We are often asked, “What projector should I buy to start projection mapping / video mapping.” In reality projection mapping can work with any projector, it just depends how bright you want the image and how much money you have in your pocket.
So, a great way to start is to simply buy a projector, any projector, and start mapping. Here at PMC we’ve used a variety of projectors for our research, and we have some recommendations which we will start sharing weekly.
For beginners just starting out with projection mapping, we recommend a ‘short-throw’ projector. Normally, a projector has to be positioned quite far away from the display surface, about 2 feet away from the object for each 1 foot of display width. With ‘short-throw’ projectors it is possible to position a projector much closer to the display surface.
For instance, with one our recommended projectors, the InFocus IN122ST, the projector can display a 10 ft wide image at only 6 ft away from the object. (Pro tip: check out ProjectorCentral’s projector calculator, which can calculate the image size for any projector distance.)
This short throw is key for working in small workshop style spaces (or maybe your apartment). Also, it is less likely that viewers will cast shadows on your beautiful creation, as there is less distance between the projector and your object. Finally, these projectors tend to be brighter, as they are positioned nice and close to the display.
Here are our top pics for low-price short throw projectors.
If you are just starting out and you are eating Ramen to save up for your first projector. Then the InFocus IN122ST is the perfect projector for you. InFocus just announced this projector at a mind blowing low price of $369. The projector is quite bright at 3000 lumens, so it should work well in moderate ambient light (a few lights on in the room, or limited indirect sunlight coming into the room. The largest downside of this projector is the 800×600 (SVGA) resolution. Its only available at InFocus’ store, so get it there.
If you have slightly more money, go for the IN126STa for $779. It is brighter at 3300 lumens, and 1280×800 resolution. We’ve extensively used the older model InFocus IN126ST, which we’ve found to be a good maximization of price, brightness and resolution.
3. BenQ W1080ST
If you are looking to optimize resolution over brightness, then the BenQ W1080ST might be the right intro projector for you. It is 2000 lumens, and 1920×1080 resolution. It also supports NVidia’s 3D glasses (which you will probably never use because the glasses themselves are quite pricey), and it looks nice. This is actually the projector that I have in my living room for watching media on a 10 ft diagonal screen. Generally, with projection mapping we’ve found to give preference to brightness / contrast over resolution when looking for a projector. However, we’ve used the BenQ for projection mapping, and the resolution really looks nice up close and personal. The BenQ W1080ST will cost you $899 right now.
Next week we’ll cover installation projectors – if you need to permanently install a projection mapping installation.