Installation, Alignment, and Masking of Environmental Projection
Three of the most important aspects of environmental projection are installation, alignment, and masking. Without these, you’ll never be able to create that amazing environment you’ve dreamt about. How and where do you get started? Let’s take a look at the details below.
There isn’t much to say about installation aside from the fact that it needs to be completed and it needs to be safe. I’m sure you’ve seen the pics online of installation nightmares. Your projector shouldn’t be held together with tape, zip ties, or tie line. If you don’t know what to do or where to start, then find a qualified installation expert. If you need help with this, give us a shout!
“I’m not an installation expert, but I hate it when you have to move projectors that have already been installed. You know what they say: Measure twice, cut once.” – Luke McElroy, Environmental Projection The Collision of Modern Technology and Sacred Spaces.
Beyond simply hanging your equipment in the proper location, you’ll need to consider power, cable runs, sight lines, and equipment protection for your install. Creating an amazing EP experience requires attention to detail. Details start with installation.
Ok, so now that we have the projectors installed safely, it’s time to align your projectors. The best and simplest way to do this is by projecting a few different test patterns up on your walls. We recommend at least the following three.
One – An alignment grid; this is a series of lines and high-contrast grid patterns. In order to make EP work, you need your images to consistently align across the spectrum. The alignment grid helps you dial in any keystone, zoom, focus, or position changes you need to make. While some softwares will give you some test patterns, we recommend using the ones we provide as they will give you a more consistent representation of what your software output will look like.
Two – the second pattern is going to be the horizontal color bars. EP is so massive and interconnected that you need to be able to ensure that your color quality will match across all of your projectors. Horizontal color bars allow you to run each color the entire way across your room to ensure that you can make any color adjustments needed.
Three – gray bars test pattern. Now that the projectors are aligned and the colors are consistent, we need to be sure that the brightness matches. This test pattern gives you the simplest way to evaluate your brightness levels and make adjustments as necessary.
All three of these are must-haves for your toolbox. Don’t overlook these items as you prepare to transform your environment with EP.
All in all the alignment process is fairly simple. From the basics of making sure all of your projectors are setup as front projection, level, and square to the wall (as much as you possibly can) to the more detailed options of keystone and corner pinning, you can align your projectors quickly and efficiently with three simple test patterns.
Masking is what takes your EP to the next level. Even with the best alignment you will see your projection hitting areas you don’t want it to like your vocalists or band, set pieces, your ceiling, etc. This is where masking helps focus your EP and create boundaries to help it look and feel more natural, like paint on the walls.
A mask simply projects black where you don’t want an image so that the projection image seems to magically fit perfectly into place with ridges, ceiling lines, balconies, speaker clusters, etc.
We get a lot of questions about how to mask. Is there a quick start guide or tutorial? Is there a pattern or template? Simply put, no. Each and every room is different meaning there’s no way to create one standard mask that’s a catch all. However, there are a few things you can do to make it a bit easier.
First – begin by projecting a white background. Essentially you’ll be able to see everything the light touches. This makes it simple to figure out what to mask out. Simply start projecting black in those areas you don’t want the light to hit and you’ve got your starting point.
Second – don’t forget about your choir, band, vocalists, etc. It’s obnoxious when you’re onstage and continually hit with blinding light. You also don’t want to see shadows moving around on your stage during your services. Take the time to feather out the areas that will hit anyone on stage. Not blinding your team will help keep everyone happy.
Third – mask out your screens. I like to create at least one additional mask that takes into account the screens. Sometimes you may put a video or IMAG on your screens and you won’t want whatever EP motion or still you’re using playing over the top. This will help keep everything clean and simple.
Fourth – don’t forget your audience. As much as those onstage don’t want to be blinded, the folks in your audience or congregation really doesn’t want to be blinded by the light. Spend the extra time to make sure projection isn’t hitting those in the crowd. It will keep the focus on EP and not create a big distraction.
Fifth – avoid the ceiling. Just like wallpaper shouldn’t bleed onto the ceiling, neither should EP (unless you’re doing a full ceiling projection as well.) Ceilings that have EP creeping up on them give the appearacne of random cut off points making EP appear incomplete and messy.
Masking effectively is all about the details. Whether you’re using the built-in functions of your software, the projector, or a specific masking software, remember that it will take time and effort to complete effectively.