In the world of elite sports, over the past few years, projection mapping has become an emerging trend among pro teams and brands as a way to enhance the fans experience in stadiums and drive fans activations.

Video: Quince Imaging, Home Run Derby 2018 Field Projection

In this analysis we will discuss the key players, current and technology trends that are set to impact the project mapping space in the coming years. It is worth pointing out that the goal here is not to discuss all the players in the space as there are many, especially local AV companies. Instead the goal is to highlight some of the key players out there. This list is highly subjective.

PS: If you want to connect if any of the image projection mapping vendors (Quince..) profiled below, please email us at julien@sportscouncilsv.com. thank you!

Before we get into some of the key players in the projection mapping space, it is worth discussing first the definition of projection mapping and the roots of projection image mapping.

— Roots of projection image mapping

Projection mapping is now the most commonly applied term for transforming spaces and structures with projected, controllable light pixels. However it is also referred to with terms such as video mapping, pixel mapping, monumental mapping, architectural mapping, scenic projection, environmental projection, and large-scale projection. The specific art form of transforming traces back several decades, but the influences go back centuries. We find references to pinhole cameras, projecting images of their surroundings, dating back more than 2000 years to ancient Greece and China. As shown in the graph below created by Quince Imaging, in the 17th century Europe, candles and oil lamps were used as light sources for “magic lanterns” that projected images painted on glass slides onto surfaces.

Going back some 80 years, people started using slide projectors to transform concert and theater stages. Productions on Broadway in London’s West End dabbled with projection between the 1920s and 1930s. By the 1950s, projectors were being used to blend theater opera and dance productions with massive projected backdrops.

Also at the end of the 1960s, the “imagineers” of the Walt Disney Company started applying projection technology to small, very focused surfaces. For the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland, Disney’s creative engineers shot faces of five actors singing the attraction’s theme song, and then projected the 16mm film output onto busts.

The ghostly, disembodied singing heads were what some technical observers say was the the first commercial instance of projection mapping onto a complex curved surface.

Video: Haunted Mansion Projection Mapping Main Street 2015 Mickey’s Halloween Party Disneyland Resort.

Visual artists began taking their work outside by the 1980s, using powerful, large-format projectors, the forerunners of today’s architectural projection spectacles.

While artists found ways to push limits of slide projectors, the introduction in the 1990s of bright, computer-driven commercial projectors was the shining moment of the art form.

Corporations started working with staging and event companies by the early 1990s using projection as a powerful over-scaled backdrop for presentations to investors, customers and the press.

Then in the 2000s, projection image mapping systems enabled the creation of profound fans experiences all over the world.

Picture: Quince Imaging

1.Quince Imaging:

HQ: Washington DC (USA)

Website: Quince Imaging

Quince Imaging is one of the key players in the projection mapping space. Quince Imaging is a premier image display, content delivery, video production technology and services company for live events and permanent installations. Quince has emerged, from an increasingly crowded market of event services and AV companies, as a leader in knowledge, and a champion of quality – especially in the area of high-resolution graphic development and blended-image widescreen projection.

Video: Quince Imaging

Quince is a “Big Room”, “Big Event” provider with a reputation for delivering the high quality services. They start work with their clients at the event design inception, bringing creativity, technical and process management expertise.

Quince is also a progressive technology company. Critical to their success, is their remaining on the forefront of new technology application. A central tenet of the Quince philosophy is to remain technology-neutral regarding event execution. They design shows using the best technology for the application and budget, not just deferring to the technology they own. Quince has built its business on early adopter principles, bringing new technologies to their clients; helping them to stay fresh, new and impacting.

“What separate Quince Imaging from other competitors is the quality of our work. Quince has been in the space for 20 years and has built a deep experience when it comes to the science of light. We have the expertise and the know how”, said CJ Davis, former Creative Director at Quince Imaging during an interview with The Upside. Of note, CJ Davis now works for The Famous Group as EVP Creative Technology.

Quince Imaging also differentiate itself from the competition by its ability to seamlessly integrate their technology into pro teams’ existing workflow:

“We know how to integrate our technology into pro teams’ workflow to create the best immersive experience for their fans”, continued CJ Davis.

Here is a behind the scene video that explains Quince Imaging’s projection mapping technology and experience for the NBA court experience experience:

Video: Quince Imaging

Here is a video illustrating the projection mapping experience created by Quince Imaging for the Washington Wizards (NBA) Playoff home-game opener.

Video: Quince Imaging, Washington Wizards (NBA).

Here is another example of Quince Promotions that used projection and motion tracking, or Quince content with the Chicago Bulls (NBA) and Cleveland Cavaliers (NBA).

Video: Quince Imaging

Some of Quince Imaging’s biggest customers include the MLB, Washington Capitals (NHL), Washington Wizards (NBA), The Baltimore Ravens (NHL), Riot, and Rocket League. They are also working with leading game developers and architectural firms such as Populous.

