Lessons Learned: Overcoming the Typical Challenges of 3D Projection Mapping

By July 16, 2013 News No Comments


Pearl Media has executed more 3D projection mapping programs than most. With quantity comes experience, so we are expert at overcoming the inherent challenges. This week’s entry will home in on core lessons we’ve learned from our programs and activations to date.

1.   Trust the Timeline

A frequently asked question is “What is the lead time on a 3D projection mapping program?” Our answer is 10 – 12 weeks. This timeline accounts for all planning, creative development, animation and implementation phases. Given the typical 3D event scope and implications, this timeline incorporates the often multilayered necessary approvals including agency, client and legal. Similar to other technologically creative productions, there are many variables that can alter the planned timeline. While we’ve achieved successful 3D projection mapping programs in less than 8 weeks, experience has taught us that optimal quality – and concomitant viral contagion –  is consistent with sticking to the proposed timeline.

2.   Agree on a Single-Minded Core Message or Brand Idea

Last week’s blog discussed 3D projection content and how to navigate the balance between art and commerce. As important as that is, it’s equally important to establish a clear creative direction upfront, with a single brand message artistically framed, and set expectations about the actual 3D animation experience. To achieve that, a structured process must be put in place. Milestones including a creative kick off meeting with all vested stakeholders, initial script and a first storyboard discussion will ensure an ongoing collaborative relationship while defining the roles of the content provider, agency and brand group. While it sounds simple on paper, it’s often not so simple executionally.  Once the development process is underway, our content creators ensure the vision is realized and the technology is implemented to maximum effect.

3.   Selecting the Right Building

Pearl Media has created 3D projection events in Los Angeles, Miami, New York, New Orleans, San Diego, Las Vegas and other major markets. Through each experience, we’ve discovered new architectural opportunities, and limitations, while striving for the “perfect canvas.” Without preempting a future blog post, some of these limitations include building color, glass to wall ratio, lack of architectural depth, ambient light issues and projection & event space – proper space for viewing angles, hosting thousands of people and general foot traffic can have an impact on success. Since the animation process cannot begin until the building has been scouted and mapped, it’s critical to have 100% agreement on the building early. Further, once the building is selected, certain colors are more vibrant. Utilizing a darker building, for example, yellows, blues and oranges tend to express the best imagery. Finally, each building’s unique contours and configurations will cast special shadows that can be incorporated into the storyline and final effects.


4.   Make the time for calibration

The process of final animation rendering and projecting onto the building is not a simple point-and-shoot activation. These 3D projection executions utilize at least ten commercial grade HD projectors (often 25 projectors and up) to deliver the clarity and visual beauty that continues to wow audiences and spread virally. Logistical implementation including setting up the projectors, media servers and control boards is time consuming, and then the projectors are calibrated. The individual projectors cover a concentrated section of the building façade, so each projector needs to be perfectly aligned to create a seamless 3D projection.  This entire set up and calibration process typically takes two days prior to show time.


Exacting, collaborative, strategic, artistic and commercial, the typical 10 – 12 week process can be rigorous. But, based on feedback and ROI, so very worth it.

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