The style of a projection mapping event could either be linear or consist of live mixing. These two kinds of creative practice have different workflows, meaning the way content is prepared is also quite different.
For a production that plays back pre-rendered content it is important to organise the audiovisual materials along a timeline, so the showcase can be repeated in the exactly same way, perhaps the following night or at another venue.
For a song with background visuals for example, you would ‘edit to soundtrack’, meaning the sound is produced first, then imported into a video editing environment. The song has – most likely – a certain pacing, structural sections, or other significant moments where the visuals must correlate, or come in ‘on beat’. For these moments, you can add markers. This will help to plan the duration of your visual materials.
Storyboarding linear productions is useful, especially if the visual materials need to correlate exactly with the lyrics.
The advantages of linear productions are that all visual materials are sourced and rendered in advance. The showcase can be rehearsed, to make sure it achieves the most impact. The main disadvantage is that there can be no spontaneous (re)actions or improvisations taking place.
Live projection mapping feeds off the role of the VJ, an artist who mixes visuals to sound. The content of a VJ’s visual display can vary from show to show, which makes the event less planned and more spontaneous. VJs can read the mood of the audience and respond to it through their projected imagery.
Live mixed visuals can accompany live improvised sound, which makes the event even less predictable and more open to random discoveries. Good improvisation partnerships can develop through practice, and feed off each other.
For a live mixing event involving projection mapping, projectors need to be set up and projection areas mapped out well in advance. Visual artists usually arrive with their own prepared banks of visual material. Some of this material may be ‘found’, some may be purposefully created, others may be stock material. Each artist has their own way of grouping their materials, so they can find particular loops or clips quickly. Some artists may incorporate a live camera feed into their performance, or visual effects that extend the variety of their image banks even further.
In comparison to a linear projection mapping project, a lot more materials need to be prepared for potential inclusion in the show. Instead of precise rehearsals there may be practice jams. In comparison to VJ-ing, live projection mapping has an additional challenge, which is to think spatially and decide during the performance which content will be displayed where.
You will need assets…
Linear productions work with a timeline and the creation of specific assets, for live mixing the timeline is less important, but access to a good number of assets. For both styles of practice, assets may include videos, motion graphics, still images, 2D animations, 3D content, camera feeds, other live image streams. Even when working on a budget, there are a means to create engaging content materials. Time to source some content…