Projection Mapping and Atypical Activations

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Creatively utilizing technology for the maximum “wow” factor.

Each event season, our clients look for new and exciting ways to wow their audiences. Whether it be through exciting experiences, opportunities to build new connections, or unique visual effects, everybody wants to create high-impact moments. But in a world with cutting-edge technology constantly available, how do we create jaw-dropping experiences?

A recent request for information about projection mapping had us reflecting on one of the most popular, highly requested, and customizable event trends. However, in addition to being widely coveted, projection mapping is a confusing concept to many, and most don’t know where to start. And, while it’s gained lots of attention in recent years, it certainly isn’t the only way to stun your audiences.

Keep reading to learn more about projection mapping and other atypical activations!

Projection Mapping

Let’s start at the beginning … what, exactly, is projection mapping? Realistically, “mapping” is a fairly loose term. It’s typically used to describe projection on a non-traditional surface – rather than a projector screen, visuals may be displayed on a building, historic monument, a body of water, or anything else you can imagine. In advanced (and well thought out!) applications, content is specifically developed for the surface it will be projected onto – and turns that surface into something else entirely.

Projection mapping utilizes one or more projectors which are positioned to completely cover the surface that is being mapped. Similarly to standard projection, a media server is used to playback the content.

While it may seem similar in practice to standard projection, there are several things projection mapping can do that other technology just can’t replicate. Through projection mapping, we are able to make images conform to uneven surfaces. Wrapping the columns of a state house or historic building with banners or LED panels would be an enormous and expensive undertaking – with projection mapping, we are able to play content or display images directly on the columns themselves. Because of this, projectors can make massive images much more affordable than other display technologies.

Projection is also highly customizable – meaning it can be as complex or easy to deploy as needed. Projection mapping can be as extensive and intricate as the visuals displayed on Cinderella Castle during a Disney parade, but there are also gorilla projections that use only a moving vehicle to get in and out of spaces when the circumstances require it.

Part of this customization also includes the venues projection can be used in. While most are used to seeing projections on a traditional stage, projection mapping can be used to place images throughout an auditorium, on outdoor buildings, throughout hallways, covering entrances, or even in natural spaces, such as a park or nature preserve (as long as a power source is available).

That being said, there are some considerations that need to be made when it comes to projection mapping – the biggest being ambient light. Even a stack of the brightest projectors aren’t able to compete with direct sunlight – so if you’re planning an outdoor projection project, consider the time of year and time of day when it will take place to ensure your content is visible.

Additionally, projection mapping requires access to a large number of power sources. The more projectors your visuals require, the more power sources you’ll need – and you’ll need them in multiple locations. Even event facilities are unlikely to have power exactly where you need them to be for mapping purposes

The more projectors your visuals require, the more power sources you’ll need. Your projectors will need to be located in very specific locations, meaning you’ll need access to power in very specific locations as well. Even event facilities are unlikely to have power exactly where you need them for each projector in use. If your vision includes an outdoor deployment (which is often the most impressive and unexpected) a generator is nearly always necessary.

Other Atypical Activations

There is no doubt that projection mapping is exciting, cutting edge, and unexpected but it isn’t the only way to excite your audience. The event space is full of atypical activations and creative uses of technology … many of which can translate to a virtual space. Here are a few additional atypical activations.

  • Compelling environments with AR
    Perhaps one of the most compelling ways to involve and excite audiences from afar. Using Augmented Reality, attendees can use their phones to view the space in front of them as something else entirely. Not only that – they can interact with and explore this space by clicking buttons or rotating their phones in various directions.
  • Geocaching
    This innovative and customizable platform was created as an experiential marketing tool that gamifies interactions. When applied to the event space, it can be used for social and networking activities, such as self-guided walking tours, team challenges, or educational treasure hunts. These activities are not only unique, but immersive.
  • Drone Shows
    Maybe you want to have high impact visuals, but projection mapping isn’t the right application for your event space or visual goals. These shows are performed solely by illuminated, choreographed, and synchronized drones that fly into a variety of aerial formations. The effect is similar to fireworks. Of course, fireworks can’t form words, crystal clear images, or move silently through the sky!

The Technology

The technology used in each of these applications is completely different, but they do have a few things in common – namely, that they leverage existing technology to attract, entertain, and engage audiences in a way that is highly customizable.

When it comes to implementing one of these trendy deployments into your event, it’s important to consider not only the timeline and budget for the event, but also what the intended outcome and effect you’re hoping to achieve is. Do you want to share important information? Are you looking to educate or train attendees? Perhaps you just want to treat your audience to a special experience. Knowing not only what investment you are able to make, but what your goals are will help you pick the best technology to achieve them.


Wondering what is best for you, but don’t know where to start? Luckily, you don’t need to be an expert in any of these! Your technical partner or event agency can help you determine what solutions are best to ensure that all of your brand, budgetary, and creative expectations are not only met, but blown away.

At Encompass, we have unique backgrounds that situate us perfectly to produce high end and complex offerings. We’ve worked in broadcast television, touring entertainment, live sporting events, and countless convention facilities across the country.

We have technical design experience and a disciplined process in place that allows us to easily scale events and shift from in-person to virtual without angst. There isn’t much that’s beyond our scope and we love the intensity of putting on events!

If you’re a planner working to create an event, seeking help with virtual event technology, or simply want to learn more … we can help! Sign up below to receive our updates (we promise to keep your contact information secure and won’t “overshare”).

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