Wonderland Projection Mapping Guidelines

Update 3/6/14:

“Wonderland Unbound” final projects are due in class next Wed. night 3/12/14. We will have a new class folder for final projects. The files should be Quicktime, Photojpeg codec. with 90% compression. Please use the same resolution as the template composite that was provided. For students who are providing sound effects and music soundtrack please ask them to render:

  • 1 with no sound
  • 1 with sound efx only
  • 1 with sound efx and music
Name your files with the “title_no_sound.mov”  and “title_with_fx.mov” and  “title_with_fx_and_music.mov”

Sound is a bonus but not required.

That said, sound effects can add so much more impact to your visuals and of the overall experience! Please consider taking the time to add some well-placed sound effects, such as meowing Cheshire cats, opening and shutting windows and doors, screaming Alice as she falls down the rabbit hole, ticking clocks, rivers of water, etc…

If your piece is visual music, than of course, you will need to have that particular music for it to work right. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask me or contact Thomas Williams: biomorphica@gmail.com

Update 2/7/14:

“Wonderland Unbound” concepts are due in class next Wed night. I’ll have Einar create a class folder for you to put your pdfs and whatever else you’ve got to show us by 6:30pm next Wed. Your pdf can contain text, image, and even quicktimes, and are the preferred format. Remember, it is fine to recycle your existing images and animations from other class projects. You may either partner up or go solo for this project. 

Also!! Breaking news!!   7StarSun has two more potential projects to offer our class!

1) They are looking for 1 or more graphic designers in Hench-DADA to work on a special text-based typographic, motion graphic treatment of Carroll’s Jabberwocky.  They have recorded an actor reading this nonsense poem, and it will be your task to bring the words to life.  It will be one piece lasting 2-3 minutes and will include all the fun Jabberwocky words and phrases smashed and twisted and twirled and whatever else inspires you, images and text. The placement of the words on the building, timing, and creative variations are key for this piece. If this sounds like it mike be right up your alley, please consider contact them. This is a great opportunity for our graphic designers and motion graphics experts to run with a longer project. You’ll be collaborating directly with the 7Star Sun team on this, so it’s great networking potential too.

2) The second project is to create the visuals to go with a recorded biography of Lewis Carroll that sets about to explain why his literary and intellectual works are so important and enduring. Students would come up with concepts that include humor, irony, and whimsy, including the story of his life, and significance of his work. For example it might be that the voiceover could be lipsynced and matched to one of the Carroll characters, such as the Cheshire Cat. There are any number of ways to educate the viewers about his life and ideas in a creative way projected large on the building.

7StarSun has also provided some images from the collection for you. (If you don’t see what you need, then contact Abby at the library.) The images are here:

here is a link to the photos from the collection:
and here is a link to download them all in a single zip
Brien Rullman is the 7StarSun contact for the images:   <vj_tek@mac.com>

Update 1/30/14:

Here is the new After Effects composite file: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5wwnhk4QsGqRnRiU19wU25nZnM/edit?usp=sharing

It is the same comp as before, except that we have broken down the object ID image (that multi-colored map of the various bits of architecture) into separated masks. This will make masking much easier.

Contact Thomas Williams with any questions: biomorphica@gmail.com

Mapping Guidelines provided by 7StarSun

We are providing a 2D and 3D template files, which are simply an AE comp and a 3D model of the building.

The 3D file is .fbx (filmbox, which is the autodesk universal import format). This will import into any version of Maya. The comp file was created in After Effects CS5.5. We will also provide a maya2012 file.

Start with the After Effects comp provided. The comp contains 2 layers. A photo of the building and a render of the 3D model (with object ID colors).
Use the 3D render as your alignment reference (DohLib_frontOrtho_3200x1080_VRayObjectID.exr)
and use the photo as a texture when you want to have that.
The objectID layer (with all the shaped of the building in flat colors) can be used to generate mattes using color key.

You might notice that the 3D render and the photo do not align perfectly. This is because the photo has perspective while the 3D render is orthagonal. This allows the 3D render to map properly onto our mapping system, Touch Designer, which uses a real-time 3D model of the building. You don’t need to know all of this. Simply align your imagery to the 3D render and use the photo as a realistic texture when and where you want that.