Video: Quince Imaging’s 2019 highlights

Quince Imaging is also focusing on the fast-growing esports market. For example, after working with Quince Imaging on the League of Legends World Championship in 2018, Riot Games called upon Quince once again to put together a show control solution to drive an array of displays, including four holographic screens, 7 LED displays, a custom 5-side trophy case, and an array of HD screens. Quince provided a single point of control, allowing the creative team to use a diverse display design to create a larger-than-life holographic presentation for the League of Legends World Championship Opening Ceremony that took place last November in Paris.

Video: Quince Imaging, League of Legends, 2019, Paris.

2. Obscura Digital:

HQ: San Francisco, CA (USA)

Website: Obscura Digital

Obscura is another key player in the projection mapping space. It is a creative studio, globally-recognized for its work in designing and developing next-generation immersive experiences. Obscura designs and develops immersive, interactive digital art installations and experiences around the world. Obscura works with Fortune 100 companies, cultural dignitaries, and global foundations to communicate transformative messages using original content for emerging technologies. In late 2017, Obscura Digital got acquired by The Madison Square Garden Company.

Here is an example of the type of projection mapping experiences that Obscura Digital created for the Dallas Cowboys (NFL).

Video: Obscura Digital

Here is another example of the types of projection mapping experiences created by Obscura Digitial. As shown in the video below, it created an interactive experience for basketball. Some of the acting is quite pained, but the concept is interesting. What would basketball look like in the Holodeck? How would a physical game be modified to incorporate the imaginary or virtual? Yet another interesting application of projection mapping.

The coolest part is definitely at 3:45, when the court becomes a side-scrolling 8-bit platformer video game.

Video: Obscura Digital

Obscura Digital also created the world’s largest permanent projection installation. Obscura partnered with property management company Vornado Realty Trust and architecture firm Valerio Dewalt Train Associates (VDTA) to design and implement a permanent projection system to illuminate theMART building in Chicago with large-scale visual artistry on a nightly basis. This one-of-a-kind project will feature 2-hour projection shows 5 nights a week, 10 months of the year for 30 years.

Video: Obscura Digital

3. The Famous Group:

HQ: Culver City, CA

Website: The Famous Group

Another key player in the projection mapping space is The Famous Group. For more than 20 years, they’ve created passionate fans for the biggest brands, venues and events in the world. They begin working with each of their client partners by deeply understanding their brand, their goals, and their audience. We then execute with creative, production and proprietary technology. They have worked for Fortune 500 brands, professional sports events, esports, concerts, festivals and retail environments. That includes 13 Super Bowls, Nike, the NFL, Live Nation, the NBA finals, Ubisoft, NCAA Final Four, Pepsi, NHL All-Star Weekend, AT&T, and more than 90 professional sports teams and venues.

They specialize in: Mixed Reality and Augmented Reality, Content, Creative and Production, Proprietary Fan Engagement Technology, Virtual Fans and Virtual Events, and Experiential Activations.

Here is an example of a mixed reality experience built by The Famous Group for the Carolina Panthers (NFL):

Video: Interview with The Famous Group founder on the Carolina Panthers (NFL)’s mixed reality experience.

Here is another example of a mixed reality experience the company built for CBS Sports and Nickelodeon. It was featured on live TV during the San Francisco 49ers – Dallas Cowboys NFL game last January.

Link Tank: Nickelodeon's NFL Playoff Coverage Is The Real Winner | Den of Geek

Video: CBS Sports, Nickelodeon’s Mixed Reality experience, powered by The Famous Group.

4.WorldStage:

HQ: Los Angeles, CA (USA)

Website: WorldStage

WorldStage is another key player based in Los Angeles, CA. They claim to be event technology specialists at heart. Fueled by desire, they believe that audio, video, and lighting technology should not only enhance an environment but bring it to life in the most evocative way possible. Their passion is delivering the widest spectrum of event technology solutions in support of ambitious designs.

WorldStage teamed up with the Madison Square Garden to create a projection mapping experience for the New York Rangers and New York Knicks games. WorldStage used 14 projectors, with each portion of the ice or court receiving 60,000 lumens. The Lighting design was done by Arc3 Design and the custom content was done by Batwin & Robin Productions to complement the projections, creating a fully immersive environment inside the arena.

Video: WorldStage, NY Rangers (NHL)

5.Freckled Sky:

HQ: Evanston, IL (USA)

Website: Freckled Sky

Although elite sports is not their core focus, Freckled Sky is an interesting company. They are a team of multimedia creators and technology experts – artists, directors, designers and engineers. They are dedicated to the design and production of interactive shows and events. They tell stories and bring immersive experiences to the viewer. They blend projection, lighting, interactive solutions and special effects to create new forms of entertainment. They are specialized in holographic shows, 3D projection mapping, water projections, robots and kinetics.

Freckled Sky was established at 2013 in Chicago by three partners, Val Syganevich, Natasha Syganevich, and Katya Korobko. We began in the entertainment industry in 2000 in Ukraine and then started our own event agency in 2006. In 2012 they produced their first interactive show. The most important step in the company’s history was their participation in America’s Got Talent in 2015 (see video below). The audience and judges were stunned by a projection mapping on water – the world’s first interactive performance of this kind. Freckled Sky’s clients include BMW, Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, Panama Canal Authority, Unilever, and Aditya Birla Group.

