When I first cast the vision for TripleWide Media, I wanted to have knowledge based resources on the site of the various multi-screen applications (such as environmental projection). Even though I began writing this post this week, I feel like I have been playing it out in my head for quite some time now. This is the heartbeat of our community section and something I hope equips thousands of people and communities in the future.
You will notice this is called “Part 1”. I want to go ahead and say that I don’t have a part 2. This is not one of those blog posts that causes you to keep coming back day after day to receive more information. I call it part 1 because I am sure that sometime in the distant (or near) future, I will write more on setting up environmental projection.
My ultimate hope is that this post will help you.
What is The Purpose of Environmental Projection?
The part of environmental projection that I love the most is it’s ability to engage an audience with visual imagery. It simply brings a vision and a room to life. Your audience will no longer feel like they are looking at something, but rather looking into something. Lets say for example we wanted to bring the people at an event into a rainforest. The traditional way of doing it would be to get a couple of actual trees (or plastic) and get a pre-printed backdrop to cover your back wall. The problem with this approach is that the audience has to look at a bunch of people in a so-called “jungle” but they don’t get to be immersed in one themselves.
With environmental projection, we get the opportunity, through still images and moving video, to invite the audience into a jungle. The audience isn’t looking at it, they’re in it! The best part of it all? Environmental projection is dynamic and can be changed at the click of a button. Imagine one moment we’re in the South American rain forest and the next we’re in a beautiful 10th century cathedral. You won’t be able to do that with some physical trees or backdrops will you?
Every room is different and I need to go ahead and prepare you that there is no “one-size-fits-all” environmental projection setup. Because there are no two rooms alike (for the most part), we’re going to use the same room for the sake of this post. Here’s the final product:
Now, unfortunately when I took this picture I left the lights on, but I think you get the idea. The visual is larger than life. That image is over 270′ wide. Now that we have a good point of reference, let me walk you through what I believe the best steps to executing environmental projection are.
STEP 1: EVALUATION OF THE ROOM.
The first step of setting up EP (environmental projection) is to evaluate your room. You will want to look at several factors. What exactly are we evaluating here? We’re going to want to look at lighting, use of current projection/technology, shape of room, angle of walls, budget, and what your install window looks like.
This is the step most people skip which is a huge mistake. If you don’t take the time to evaluate all these factors, it is virtually impossible to find the right equipment. As I mentioned above, there isn’t a “one-size-fit’s-all” projector that works for EP. (You would be pretty close to just go out and buy three 20,000 lumen 3 chip DLP projectors. If you don’t have $240,000 to put into projectors, then do this step.)
STEP 2: MEASUREMENTS.
Next, get out your tape measure or laser measure (it will save you time). At this point you (or consultant, our team, installation company, etc) should have an idea on projector brightness. Now it’s time to determine how many projectors you will need and what lens you need for each projector. You can determine this by the following measurements:
- Overall Width of projection surface.
- Overall Height of projection surface.
- Distance from back of room to projection surface(s). – This is to determine where you may be able to project from.
I’m not going to walk you through how to find the correct lens because most of you would stop reading due to the amount of mathematical equations. In most cases you will need 2 to 3 projectors. But, there are some exceptions (remember, no two rooms are alike).
STEP 3: FIND YOUR NATURAL INTERSECTIONS
In this step, I recommend looking at the room and locating the natural intersections, or places in the room (or on the walls) in which you can hide the alignment of two projectors. This may not make sense, so let me try and clarify. Go back and look at the picture above, the one with the jungle. It seems to be one complete image right? Well it’s actually 3 projectors. However we were able to align them in a way where you can’t see the edges of each projector. Our secret is natural intersections.
This may include separation of walls, screen edges, a column or stage element or possibly an imperfection in the wall. Side note: If you’re room doesn’t have ANY natural intersections, you will need a technology called Edge Blending. It can be expensive, but we’ll talk about that in another post. I guess this could already be a “part 2”. In short, the natural intersections are the places we can hid the seems of each projected image so the audience doesn’t see any edges. It may help to see what I am talking about in our example room. I have highlighted the natural intersections for this room in red.