We will also provide imagery that we have scanned from the library (will be uploaded to the dropbox soon). You are free and encouraged to use these in any way that makes sense. We will make a use of this imagery in act 3, and we encourage you to either use it or get inspiration from it.

Projection Mapping Pitfalls

The image will degrade on rough, dark surfaces. The doorway will have a screen over it, and the white areas of smooth wall will hold an image fairly well. But everywhere else, detail will be lost. So to have visual impact consider these pitfalls.

  • Use high contrast, monochrome imagery for maximum clarity and impact. Subtle color gradations will be lost. Bold shapes and lines work well. Avoid thin lines and small point particles. Color of course is highly encouraged, just realize that you will need to punch up the intensity to overcome image degradation caused by the irregular surface and colors of the building.
  • Beware of the rough. The light areas of the building will hold an image well. The bricked areas will be very muddled. We will be placing a fabric screen over the door, so that can be a focal point. Also the white walls at the center of the building will hold clear images best. The outer wings of the building will be rough so use very high contrast imagery (bold lines, thick shapes).
  • Work with the architecture. Work the architecture into your composition. Images sliding over the complex surfaces of the building looks cheap and fake. The art of projection mapping involves bringing the architecture to life. Find ways to fit inside and work with the shapes of the building. Use the building mattes to clever effect. Some of the most powerful mapping effects make the architecture dance.


Tips and Tricks

  • Use the photo of the building as a texture layer in your comp. Since it will be night and only ambient light and the projector will light up the building, you can use the photo of the building from day time to suddenly make the building appear to be bright as in shining daylight. Or you can use this in subtle ways (with masks) to make part of the building suddenly “more alive”.
  • Use the Object ID layer to create mattes. Using color key effect, you can turn any of those solid colors into an instant matte. Clever use of masks and mattes can integrate your animations into the building in very clever ways. You are weaving your patterns into the loom of the architecture. You can think of this like an abstract pattern, turning the building into a quilt, or an abstract art work. You could also think of it like an opportunity for surrealism, as in a Magritte painting, where objects pass in front or behind the architecture in unexpected ways.

Stylistic suggestions

There are many ways to approach mapping projects, but we tend to think of it in a few aesthetic modes that we’ll call 1) mapping tricks 2) visual music 3) micro narrative.

Mapping tricks involve making the architecture dance and creating illusionary form within the existing form. Casting light and shadows back onto the building very effectively connects your animation to the architecture. Interactions with the architecture always works well. Example include magical collisions and penetrations, objects flying in and out of windows and doors, particles bouncing around inside, action inside windows, xray views into imaginary interior spaces.

Visual music, or ” thinking like a  VJ” is our favorite mode of visual play, and is highly encouraged. Using your own soundtrack makes this really sing, so please feel free to include your own music.  This mode  is more about rhythm and visual flow and emotional synesthesia. The sky is the limit, but it is important to keep your compositions relevant to the building (which includes framing with architecture and mapping tricks). Feel free to go totally abstract or surreal. We encourage graphic wildness.  Whimsical and weird is the perfect vibe for Lewis Carroll.

Micro narrative needs no explanation, and seems to be the natural inclination for most students at USC, so let your star shine and tell your story, with tension, and drama. We only ask that you somehow reflect the vibe and style of Lewis Carroll. Absurdity, nonsense, darkness, and humor are very appropriate. Keep it surreal. Dark, gothic and mysterious does work well with the Carroll vibe, but it might get lost in the projection. If you are going to go with a dark tone, make sure that your areas of light are bright and have high impact. Bright, colorful and fun probably will have the biggest visual impact.

You are free to go with whatever color palette you like, but we are favoring the colors of the Disney Alice,  a cool range of colors (blue, cyan, into magenta), with small punches of yellow and red and with heavy use of purple (Carroll’s favored color when writing letters). Consistent colors keeps the tone of the show coherent, so we encourage you to stay within this range unless of course you have some other really brilliant idea.


  • No video pornography. (hand drawn artistry can go anywhere, so if you’ve got the chops, go nuts).
  • No subtitles. Don’t make the audience read text unless it’s really bold and easy to read. Text is fine, just make sure it has very appealing visual style.
  • Must have some noticeable reference to the Carroll vibe/lore.

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