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Re: Creating Tiny Projected Moving Image

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Mark Suszko
Re: Creating Tiny Projected Moving Image
on Sep 17, 2012 at 4:14:48 pm

This would be very expensive to do live, but if you just want to make a recording where a person walks around with the equivalent of a video tattoo or bumper-sticker projected on their body, it is possible in post production.

By the sound of your post, though, you're possibly not experienced enough to take this on yet. You will need a friend who is experiened at applying and using motion trackers in a video compositing program like AfterEffects or Apple Motion. Here's a rough idea of how I would approach it, based just on your initial description:

There is no "projector", needed in the version that is all post-production.
You apply motion tracking software to the video of your performer walking or dancing or whatever. This produces tracking data your editor then applies to a video source. He or she scales and positions the video source to look like it rests on a body part of the performer, and now the tracking data matches the video's movements to the original performers movements. By adjusting the blending mode and opacity,the video "tattoo" if you will, will reveal body details below it, to look as if it is projected, but without a projector.

To do this live in real-time on a stage would require tremendous computing horsepower. And a projector (possibly more than one) in a robotic-controlled 3-axis motion rig with zoom and focus controls. Even to perform this effect live on a person standing in one spot would be hard: the projector would be projecting mostly a black frame with just the logo/tattoo being visible.

The cheapest thing I can think of that would work something like what you describe, is a robotic automated spotlight or laser, under DMX control, projecting a static image in a pre-choreographed motion pattern, and your performer has to memorize and execute their moves to stay in synch with the light(s) every time. I say lights, plural, because one source will not be able to cover more than a few angles on a moving dancer or actor, so the projection will need to be "handed off" from one projector to another as the performer changes their orientation and position in space.

Another option would be to take the tracking data of your dancer and apply it to a 3-d model in an animation program like Maya or Lightwave or Poser, then you can apply video like a skin or decal to that model of your dancer. Perhaps with skill, you can composite the original dancer's head back over the 3d CGI model, and now you get the "look" of a projection on the body... but at quite a cost in time and effort.

You'd probably get a better and cheaper result by putting an actual LED or LCD panel on the dancer and feeding it a video signal, rather than trying to project anything, for a live performance. If it doesn't have to be live, you can get away with a lot more effects if you can afford the time to implement them.

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