These red boxes are where we aligned our projectors so the audience would not see any imperfections in the blend across the wall. In our example we used 3 projectors. See how the area between each projector was inside the natural intersection of the screen edges in this case.
By identifying these intersections, you will be able to create the effect of the image being cast across everything without anyone knowing that it is actually three separately projected images.
STEP 4: SOFTWARE & PROCESSING.
Many would argue that this step and step 3 should be flip flopped, but I disagree. If you cannot find natural intersections in your room, you will have a tough time determining the best software or equipment required to setup EP. For example, a room with natural intersections may be able to use a standard presentation software and an external multi-screen processor but a room without natural intersections may have to look into other alternatives such as edge blending hardware (or software) or other more advanced image mapping technology.
A critical process in this step is to determine what the purpose and use of EP for your room is. Will you ever want the image to be “tiled” (or repeated) on each section of the room? Will you ever want to display text or lyrics? Will you only want to do still imagery or will you want to play videos too? Will you ever want to manually dissolve two images (or videos) together? What software do you already own? These answers will all play a factor in the software you ultimately go with
Along with software, you will need some sort of multi-screen processor. In most cases, this is a piece of hardware. The Matrox TripleHead2Go, Sideview’s SideCar ConvergeAV SP123DP2DVI, Green Hippo Hippotizer or Vista Spyder System, and the DatapathX4 are all examples of various multi-screen processors.
For your convenience, TripleWide Media is a reseller of the Renewed Vision family of products including ProPresenter and the Matrox family of products including the TripleHead2Go. When you purchase of one of these products through TripleWide Media, we provide free phone and email support for the first 3 months at no additional cost because we just love helping people make these products work.
STEP 5: EQUIPMENT INSTALLATION.
Now you’re ready to install everything. This is a fairly straight forward section so I don’t feel the need to say much here. I would highly recommend looking into a professional installation company to install your projection hardware and mounts. This will make your install look clean and most installation companies give customers a year of support or at the least a warranty for the products you install.
STEP 6: ALIGNMENT.
Once you have installed/mounted projectors and taken care of getting all the right signal and power to your projectors the next step is to align. In order to do this well, you are going to need a good alignment pattern. If you don’t have any (or you don’t like what you have) don’t worry, we’ve got some great test patterns on TripleWide Media! They’re all a 2400×600 resolution and will make this step a lot easier. [Click here to download] In this step, you are simply matching up all the lines and the color coded angles. Here’s a picture of that process (we were using an older pattern that is a little more difficult to work with):
The goal: a square image. Square your projectors off of the stage and/or ceiling and then align the others from there (rather than the ceiling and floor on either side). This may sound like it will be a quick process, but it will take some time and fine tuning to get it right. Alignment is a bit of an art and will come easier to some than others.
If you are not aligned correctly, the image may appear warped or lopsided. There are two things to consider in this step. First, make sure the image is level. In our alignment pattern, use the red lines (they mark center) to make sure that the projector is actually level. If the projector is not level, you will never be able to achieve success for the next part. Second, use keystone correction to make your image line up to create a uniformly square image Don’t let the lines slant in any one direction and be cautious of your squares being trapezoids.
Most projectors have keystone correction in them, however; some only allow to keystone in one way or the other. Other projectors are just bad. Ultimately, you want to have the ability to keystone both Horizontally AND Vertically, not just one or the other. If your projector does not have a good keystone correction tool I would recommend looking into the Kramer VP-728. This device is spectacular. No matter what projector you use, it will allow you to pin point each corner independently while making very gradual adjustments. This will allow you to make it perfect. It also has the power to correct rotation or adjust to curved surfaces. It may set you back about $1000 per projector but it will make all the difference in the world.
