Q&A: Projection mapping finds a way through pandemic

Aleksandr Istomin, co-founder and technical director, of dreamlaser says the pandemic forced change on projection mapping displays, with new approaches designed to accommodate online audiences. He speaks to Tim Kridel.

TK: How has the pandemic affected brands’ use of large-scale AV systems for advertising and promotions? (By large scale, I mean projection mapping, drone light shows and high-impact LED facades.) For example, before the pandemic, there seemed to be a healthy market for these. I’m wondering if there’s even more interest now because people are spending more time outdoors, whether it’s because of the return of concerts and sports, or simply wanting to be in fresh air. That would mean more consumers outdoors where they can see these displays.

AI: We could say the pandemic has had a rather unexpected effect from the point of view of dreamlaser. Staying at home meant the opportunity to see large-scale mapping in person was virtually non-existent, but instead municipal and governmental organizations made online broadcasts of shows possible, to spread information and celebrate various events regardless.

One of our largest events we produced used all our Christie D4K40-RGB pure laser projectors for a patriotic show "Light of the Great Victory" [pictured above] with mapping to the 87m tall monument ‘The Motherland calls’ in Volgograd and the Day of Russia at the Nizhny Novgorod Fair.

Both mapping shows existed in an online format. And since it was a shoot, we added augmented reality to get the perfect ethereal composition. It is worth noting that the quality, brightness and contrast of the image when projected by the Christie D4K40-RGB perfectly combines with AR graphics.

Now, mass events where 3D mapping can be used in the usual way are not yet fully allowed everywhere, but the warming is noticeable. For example, this March a large-scale mapping show accompanied the Muus Ustar youth festival in Yakutsk, where we also used all the Christie D4K40-RGB in the permafrost conditions. And, apparently, over time, such projects will become more and more.

In general, during the pandemic, we felt an increase in demand for AR and VR services. In particular, we actively worked with XR-virtual studios. We conducted broadcasts for Russian regions and global companies, in particular, we created a studio for the IBM forum.

 

TK: What types of brands are using projection mapping for advertising/promotions? Feel free to cite examples of dreamlaser clients. Readers also would be interested in some of the nuts-and-bolts technical aspects of those installations.

AI: As mentioned above, in recent years, mapping customers in Russia are state and budget organisations. The latest one project was in March 2021 for the Muus Ustar youth festival in Yakutsk [pictured below]. We projected onto the main venue of the festival (the sports training centre) "Triumph". This is the world's first indoor universal sports and entertainment complex, built on stilts on permafrost. The location was almost 8000 km from our domestic city.

TK: When they’re comparing technologies for big, outdoor displays, what draws brands to projection mapping over alternatives such as drone light shows?

AI: You can cover huge areas with a mapping projection. For this task, it is now mainly used. Screens – either impossible or expensive. The drone show is not yet very common in Russia, so it is more often preferred in the format "we have not done this yet", and its functions are different.

 

TK: What are the main considerations and challenges when it comes to content creation for projection mapping? And what might be possible a few years from now?

AI: There is no problem, as we create content for a long time and successfully, we know the features of projectors, and if we use lamp projectors, we make content with a whole range of restrictions on detail, contrast, and a set of colour palettes. But when mapping uses Christie D4K40-RGB “all in one” 45,000 lumen real laser technology, most of the restrictions on content are removed, and designers create much more efficiently. We value this a lot since now the dynamics of the mapping show can be built by changing the colour, and this is visible to the audience.