Little bit late in posting this (busy busy), but: a couple of weekends ago I was lucky enough to grab a spot on an amazing projection mapping course at Madlab, run by Elliot Woods. I’ve been hankering after doing more large-scale work, especially after the Tate projection I did a while ago, so when I saw this course come up I jumped at the chance.
The software that handles everything is called vvvv, and it basically looks like this (yep, no interface):
I’d never even heard of it until the course, but it’s a very clever piece of software, and I get the feeling that I’ve barely even begun to scratch the surface of it. The interface is massively minimal, very industrial and clean. You create programs (‘patches’) visually, by dropping in and connecting up blocks. It’s almost closer to electronics than programming in many ways, it took quite a bit of mental adjustment for me to get into the habit of doing things without code. Of course, you can also dig into it and write code too, but for our purposes we didn’t need to. The big, big difference that screwed with my brain a little was that vvvv doesn’t compile into anything: you just keep working on your patch and keep an eye on it as you go. This was a pretty big shift in approach for me, but actually for something like projection mapping where you’re working with real objects, seeing things ‘live’ is incredibly useful.
The first day was largely spent going over the software ins and outs: it was a long and pretty knackering day but very rewarding to get it all working. It’s rare these days where I feel like I’m learning something totally and utterly new: I’ve never used anything like vvvv before, so getting even the most rudimentary patch working, and actually understanding it all, was very satisfying.
Day two was when the action happened, we broke out the projectors! We started small, using a linemapping patch to pick out objects. The group I was in ended up pointing the projection at the ceiling and mapping onto the beams, which was pretty neat:
We then moved onto quad mapping, which is really powerful. This involves matching a geometric shape to the real object, which can then be treated as a ‘screen’ within the projection. We mapped onto stacks of boxes, and applied images and video all over the place. It’s a really clever technique, it’s such a simple idea but looks amazing.
We spent the rest of the day generally exploring the software and projectors, it was great to watch each group go in slightly different directions with it all. vvvv lends itself to experimentation really well: the barrier for entry with this kind of software is so low, just connect stuff and see what happens! Being up and running so fast with no prior knowledge is just not possible with code.
At the end of the second day, Elliot went into a demo of much more complex 3D mapping, defining points in 3D space and using that to map with. If I’m honest, I didn’t take much of this in at the time: I was pretty frazzled by this point! I’m sure once I sit down with it I’ll figure it out.
So anyway, yes: amazing weekend. I really feel like I’ve learned a proper, brand-new skill. And I’m not done yet! By happy coincidence, I’m already working on a projection piece at work, and after doing this course I’ve switched it up a little and we’ll be projection mapping onto objects instead of a flat surface. I’ve already started test mapping stuff in the studio, hopefully I’ll be going a lot more crazy with this in the coming weeks – with more to come!
With many thanks to the author, Dan Hett, an interactive developer and friend of MadLab.