Building projection mapping: discover how to produce this awesome feat!

Building projection mapping

When you mention projection mapping (or video mapping), the first thing that comes into mind is architectural structures lit up. And for good reason, it is the practice’s most common and most well known form. At least for average people outside of the AV world. And it’s most telling form, even if they don’t have the terminology, is: building projection mapping.

In this article, we’ll explain what is building projection mapping, show notable examples and reveal how creating such a powerful experience can be achieved.

What is projection mapping?

Let’s start by defining what projection mapping is. Projection mapping is a projection technique used to turn objects and elements into a display surface for video projection.

The projection surface is the fundamental distinction between 2D and 3D projection mapping.

2D mapping is usually done on flat or curved surfaces where the measurables are length and height. When working with objects and textured surfaces, 3D projection mapping is used to account for depth and other spatial concerns.

So we know that any 2D and 3D physical element can become a projection surface. That means quite literally any object and anything.

Generally speaking, the three-dimensional factor brings more attention and interest to the creation. The more there is a dimensional interest, the more spectacular and relevant the projection mapping is. A 3D projection mapping intrinsically generates more value and takes on a true meaning.

Effectively, going from 2D to 3D provides an enhanced experience for the spectator.

As an example, here are some of the most exceptional 3D projection mappings.

Buildings: most valuable projection surface

In regards to what we defined earlier, what better entity, object or creation buildings for projection mapping?
Their size is generally huge which provides for potential impression and the WOW effect. They certainly do not lack three-dimensional features such as curves, windows, details or balconies. And they usually are in open air which detaches them from their environment. That last aspect adds to the mapping magic. In fact, the contrast between the environment in which you expect to see a building and the visual wonder mapping provides, creates a dichotomy in the spectator’s mind which adds to the experience.

A building projection mapping is generally for a large number of people to see, therefore giving it a monumental and grandiose feature.

Buildings were not thought for this practice and that’s what makes such an enormous thing the perfect example for projection mapping.


Let’s dive into a couple of examples of what building projection mapping can look like:

Halloween Haunted House

Mapping is a great medium for product promotion, and Samsung understood that for Halloween. The brand transformed a 300-year-old house into a haunted mansion in a British village.

Cathedral, Fêtes des Lumières

For the 2017 Fête des Lumières in Lyon, Helen Eastwood and Laurent Brun delivered a wonderful building projection mapping. Saint-Jean Cathedral was beautifully animated through colour petals, palettes and sparkles.

Building, lights of Boston

Building projection mapping can also be used to deliver hope and peace messages at Christmas time. In December 2015, Lights of Boston transformed the entire Dartmouth Street side of the Boston Public Library with 3D projections.

Building projection: state-of-the-art

AV big players

When you tackle a project as massive as a building projection mapping, you better be prepared and well informed as to what is possible.

First of all, there are AV big players. They produce enormous works, using numerous ultra performant projectors for a single project. The visual rendering is of the highest order, and the financial cost is just as high.

Generally, AV big players are technical suppliers who provide the necessary technology for impressive experiences. They work hand in hand with creative agencies that develop the audiovisual content to be displayed.

The agency is in charge of creating 3D content that will fit perfectly and exclusively to the building in question. The agency is given blueprints, prototypes or sketches in whatever form so they can work prior to the actual display. Indeed, the content creation process is crucial, and it sometimes is integrated as a service by AV big players.

Building projection mapping - lightshow
Building projection mapping - Interconnection
LimeLight - Interconnection

LimeLight – interconnection – 2016

Projection mapping softwares

There are two main types of projection mapping softwares. First of all, there are those used for gigantic and significant projects in every way. These are highly specialized softwares, reserved for AV big players. They require extensive training sessions, dedicated state-of-the-art computer equipment and are particularly costly. (About 10 000€ per projector). Pixera, or Watchout are some of these softwares.  

For anything less than mapping the world’s biggest and most iconic monuments, perfect solutions exist. These are softwares whose purpose is to democratize the practice of projection mapping. 

They can be used with commercially available projectors and work with powerful yet personal computers (such as gaming ones). These softwares can be easily downloaded and tried first-hand. They deliver optimal performance, superb rendering and their cost is much less than those offered by AV big players.

HeavyM is one of these softwares; reliable, powerful and works with any kind of projector and MAC/Windows compatible. The world’s most user-friendly mapping software can be used in a myriad of different scenarios, and building projection is one of them.

Building projection mapping with HeavyM

Here’s a superb example of how to do a building projection with HeavyM:

In this case, HeavyM was used to create a mapping on a 6-storey office building staircase. The building offers dynamic shapes to play with, along with a repeating design and white façade perfect for projection mapping.

First step: define the outlines of the area you want to map. The staircase is part of a much wider building complex that could have been mapped as well. But only the staircase was needed in this instance.

Simply take a picture of the projection area at the exact same spot where the projector will be placed. This way, it will then be easy to use the image as a background support to start creating. 

Building projection mapping - Prep work

To successfully realize a building projection mapping, prep work is essential. In HeavyM, you can easily import an image as a background to start testing ideas. Navigate seamlessly through the software thanks to the user-friendly interface and generate elements to see the results in real-time. With the vast library of ready-to-use effects, the number of combinations possible is almost infinite.

Once the necessary preparations are done, it is time to test your building projection mapping in full size. The world’s easiest projection mapping software is compatible with all displays: any projector or LED screen.

Wield the dynamic warping tool to perfectly adjust your design to the building projection surface for an optimal rendering. No amount of prep work can spare you from small adjustments and final tweaks on D-Day.

Building projection mapping -On site

With its ultra fast media player, HeavyM also enables you to import content created in other softwares. Organize content in playlists and test and run them simultaneously in HeavyM thanks to its powerful graphics engine.

Developing a building projection can be a daunting task, but the world’s simplest-to-use mapping software makes it all easier. In fact, HeavyM guarantees you top notch performance and reliability through its graphics engine. While creation becomes smooth thanks to user-friendly interface combined with ultra quick media player and extensive visual effects library. To create your most ambitious projects, HeavyM is the only tool you need.

Building projection mapping - HeavyM rendering

To be continued

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