents, tourists and passersby. By attracting people, such areas can experience economic revival and renewal, as bars, restaurants and other commercial activities open to meet new demand. It’s a process that creates a virtuous circle, to the benefit of everyone.


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