Lately people have been talking about mapping. But how many people actually know what it means? Mapping has been here for a long time but in recent years it has gained significantly more popularity and accessibility. Big bands, artists, festivals and art exhibitions began to use mapping 3D as a new way of expression and as an advertising formula of success.
In the last decade, mapping took advantage of the great and fast technological advances. We could say that it replaced the traditional audio-visual productions that were performed at events and shows. Screens are no longer used, and ‘ad hoc’ surfaces have been made, where the projection is created uniquely and specifically for each particular event.
Usually when asked what the mapping is, one is left speechless. That is why, we will try to explain mapping in the simplest and most effortless way. Firstly, it is important to know that mapping is a technique that consists of projecting modified images on flat surfaces or surfaces with volume so they fit perfectly on a given surface. The projected video content is produced and adapted, specifically for each surface, generating light effects that are accompanied by a sound design and creates optical illusions generating an artistic show.
There are no limits when it comes to where mapping can be projected, on a car, on the facade of somebody’s house or on a large building. Some believe that the antecedent of this technique goes all the way back to 200 BC, with the famous representations of the Chinese shadows that were first used in the theatre world. Then, with the arrival of the “magic lantern”, created by Christian Huygens and Athanasius Kircher, it was possible to bring an image sequence projector to the “big screen” for the first time. It consisted of the light projection and optical resources to create the images and its success was immediate in the second half of the seventeenth century.
Others believe that mapping has a much more contemporary direct history. In 2003, 16 ¨Pigi projectors¨ (slide projectors with a great light output) were used for the first time at the renowned Fête des Lumières festival in France. They generated innovative and surprising spectacle for that time. Another quite recent antecedent, from the last decade, is the appearance of the video-jockey. The VJ is an artist dedicated to mixing video sequences in synchronisation with a musical base, animating illustrations made on his computer or generating loops, using scenes from movies or videos, adding filters to alter them and mixing them to make a composition of images.
In Onionlab, we constantly develop new concepts and approaches to take the 3D mapping technique further. We make use of optical illusions to transform inert facades into something organic, thus creating an immersive visual journey. That is why we are constantly researching new techniques and ideas for future projects.
Paradoxa, one of our most recent mappings, plays with the concept of time travel. This project was presented in the 2019 edition of the Solid Light Festival in Rome and it takes us on a journey through where we can see and experience different moments in time, projected on the facade of the building. Paradoxa is divided into three different moments that are repeated and add variations to the same time.
Another important point in the process of creating 3D mapping is deciding what you want to transmit with your project. The question is, what feeling do you want to capture, how do you want the spectators to feel. For instance in Axioma, our stereoscopic 3D mapping, each eye receives a different image and, through special glasses, the brain creates a single 3D image.
Axioma was presented in various cities such as Barcelona, Rome, Eindhoven and Binghamton. It is a sound and visual journey that immerses the audience in the journey through geometric shapes and transformations. It takes the spectators through different stages or dimensions: dimension 0, the point; dimension 1, the line; dimension 2, the plane; dimension 3, the volumes; N dimension, complex geometric shapes.
Another example of innovative mapping is Diplopia. It is the first 3D anaglyph mapping created and projected in Spain during the inauguration of the 2015 Girona International Mapping festival. Diplopia focuses on opposing concepts such as light and dark, flexible versus rigid, near and far, noise and silence, wet and dry… the volumetric contrasts and the illusion of depths create images that try to confuse, disturb and fascinate the audience.
A-cero, is another projection mapping we created for the occasion of the fifteenth anniversary of the A-cero architecture studio. The first six minutes review the three architectural lines used by the studio throughout its 15-year history. Firstly we started with laying out the basis of sculptural origin and finished off with samples of the most representative works in an immersive visual journey of lights, shadows and optical illusions that tell the story.
Language and technology change everyday depending on a project. The most important thing is to know how to combine the tools and technologies that already exist with the tools that can be created. You need to keep up to date with new trends, investigate, research and try. In the world of mapping, possibilities seem endless.