Which Projection Mapping software?

Which Projection Mapping Software Projectileobjects
Which Projection Mapping software?

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 ).

1. Budget:
     The good news here is that most Projection mapping software is priced reasonably under $1,000; some of it is even free, but if your looking for that $1,000+ category see my notes under Pro Systems at the bottom of this document.
2. Hardware:
    Mac / Linux / PC / Code

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.

(Note: While there is iOS and Android development along with Pi and other specializes environments I am not going to focus on them in this article).

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, IsodoraMax 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).

 

Mac:

#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.

PC:

#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

Pro Systems:

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

MXWendler’s Media Server, which is also the powerhouse behind one of the largest projection mapping competitions in the world: http://genius-loci-weimar.org/

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.

ProjectileObjects
Cornelius is an award winning video director and VJ, using projection mapping, cinematography & motion graphics to expand the human visual experience. His VJ name and company is ProjectileObjects. (projectileobjects.com | @Pro_Objects)
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  • Avolites does the Olympics. 🙂

  • Massimiliano Mitch

    really do you forget Mapio 2 ?

    • Massimiliano,
      I did not forget Mapio 2 Pro, it just didn’t make the cut due to UI design and performance. As you can see from the attached images, this was with both programs playing the exact same video with full screen output and only one slice. Once you start adding more slices into the mix this load and memory usage becomes greater, Resolume and GrandVJ have a similar load to Mapio, but they also have a complete VJ backend and have been optimized for multiple clip playback. On the PC side, I’d put Mapio 2 Pro on the List if VPT wasn’t free. Facade Signage only came in #5 because it had some more unique projection mapping features than Mapio for windows. Mapio has Pixel mapping which is an awesome feature, but is more of a DMX & lighting aspect than a projection mapping one.

      Mapio2Pro : 81.4% CPU Load & 331.9MB of memory

      vs Mad mapper: 61.9% CPU load & 119.7MB of memory

      Madmapper is using more than half the memory than Mapio and has a lower CPU load.

      I hope that answers your question.

      • Massimiliano Mitch

        Thanks for you kindly reply, Proj.

        Mapio 2 has also FreeFrameGL plug-in, witch is pretty usefull with Resolume

  • demens

    resolume is the best software available, taking note that arkaos grandvj XT came like 10 years later than resolume, RESOLUME is light years ahead of arkaos

    • Agreed, but just to note Arkaos has a pro division that uses media master and enables media server support. Resolume is a much better stand alone application IMO, but there is a reason why some professional companies still choose Arkaos over resolume.

  • ed

    what about the Catalyst Server?

    • Ed,
      I’m in talks with Catalyst and waiting for them to lend me some info for the Tools section of PMC. As soon as they do that, I can add them. If you know of any other media servers please shoot me an email and I will try and talk to them.

      Thanks,
      ProjectileObjects

  • stoni

    Seems you forgot a whole lot of applications. Isadora is not even mentioned, where is Ventuz? Just to name two.

    • I am in talks with Isodora who is currently changing their look and we have plans to incorporate them on the tools page and then test & update this article. As for Ventuz it is similar to Vioso in that it is pieced together in 3 Pieces of software and hardware. Ventuz Director, Ventuz Designer, Ventuz Runtime & Vbox bringing the budget well above the $1,000 mark. I will reach out to them and see if they would like to be added to the tools page. Thanks Stoni

  • Erki Kannus

    Since your title is Projection Mapping Central I think you should try to include more very good mapping apps.

  • Simon Harris

    Interesting that arguably the two most successful media servers of all time namely Hippotizer & Catalyst aren’t mentioned. Live Design just named Green Hippo’s SHAPE projection mapping software as projection product of the year 2014-2015…

    • Thanks Simon,
      There are more media servers coming out everyday and I’m just trying to keep up to date, this article was more focused on <$1,000 software. I have reached out to Hippo and Catalyst and as soon as they are added to the Tools page then I can add them an update this article.

      Thanks Again,
      ProjectileObjects

  • sekmo

    Which system could you suggest for doing dome projection mapping?

    • Sekmo,

      The two that I would look into are:
      Blendy Dome VJ ($1,000 w/ Hardware): http://projection-mapping.org/

      There is also fulldome pro, but I have had a hard time getting ahold of them.

      With most of the softwares above, edge blending, and output to multiple projectors you can do dome mapping, but the workflow is not going to be optimized such as the ones I mentioned above.

      Hope that helps,
      ProjectileObjects

      • sekmo

        Oh, I forgot to thank you 🙂

  • i.a.

    what about mapio ? its a great tool

    • i.a.,
      I did not forget Mapio 2 Pro, it just didn’t make the cut due to UI design and performance. As you can see from the attached images, this was with both programs playing the exact same video with full screen output and only one slice. Look in the comments someone else asked a similar question and I gave them a slightly longer answer.