STEP 7: MASKING & CROPPING.
As I mentioned at the very beginning, every room is different. Let me repeat that, EVERY room is different, and unless you have three incredibly massive perfectly proportionate screens, EP will not have a clean edge on all sides. Once your projectors are installed, part of the image may be on the ceiling, chairs, floor, light fixtures or other permanent pieces in the room. In this step you will want to “mask” (or remove) the portion of the image you do not want to show.
There are a few pieces of software that will allow you to mask out your image in the same program you use to display your images. This will save you the most money for sure and prevent the need of spending additional money on additional hardware/software. (Feel free to contact our team at [email protected] if you need more information on these).
When we mask something, we are simply preventing a portion of the image to be projected. Let’s go back to the example we’ve been using. Below is the mask we used for that room. As you can tell, the mask is an odd shape and we had to custom fit the chairs, stage, light fixtures, indention in the side walls, and the balcony.
We also created a second mask to mask out their existing screens that were hanging on both sides of the screen. This was in the event that they wanted to show something on their screens without EP messing it up. They also needed this additional mask because they happen to use IMAG during some of their events.
This step is crucial for the sole purpose of making EP feel custom to the room and not just a couple of projectors hitting the wall.
This process can take a lot of time, and if you’re doing a temporary setup there may be an alternative method for you. Our team at Orange Thread Media has used this method in many live events. Don’t try this if you are going to use the projectors day after day as there is a high chance of fire or permanent damage to the glass/lens.
I actually just wanted you to have a good laugh, but it does indeed help in certain circumstances. In this example, we’re just making the top and bottom very soft edges so it seems to just disappear into the ceiling or stage.
STEP 8: CONTENT.
We’re almost done but I need to mention this very critical step. Lets imagine that we have saved up tens of thousands of dollars for a brand new BMW 7 series (if you’re not a car person, that is a very nice car). However, in the process of buying the car, we didn’t account for the fact that we need some money left over for the gasoline. It’s the same way with EP. Don’t just buy all the equipment and neglect to consider what sort of “fuel” you are going to use in it.
That’s why TripleWide Media‘s tag line is “Fueling the Multi-Screen Movement.” Our hope is to provide you with a wealth of resources, including content to use in your environmental projection setup. We’ve taken the time to partner with the best producers in multi-screen content and we love it when we get to expose their art to the many users of triple wide video walls, environmental projection and other multi-screen video staging designs.
Go ahead and set-up your FREE account today and become a part of this community. If you’re brand new to this site let me share the coolest part of all about our content. No matter which motion, footage, still image or countdown you purchase you will get access to download three different resolutions (single wide, double wide AND triple wide.) We designed the site this way so those who use EP on an occasional basis or in only a few select rooms can use the content they purchase in other rooms that have a need for single screen content.
We really care about resourcing everyone in our community with content they can use. Enough about the sales pitch, In short don’t forget the importance of keeping content fresh and creative as you embark down the EP journey. If you are ever looking for something that you cannot seem to find in our content library, feel free to shoot us an email and we’ll pass that request onto our producer community.
I hope this post has been helpful in giving insight to the process of environmental projection. Our hope is to resource you with the tools and information necessary so you may create powerful environments for your organization, events, audiences and concerts. If you are are interested in finding a consultant to help walk you through this process let us know. We would love to come to your event space and give insight.
**I really care about investing in your organization and equipping as many people as possible with knowledge on environmental projection. In saying that, please feel free to share this post with anyone and everyone you think may find it useful. Feel free to print this off and distribute to your team if you find that helpful. I just ask that when you distribute it you don’t charge for it and giving TripleWide Media the copyright credit.
TripleWide Media is fueling the multi-screen movement by providing a collection of visual resources. Included in each motion, footage, countdown and still image are three resolutions. Buy any of these products and get access to download the Triple Wide, Double Wide and Single Wide resolutions. Sign up for a FREE account today and become a part of this amazing community.