Ok, so you want to start projection mapping…?
The good news is that there are a lot of programs out there that will allow you to do so, but before you put the time in to learning any of them, take a quick peek at my thoughts below or just play around in our Tools section and see for yourself: http://projection-mapping.org/tools/
These tools are just the start and if you learn one, then the next step is to start making content for your mappings.
Lets first start by narrowing down your options based on Budget (<$1,000 or higher) and Hardware ( Mac / PC / Linux ).
While this question may seem basic to answer, your choice here could make the difference in the long run. That also being said, if you plan on outputting to more than 6 individual projectors you should consider upping your $1,000 software budget ( see Pro Systems at bottom of page).
First up, Mac. Apple’s dominance of the market has been growing wildly over the past number of years, and for good reason too… They use high end components when building their machines, the average mac should last you well over 3 years, but they do come at a cost, and if your a super user, you may want to upgrade every year for higher performance, thus -> PC. For Mac OSX there are a number of easy to use applications, but the drawback in learning them is hardware costs and lack of user upgradability.
And so, PC’s, without getting into the argument of Mac vs PC, I will say this, more than 2 video cards, custom media servers, lower prices, full user upgradability, tons of options, and even Hackintosh’s. That being said, I personally still use a Mac for projection mapping, but that may change soon.
Next up, Linux, if you are running this type of setup, at this current point in time the only piece of projection mapping software that I am aware of is, LPMT, but that being said, LPMT is based off of OpenFrameworks C++ tool for creative coding. Since OpenFrameworks is code based, if want to program your own software, write your own scripting, then the sky is the limit and there are more options out there than I am willing to get into.
Lastly Code, is a small word for such large possibilities, Open Frameworks, Processing, etc. etc. If you can program you can choose any of the above operating systems, get the performance you are looking for and even reduce costs, but the trade here is time. Most of the work is done for you with the Mac / PC applications and since content is king, if a project is just around the corner, it may be in your best interests to start creating your visual content than to start experimenting with code. Either way the choice is yours.
That being said, I’m only going to focus on the two primary choices in this article.
Software (Mac & PC):
What’s great is that a lot of the software used for creating content is cross platform, Mac & PC mainly. Popular tools of the trade include, Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects, & Cinema 4D, while there are many more, these 4 and others like them should give you a large enough playground to create custom visuals. Additionally, while they are not in the list below check out OpenFrameworks, Isodora, Max MSP, vvvv, and Processing.
As for Projection Mapping software, here are my rankings with reasons below: (Note: these are my person opinions and not those of PMC).
#1: Madmapper is simple and powerful, it is a stand alone Projection Mapping software that is constantly being updated based on user feedback, it also hosts a load of other features. And due to its focus as a stand alone mapping software it currently sits at #1 in the Mac category for performance, simplicity, and price.
#2: Millumin comes in 2nd, but not far from Madmapper, just different, it is also a great piece of software and focuses on a timeline playback, meaning if you are looking to pull off a multimedia show multiple nights in a row, than Millumin might be your number #1.
#3: Resolume Arena 4, With more features than Madmapper & Millumin, it is first a VJ software & second a projection mapping application, it’s not that they can’t do similar things, but Resolume’s interface may take your more than a day to learn and is better suited for live visual blending and mixing in addition to projection mapping.
#4: Arkaos GrandVJ XT; similar to Resolume, it is both a VJ & Projection mapping application and its abilities are split between the two, one of GrandVJ’s core functions is it’s integration with Arkaos’ MediaMaster, which is listed in our pro systems section.
#5: VPT 7, rated 5th but still on the list because it is actually perfect for almost anyone looking to start, why? because it has all the features that you need and it is FREE. While the others will provide you with a demo, VPT 7 is ready to be learned. It’s GUI is not as intuitive as some of the others, but there are enough tutorials floating around to easily get you started.
#1: Touch Designer, and if it was available natively for the mac than it would be #1 there too; however, there is definitely going to be a learning curve, a few months for most new comers and while it is node based you are going to want to learn some code with it as well. While it is not as easy to master as Madmapper, VPT, or Resolume, it has quickly become the backend for most of the professional companies out there. Get good enough with Touch Designer and you may even find a career in doing so.
#2: Resolume Arena 4, with Resolume’s custom DXV video codec you can get great playback performance on a Windows machine that surpasses many other applications. Its boat load of features, mapping and VJ, make it a great stand along program for just about any venue.
#3: Arkaos GrandVJ XT, similar to Resolume, it is both a VJ & Projection mapping application and its abilities are split between the two, one of GrandVJ’s core functions is it’s integration with Arkaos’ MediaMaster, which is listed in our pro systems section.
#4: VPT 7, VPT 7 is ready to be learned. It packs all the features that you need to get started and it is FREE. The GUI is not as intuitive as some others, but there are enough tutorials floating around to easily get you started.
#5: (Updated) Mapio 2 Pro, after taking in some user feedback and experimenting with Mapio 2 Pro’s pixel mapping features, Mapio has replaced Facade Signage in the number 5 spot. It’s GUI is less confusing than that of FS and Visution continues to add more 3D functionality into it’s backend. It is available for Mac & PC, but due to it’s memory usage and cpu load on the mac end it did not make the cut.
Now to: BRING OUT THE BIG GUNS
I can’t rate the pro systems in a specific order because I haven’t used all of them, hopefully that will change some day, but for now I will say they pack enough power and technical support to pull off the biggest events to date. There are many companies out there and we are constantly updating our tools section, so click here to stay updated.
Can we say Super Bowl XLIX w/ Katy Perry – d3 Systems
Or good enough for Celine Dion maybe good enough for – Coolux
87th Academy Awards with Hippotizer – GreenHippo
Vioso, servers and software.
Additionally, Arkaos offers MediaMaster and servers that run stadiums.
Avolites originally known for their lighting consoles also offers advanced projection mapping and autoblending with their software and media servers.
Lastly I just wanted to add that Front pictures figured out a way to hook up 64 projectors to a single media server using touch designer. http://blog.frontpictures.com/multimedia-renaissance-by-front-pictures/
I hope you found this article helpful in making your decision, as the software changes, so will this list, keep checking out our Tools section to stay up to date on the latest.