In case you are unfamiliar with the term, video projection mapping is the art of projecting video onto surfaces such as buildings, to create the illusion of 3D art. It is a fairly new art form that has quickly grown in popularity. Now, a head-turning projection is expected as a typical feature of any music festival set, product launch, or show.

“Projection mapping has really exploded because projectors have become cheaper and brighter — they used to be only found in conference rooms and only worked with the lights off”, says Brett Jones, co-founder of Projection Mapping Central to CNN. “In the past few years, we’ve also seen a growing number of software tools geared specifically for projection mapping…These tools let artist warp videos onto 3D objects, like buildings, shoes, or theater sets.”

3D building projection

The beauty of video projection mapping is that any real-world object has the potential to become a screen. It doesn’t have to be a flat surface; the projection cast will appear without any distortion. Normally a projection is beamed onto a building but not always, the surface can be anything. The really good projects enhancing rather than effacing the architecture or object they’re beamed onto.

The following projection mapping projects are out of this world. Of all the best shows out there, these are the most creative, spectacular, and unbelievably inspiring displays of light that absolutely must be seen…even if it is just by video.

Borderless by TeamLab

This creation is a magical dream world in the Digital Art Museum in Odaiba, Tokyo crafted by a Japanese art collective. The idea behind this project was to have different concepts and scenes flow together to form one ‘borderless’ world. The installation is brought to life using 520 computers and 470 projectors in a 10,000 square metre space that people can roam freely within. The exhibition’s description explains it as:

“Artworks move out of the rooms freely, form connections and relationships with people, communicate with other works, influence and sometimes intermingle with each other.”

Terraform Table by Tellart

This interactive lighting installation is a giant sandbox that’s been transformed into a rugged landscape, with mountains, valleys and lakes through projection mapping. The table is specially programmed to be able to read the height of the sand and respond to any changes. That’s where it gets interactive: you can dig a hole into the sand to form a lake, raise a hill to create a snowy peak, or smooth a river over to expand a forest. The inspiration for this project came from a question:

“Should we shape the Earth and other planets for human use?”

Bloom by 59 Productions

This project was conceived for the Edinburgh International Festival celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2017. This light show transformed the whole of St Andrew Square into a magical night garden.

Splash Dunk by Klip Collective

Nike had used water as the surface of projection for this promotion projection.

Tron Amazes by QED Productions

Another promotional projection, but this time for a movie – the sequel to Tron: Legacy. Here a science-fiction landscape was plastered across three surfaces of London’s South Bank Centre creating a maze-like environment.

Interconnection by Limelight

Here, the Palace of Parliament in Bucharest, Romania, was turned into “a psychotropic exploration of the interconnectedness of all things, man.” The inspiration behind this mind-altering adventure of a show is a mix up of contemporary visionary art and architecture, sacred geometry, physics and chemistry.

Box by Bot & Dolly and GMUNK

This project was a short film – the first of its kind. It combines live performance with 3D projection mapping performed by robots. It was created as you see it, without any special effects.

Battersea Power Station by Drive

This awe-inspiring visual experience was intended to raise awareness for the iconic building’s spectacular redevelopment. They used 360,000 lumens of immersive visuals to celebrate the building’s past, present and future.

Tokyo Station Vision by NHK Enterprise

JR East celebrates the opening of the reconditioned Tokyo Station with this jaw-dropping show.

Dr Blighty by Nutkhut and NOVAK

The Brighton Pavilion, on England’s south coast, was transformed into an Indian scene to celebrated Brighton Pavilion’s history as a WWI hospital for wounded Indian soldiers.

Speed of Light by Sharp and Jenkins

This short film is the worlds smallest all action police chase created by using hand-held micro projectors.

As Above, So Below by Light Harvest

A collaboration of a whole team of projection mapping artists turned the tunnels of the Manhattan Bridge into an animation you can walk into. The audience became surrounded by the animation, completely immersed in the projection by walking through the tunnel.

Sweater by Filip Sterckx

This project is a music video for singer Pieter-Jan Van Den Troost. A whole virtual world was created using just two walls, a treadmill, and some nifty projection.

Lighting the Sails by Urban Screen

They projected onto the Sydney Opera House’s iconic shell roof, the inspiration that brought the building itself to life.

Magic Carpets by Miguel Chevalier

The floor of the sacred space of the Sacre Couer Cathedral in Casablanca, Morocco was the canvas for this project. Visitors here were able to wander on a reactive pool of colors; The artworks change constantly and move under footsteps.

Scintillation by Xavier Chaissaing

This short low-budget film is a feat of artistic creativity with an innovative mix of stop motion footage and live camera projection. At one point there is a scene where the projection is viewed through the translucent petals of a flower.

Omicron by Romain Tardy

Here we have a minimalist aesthetic project at the Hala Stulecia museum of Architecture in Wroclaw, Poland that does an incredible job of highlighting the inside of the domes structural qualities.

Prague Church 600th Birthday by The Macula

The Czech capital’s oldest church, the Prague Clock Tower became a multi-layered video mapping that told the tales of its history in a spectacle of light.

Sagrada Familia by Moment Factory

The artist responsible for this complicated project had to use a 3D scan of the building to help map and light the show because of the complex geometry of the cathedral. The result was a show that combined video projection, gobos, sharp beam lights projecting beams into the sky, and lighting from the interior – all of which worked in perfect unison and symbiosis with the architecture.

“320° Licht” by Urbanscreen

A collective of German artists created this installation where they filled the 112-meter high former gas tank Gasometer Oberhausen with light. Animations were beamed across 20,000 square meters using 21 projections.

Light Theatre by Cosmo AV/La Maison Production

The International Circle of Light Festival in Moscow, Russia was the first to introduced human drama to the projection mapping genre with this project. This wasn’t just visuals, it told a story as well.

‘The A15 Project’ by Rem Koolhaas

The exterior of De Rotterdam skyscraper became the screen for Europe’s largest video mapping yet. “Driving into a new world” is a conceptual animation depicting the largest freeway in the Netherlands re-imagined for a sustainable future.

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