Written by Joe Bleasdale, Associate Product Manager
Video mapping is simply telling the video content what surfaces it should play on. When describing media servers to people who don't know what one is, it’s a good analogy to start with the concept of a DVD player and the way TV’s handle playing 4:3 box style movies vs the newer 16:9 widescreen format. Despite their slight differences, most widely produced video content is rectangular, and thus the TVs are rectangular as well. This makes the job fairly easy for DVD players, but for media servers, the tasks are often much more complicated.
You might be putting a single video on multiple screens of varying sizes, for example, you may have multiple LED screens of varying sizes and formats (which is often referred to as creative LED) and projectors in the same show. To display the same piece of content on all of them can be a challenge; there are two key workflows that can achieve that outcome. The 2D workflow consists of chopping the video up to suit the different display devices and the 3D workflow allows you to treat the entire stage as one single canvas, no matter what display devices are contained within it.
Technical uses of video mapping
The technical side of video mapping usually consists of choosing the right workflows for the occasion. For example, if you were projection mapping a car, you would choose a different workflow and equipment set than you would for a simple rock ‘n’ roll show with static IMAG screens. If you choose a workflow that is incompatible with the kind of project you are trying to do, there will be many technical compromises down the line which can result in a less than desirable result. Using the car mapping example, if you were to use a 2D workflow, you would end up stretching pixels as you warp the flat content around the 3D object. Whereas if you picked the 3D workflow, you could map the car pixel perfect without stretching pixels by utilising UV mapping which can only be done with a 3D workflow.
Artistic uses of video mapping
Much like the technical side of video mapping, careful consideration of equipment and workflow choice is needed ahead of time to ensure the artistic vision is achievable. With most modern media server systems, most production teams start pre-production long before getting to site. These pre-production workflows are essential for the creative teams because they allow the team to get a very clear idea of what items they need to deliver. For example, the content creators can be given pixel perfect content templates to work to, and as long as they stick to those templates, the content will fit the display devices perfectly. On the technical side, as long as the media server programmers make their mappings and outputs match the content templates, the artistic vision will be achieved.
As with all complex productions, the best way to achieve high quality video mapping - is for both the technical and creative teams to communicate clearly and work together form the start. Video mapping can be as basic, or as complex as the user wants to make it.