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Cake Mapping for Beginners

Intro

This is a beginner-friendly guide on how to do cake mapping, also known as ‘projection mapping’ or ‘3d video mapping’ on cakes.

It will cover all the essential aspects of cake mapping like choosing a cake size, selecting your cake materials, setting up your projector, using projection mapping software and creating a show.

Cake

To successfully cake map, you’ll need a cake.

Size and shape are up to you, but some work better than others.

You also need to decide whether your cake is going to be real or fake – both are possible for cake mapping.

Size & dimensions

You can choose the size and number of tiers you’d like, but the recommendation is to use a 5-tier cake with the following dimensions:

8” x 8” x 5”
10” x 10” x 5”
12” x 12” x 5”
14” x 14” x 5”
16” x 16” x 5”

These dimensions are the best balance between visual impact and practicality.

Using square-based cake tiers with straight sides is highly recommended. These surfaces are much easier to video map than curved surfaces, though it is also possible to map a round cake.

If you want to add more tiers or use different dimensions, you can. But you will have to make your own guide. Also if you want to purchase pre-made cake mapping video content you will only be able to choose from the non-size specific category.

Real or fake cake?

The entire cake can be real or you can create a full dummy version using styrofoam covered in white fondant icing.

If you plan to keep your dummy tiers for a while, the fondant icing sweats over time, so a type of icing that is designed for tropical temperatures is recommended in the kit list.

For weddings, the top tier is usually real cake so the happy couple can cut it in front of their guests.

There are some differences between real and fake cake.

The edges and corners of real cake are softer and less crisp than those of the dummies.

Also a tier of real cake is much heavier than a dummy tier. Even dummy cake covered in icing can be heavy for the larger tiers so transporting and moving them can be tricky.

It’s often a good idea to transport tiers separately and assemble them at the event.

Projector

What makes the best projector for cake projection mapping?

There are some important attributes a projector can have that makes it more suitable for cake mapping, these include lens type and brightness.

You will also need to consider where the projector will be positioned and how this affects the audience’s view of the cake.

Projector lens

It is highly recommended to use a projector with a short throw lens for cake mapping.

Using a short throw lens allows the projector to be closer to the projected surface, maintains brightness and makes it harder for people to get in the way of the projections.

Brightness

It is a good idea to use a projector with at least 2000 lumens to get good results when video mapping a cake.

You should choose a brighter projector if you intend to project in a bright environment with lots of other competing light.

See a list of recommended cake mapping projectors to start off your own research. 

How many projectors?

Cake mapping can be done with just one projector. In this case, the projector has to be right in front of the cake.

The best set-up uses at least two projectors. These can be positioned either side of the cake, giving the audience an uninterrupted view.

Where to put the projector?

You have a few options for placement, including mounting it on a tripod or placing it on a table. You can also build a free-standing plinth specifically for this purpose.

Alternatively, you can rig your projector overhead on a truss. This helps avoid the issue of people standing between the cake and the projection or the problem of people knocking your projector.

How far away should the projector be from the cake?

The projector should be far enough away to ensure the projection covers the entire cake, but not so far away that you aren’t taking advantage of all the pixels available.

You can use trial and error – start close and move further back until the cake is fully covered by the image. Or you can calculate the required distance using the projector’s throw ratio (stated in its product specification).

The throw ratio is the distance of the projector from the surface divided by the width of the projected image. The smaller the throw ratio number, the closer the projector can be to the cake.

You can also use Projector Central’s throw distance calculator to help you with this.

Software

You have several options when it comes to software suitable for cake mapping. Luckily Luma Box has cake mapping tutorials for many of them.

MapMap

This video is a general introduction to cake mapping as well as a MapMap software tutorial after 00:08:10. If you’d prefer a shorter video, this is a quick 10-minute method.

MapMap is a simple, beginner-friendly application and its big advantage is that it’s free.

However, it has not been actively developed in recent years so is prone to crashing and is non-functional on some operating systems which is a great shame.

Give it a try on your machine. If it doesn’t work for you there are plenty of other options.

MadMapper

MadMapper is a professional, paid-for projection mapping application. It has an intuitive interface, is extremely reliable and is packed full of features.

It has lots of advanced mapping tools. MadMapper also has scenes & cues which enables you to sequence and trigger different clips for your projection show (though this feature is not the most intuitive out there). It also comes with many procedural materials and shaders which you can customise.

MadMapper is very strong when it comes to mapping but less so for programming a sequence of media, so probably best to load it with a pre-made show.

See the full projection mapping with MadMapper playlist.

Resolume

Resolume is a full-featured application aimed mainly at VJs. It is suited to live events where audio is synced with visuals.

It has projection mapping features that make it suitable for cake mapping, but Resolume is not primarily a ‘projection mapping’ software.

It has lots of creative effects and generative shaders that work reactively with audio.

Resolume offers the possibility to customise visuals interactively and in real-time. It is not the best choice for someone who wants to set off their show and step away.   

See the full cake mapping with Resolume playlist.

HeavyM

Though Luma Box doesn’t have a cake mapping tutorial for HeavyM (yet), it is another good choice for a professional, projection mapping software with plenty of features and user-friendly tools.

It has the advantage of being specifically geared towards projection mapping, like MadMapper, as well as having intuitive tools for sequencing a show.

Other software

This page on Projection Mapping Central provides a thorough overview of projection mapping software on offer, free and paid.

Video Content

The last thing you will need is video content to make a projection show that is going to knock the socks off your audience.

Can I make my own show?

Absolutely! If you already have skills in animation and video editing then you will have no problem creating something spectacular on the cake.

If you don’t have these skills, a willingness to learn goes a long way and there are lots of general animation tutorials out there aimed at beginners.

First you will start with a guide of your cake.

If you are using the recommended 5-tier cake dimensions then you can use this guide. If you are using different dimensions you can follow this cake mapping guide tutorial.

There are many software options out there for animating and editing video content for a cake mapping show.

This is a beginner-friendly tutorial on how to add personalised text to a cake mapping show in free software called Shotcut.

If you feel you want to level up your projection show, you could move on to more sophisticated video editing and animation packages.

DaVinci Resolve is an excellent option that’s free (with a paid Studio version). HitFilm is another free option with a paid upgrade. After Effects is a professional, paid alternative that has vast capabilities for VFX and motion graphics.

Can I buy content?

You can buy cake mapping video content in the Luma Box shop.

Some of the content is designed for the recommended cake size. But there are also animations available that can be used with any cake size.

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