Video: Freckled Sky, America’s Got Talent in 2015.

Here is another example of waterfall projection experiences created by Freckled Sky.

Video: Freckled Sky, waterfall projections

In February 2019, Freckled Sky even produced interactive water projection performance for the Try portion of Pink’s mash-up at 39th edition of Brit Awards, leaving “the audience in awe.”

Video: Freckled Sky, 2019 Brit Awards, waterfall projections

Freckled also participated in Sky Britain’s Got Talent in 2019 where it created a multimedia experience for one of the contestants James Arthur (see video below).

Video: Freckled Sky, Britain’s Got Talent in 2019.

Lastly, here is another example of projection mapping experiences created by Freckled Sky for the AT&T Business Summit opening show (see video below).

Video: AT&T Business Summit opening show.

6.ENESS:

HQ: St Kilda, Victoria (Australia)

Website: ENESS

ENESS, a Melbourne Australia based agency, is another interesting company in the projection mapping space. For example, as shown in the video below, in association with Red Bull, they created a ski slope where they even tracked the skiers with an infrared camera, triggering visuals when the skiiers is directly over their omniprescent eye-ball. They built the whole thing with custom software. More details here.

Video: ENESS

Another great example of their work is ENESS‘s follow-on interactive projection mapping of skateboard ramp in promotion of Disney’s Tron. They essentially tracked riders using infrared cameras, and created an interactive skateboarding holodeck.

Here is some behind the scenes footage on how they created this type of experience.

Video: ENESS

Lastly here is another projection mapping experience where they re-invented the ping pong (table tennis) experience.

Video: ENESS

So what is the future of projection mapping?

a. More interactivity, more affordable and brighter projections

In the coming years, as the adoption of projection mapping systems continues to grow and the technology improves, projection mapping systems are expected to become more interactive, brighter and more affordable.

“You will see more interactivity as projections continues to get brighter and the cost continues to decline”, said Mr Davis, a former executive at Quince Imaging.

b. Projection mapping in the concourse:

We are also likely to see more projections mapping experiences in the concourse of stadiums as a way for brands to further drive sponsors activations.

“You will see more projection mapping experiences in the concourse of stadiums where fans buy food to enable sponsors activation. For example we built this type of experience with the Atlanta braves”, said Mr Davis, a former executive at Quince Imaging.

c. MR/AR to become a big part of the projection mapping experience:

There has been a lot of attention around AR/VR in the past few years. Not surprisingly, AR/VR will also become a big part of the projection mapping experience moving forward. Key players such as Quince Imaging are already taking the lead there.

“The real next play for projection mapping will be the connectivity with Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality. This is what we did with the Ravens in the NFL (…) You saw the fans experience on the board which was a virtual Raven, the Baltimore Ravens mascot, as an MR overlay coming off the screen at the Ravens stadium…”, said Mr Davis, a former executive at Quince Imaging.

Here is the video of the MR experience built by Quince Imaging and the Famous Group for the Ravens (NFL).

Video: Quince Imaging, Ravens (NFL)

Here is the behind the scene video from Quince Imaging which explains how they created the MR experience for the Ravens.

Video: Quince Imaging

d. MR glasses with live players’ stats to be part of the VIP suite experience:

MR glasses such as Hololens or Magic Leap are already available in the VP suites of sports stadiums. However, in the future fans will be able to wear MR glasses and see players’ stats as AR overlays. More precisely, we believe that fans will be able to experience these types of Mixed Reality experiences in the VIP suites. They will be able to see players’ stats as AR overlays through their MR glasses.

e. Live NFT drops combined with a mixed reality experience is set to become the norm in coming years:

In the next 2 years we also expect to see the emergence of live mobile AR/MR experience which will allow fans to redeem live NFT drops during live games. Those NFTs will unlock VIP benefits (rewards, special NFTs, memberships..) to the fans. Companies like DaChain and Tropos AR will play a key role there.

Outlook: In the next 5 years we expect to see more teams, leagues and brands leveraging the power of projection mapping experiences to drive fans activations and enable sponsor activations.

We also expect projection mapping to gain traction in new sports such as soccer and esports. So far, projection mapping has been used in sports like basketball, hockey, but in the future we expect pro soccer teams and leagues to adopt this type of immersive technology as the technology gets cheaper and more advanced. Pro soccer teams will likely use this type of technology for major events (European soccer championship finals, playoffs, soccer cup finals..).

As MR glasses become cheaper, and more capable with larger FOV, we also expect to see more teams offering MR glasses in the VIP suites so that fans can watch live players’ stats through the MR glasses. It will also nicely complement MR experiences created by companies like Quince Imaging or The Famous Group. Mixed reality experiences with live NFT drops will also become the norm in the coming years.

Ultimately projecting mapping will help pro teams to attract new sponsors, improve the in-stadium experience. It will also help increase brand activations, and drive more fans to the stadiums.

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