      Mapio2Pro : 81.4% CPU Load & 331.9MB of memory

      vs Mad mapper: 61.9% CPU load & 119.7MB of memory

      Madmapper is using more than half the memory than Mapio and has a lower CPU load.

      I hope that answers your question.

    • your right.

  • Shoot me an email and we can add it to the tools page. projection-mapping.org/tools/

  • Looking into it. Thanks Alfonso

  • Rodolfo Porto

    Very good your blog !
    What mapping software I can make a virtual attendant as this Intel ?

  • raj kumar

    Very good blog interesting discussions, really love it.

  • Pilar

    Which system could you recommend for doing cake projection mapping for weedings?

    • Karla Alcántar

      I use Resolume Arena 4 in Mac for this… it’s pretty easy to learn and you can just leave it there.

  • Mick Jones

    Hi I was just wondering If anyone could help me with the right level of spec on a PC for professional 3D graphic animation software and mapping software, the big trouble Is I’m trying to get a very powerful laptop because I’ll be using Pangolin Beyond laser display software and mapping software at the same time live, I’ll probably have to have It custom built , as well as a high level of main processors and ram will I need two graphic boards.

    Thank you for your time regards Mick.

  • Faisal Masaud

    Hi,
    I want to use project mapping for building models .. which application and projector is good for this ?

  • corey whit

    What program do you think is best for someone brand new to this and wants to do projection mapping for advertisments on buildings and structures in public areas and such? I was thinking madmapper?

    • corey whit

      Also, i was going to purchase the epson 2040 to learn on objects in my house with as i already have two sony vpl-fh500l’s to use on the larger structures once learn the software. Any thoughts or help would be appreciated

  • Raul Haynes

    Hi , I am very much new to this.. I really want to buy this to use outdoor. I assume I need a , Projector and software to start. Do I need some kind of a media server? Are there any links/site where I can just buy the items I need?

    • Raul, this tends to be a complicated question for most. It all depends on your setup. For outdoor use a minimum of 6,000 lumens is recommended. These projectors can start to add up in cost depending on the resolution you are looking for.

  • Ludovic Roux

    On PC, there are professional system that you didn’t mention : Dataton Watchout and Modulo Pi. Dataton is a modular system allowing to map on large areas with a virtually unlimited number of video projectors, each with its own resolution and edge blending settings. It offers a powerful deformation grid, a user-intuitive multi-layer programming system, MIDI sync and triggering, 3D deformations and animated properties for every object (video or image), it supports alpha…

    Modulo Pi is quite similar, but it’s more cuelist-oriented (while Watchout is more based on timelines) and it goes further in term of deformations since it has a complete multi-zone deformation system with curve interpolation and many communication protocols to interact with MIDI, DMX or even graphic switchers like the Barco Encore…

    • You are correct Ludovic, but as the article states the focus of this was on the sub-$1,000 software. All of those + the costs for their hardware integration is above what most beginners are looking for. Not to mention there are so many “professional” options out there with very proprietary workflows, that it would take a dedicated article on each of them to cover the pro’s and con’s. We have a number of D3, Avolite, and Green Hippo fans that also swear by their own setup and workflows. As I like to think about it, depending on what the rental company has, that’s what most of us use.

  • Coki Parulian

    What do you think about pix4d?

    Which camera pixels resolution do I need for 3d mapping surveying?

    I am looking forward for your advise.

    Best regsrds,

    Coki Parulian

  • 조용주

    Thank you for sharing good information,
    is there any projection mapping software that can import 3D surface CAD data (STL file) and map?

    • Madmapper offers 3D import (It is still “new”), MWM offers it (http://projection-mapping.org/tools/mwm/), Touch Designer, Isodora, and higher end media server players off this. You may have to convert your .STL to an .OBJ, which can be done simply with MeshLab.

  • alf3

    Is that realtime/live facial tracking or are you speaking of some other tracking capabilities ?

    • You’d want to experiment with coding based software for face tracking. Try Touch Designer.

  • carla

    I have tried vpt7 for a while but it cracked eventually and I sent them many emails asking for more detailed information about the VGA requirements and windows version if its a 64 or 32 bit.
    with no answer.
    I am willing to buy a good software but I need a simple and practical one just like the vpt7 for a pc 64bit.
    what do you recommend ?
    Thank you in advance and best regards.

  • Anderson Sudario

    I am curious if for all of these softwares, we need projectors and objects to be static, of if there are any tools available for dynamic projection mapping. Thanks!

    • Anderson, awesome question. Look into Touch Designer & Isodora to start.

  • Ale

    sooo…. I’m changing my computer what should I go for?? Mac or PC?

    • jour-noir

      there are more softwares available for PC … and “Touch Designer” is only for PC

      have a thought