My first experiment

My first experiment involves mapping a video onto a 2D plane using 3D video mapping software. My final project will use 3D mapping to project onto a three dimensional shape. This first experiment will strictly involve projecting onto a 2D plane in order to familiarise myself with the various mapping techniques within my chosen software.

3D video mapping is the process of taking a video source and mapping it onto a 2D plane or 3D object creating a false perception of 3 dimensions and kinetics attributed to that particular piece of projection.  I will explain each stage what and how i accomplished this task. I downloaded two versions of VPT (Video Projection Tools) version 4 and 3 and started to familiarise myself with the software. There is extensive tutorial material explaining usability and functions of the application and by following step by step guidelines I managed to create a mapped surface on my design with the help of the masking function.

I would like to specify why this experiment isn’t considered 3D mapping and what the differences between 3D mapping and 2D masking are. Firstly, i am using a drawing which is situated on a 2D plane. I am projecting on it as if it would be any other flat surface a.k.a. traditional screen in normal VJing practice. Secondly, in order to map the video on specific areas of my drawing i have to use a mask to mask out unwanted areas for a video projection. If 3D mapping is prone to use a 3D object and map video on the object’s planes then in my case i am using solemnly a 2D surface in which case there is no third dimension or surface to instantiate therefore it cant be regarded as a 3D mapping and consequently is a 2D video mapping only.

To start with here is the interface of the program (version 3):

The reason why i started with version 3 is because it has a very well explained straight forward manual and i thought by starting with a simpler version of this application would be better to understand the basic tools and logistics. I found tutorial videos (included in download package) very helpful and my previous experience with Max/MSP layout made me feel like a fish in the water. I was familiar with the controls and file uploading features as well as the navigation. For kick off I decided to do a very basic first test using my original stage design sketch and map a video on it.

I chose to use this drawing for the test because I think it is one of most satisfying designs I have come up with and it will be the main root sketch from which i will develop my final design:

Firstly, i thought of how can i map a video on the white surfaces of this face. In total i have 6 disjointed areas which require an individual masks. I had an option to draw mask straight into a program and adjust it but i found it very insufficient with rather clumsy outcome. Drawing a mask or distorting cornerpins of the layer inside the program proves to be successful only with rectangular shapes where adjustment of only 4 main cornerpoints is required. In my case i have a complex curved shape and it requires more sophisticated mapping tool. The ideal is to create a mask and use it to define specific areas. I have to compromise one feature though: i will lose a sense of borders.

If i have a video mapped onto a distorted rectangular the picture will be affected by strange re-coordination of the plane. If i would manage to stretch my video plane into this particular curved shape, the video content would still appear distorted and stretched in some areas. It can be a good thing and a bad thing. The good thing is: if I use a generative video tool where borders work as a part of my video and there are some elements bouncing of those borders. It would give an immanent feel of the area they are confined to. If i am using a video, lets say, ducks swimming in the pool, by morphing a video plane in order to adjust the curvature of the plane my ducks will become like alien zombies and will be totally unrecognisable! I intend to use generative mathematical visuals without any worldly associations to it so considering outline borders would be a cool feature. But it is very complex to achieve if I am using one software to project and other to generate the visuals. I will do more experiments in next stages of the development and will update the accordingly.

Conclusively I chose to generate a mask and to obtain a perfect mask is to work with the source file per se. I imported this image into Photoshop and created a black and white image where black will be masked out areas of video and white areas will let video come through. Here are some production stages and resulting image (please, excuse my sloppiness):

This is my final mask which i imported in Mask folder and dragged it into VPT operating window.

Then i chose only one image plane and applied a mask on it which resulted in this:

[vimeo 30914772]

This is only a test and these are just first steps to get myself familiarised and comfortable with the program. I succeeded in mapping on dedicated fields of my design using a single mask in its very crude basic version. I created a single mask for all pieces which limited me to only a single video use at a time. The next step is to finalise a sketch which i intend to use for an actual project and generate separate masks for each piece of the face individually. That will allow me to introduce more video sources for separate parts of the face and make it overall more dynamic and diverse. I still need to do more experiments in implementing a live video generative feed from Processing happening live and only then i will expand on more complex structures and solutions based what is realistically achievable.

This video demonstrates the main idea of the video mapping using a mask. Next video is little bit longer with the same concept but using few different video sources. This is only a test and doesn’t reflect on the final visual aesthetics of the piece, i was using a default built in footage from the program just to do basic tests with different types of footage. My initial aim is to create black and white visuals only.

[vimeo 30915866]

At this stage of the project it is not a 3D mapping praxis and I have to admit it is not quiet a simple video projection either. It is a specific video projection where I want to affect only particular areas of the design. With the help of projecting onto 2D planes I am bringing out the overall shape of the object and optically separating it from the background. Everything that doesn’t have a projection mapped onto it’s surface instantly becomes a background. Parts of the face which have projection mapped onto it virtually extrudes from the flat surface. I love the idea of tricking the eye and consequently the brain to perceive this unusual light distribution on a flat surface and test how it reacts. It doesn’t look 3D if i try to observe this projection from different angles, but it looks a little unusual when viewed from directly in front without moving. It gives a strange feel to the faces surface and instantly obtains some qualities of being “alive” and constantly changing. This is a realm I want to explore deeper by adding 3D qualities to this face design and project a live video “skin” onto it, constantly changing and evolving almost like a separate entity of life inhabited on planes resembling a face. This is a creepy subject and I hope people will have as much fun enjoying it as i do making it.)


2 thoughts on “My first experiment

  1. Image “2011-10-25-10-15-00.jpg”
    What is this illusion called?
    What software did you use to design it?
    I am trying to duplicate this with the illusion of a face and would really appreciate some advice

    Thank you in advance!

    • Hello!
      This project was a very long time ago, and I would be happy to help but i have forgotten many things! To start with, the software is called Video Projection Tools (VPT), and now you can download it here:
      There are plenty of tutorials on the creators’ site which you can reference in order to learn the basics.
      The technique I used was a very basic projection mapping, where I used a mask to show the projection through…When you project something (a video, still image, anything) from your projector it normally, based on softwares and tools, of course, is square. If you want to specialise area where you want this projection to be, that starts to get more complex and you have to use mapping techniques. I didn’t use Mapping technique where you create a specialised area within program, you can draw complex shapes and tell the programm to put video inside of them. You draw these spacial areas simultaneously looking at your object in physical world. Mask is a tricky way to say, play video inside of this mask, but in truth I hide everything what is outside the mask…So technically I can only see the mask area filled with video.. Again, depending on softwares, and there are many, you can fill video in those areas you have specified in lot of many ways.. Because using a mask will hide certain parts of the full video, it might not be the ideal solution, if you want full size of your chosen video to be fitted in the special area, that means you will need to draw a map, that is mapping..
      There are many softwares which does video mapping, open source is VPT, but there are several which you need to buy, for example MadMapper, PaintingWithLight, Avenue… Have a search and watch some tutorials which will give you more understanding about possibilities and then you can choose from the tools available to you depending on your budget. VPT is not easy, but once you have cracked it and start using it will come to you.. depends what sort of interface you are familiar with, each software is totally different in look, but does kind of similar things, just in different ways…
      If you have any more questions, I am happy to help and please read my blog thread where i document things step by step.. maybe my language is not so easy to understand because I am not English, but hopefully it can lead you towards your own success..
      Best of Luck! keep me posted. Kavi

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