House Projection Mapping

Beginner's Overview

Do you want to start projection mapping on your house for the holidays? Don’t know where to start? 

This guide is for anyone brand new to the topic of holiday house mapping. It will give you a conceptual overview of the whole process and break down each of the major topics. 

Introduction

You want to projection map your house for holidays like Halloween and Christmas but you don’t know where to start.  

You might already be asking yourself things like “What kind of projector do I need for house mapping?” “What software should I use?” or “Where can I find video content to project on the house?” 

This page and the accompanying videos are intended as a crash course in everything you need to know to get started. 

Will my house work?

When you’re trying to figure out whether your house will work for holiday projection mapping, your biggest considerations are house size and colour, yard length, obstructions and ambient light.

House Size

One important thing to bear in mind is that the further away you move your projector from a surface, the bigger the projected image gets. 

If you have a large house, and by large I mean 40′-50’+ in width, to cover the whole thing with one projector you will need a fairly long front yard, probably at least 20′-30′ depending on the projector you use. 

The further back you go, you lose brightness. So if you have a large house you might need to be thinking about getting a brighter projector.

If you’re struggling with these factors, you could choose to focus on just part of the house. Or rather than map the whole thing with one projector, you could use two or more projectors and split the whole surface into more manageable chunks.

House Colour & Texture

Having a white or light grey house is the holy grail of holiday projection mapping.

Dark materials like red brick, dark siding or dark paint will need a brighter projector to show up with good colours.

If your house material is a problem for you, you can consider covering it with material or screens. 

And there’s always the drastic solution of repainting with a lighter colour.

The texture of your house material also plays a part.

Smooth render will show up an image nicely without any distortion. Rough stone on the other hand will distort the image so you might choose not to put detailed video content like movie clips on those surfaces.

House Shape

In terms of the shape of your house, think about what might cast a shadow.

For example, if you have a one-story porch and you’re projecting from below the level of the porch roof, it will cast a shadow on the surface above. So in this instance it would be an advantage to mount your projector up high or project on a different part of the house.

Windows

When it comes to windows, the light from the projector will go straight through the glass and won’t form an image unless you put something in the windows to catch the projection.

You can use shades, curtains or other coverings like fabric, frosted shower curtains, paper, cardboard or perforated vinyl.

Obstructions

Anything that is between the projector beam and the house will cast a shadow.

This can be trees, shrubs, statues and other structures or landscaping in your yard.

What are your options? You should try to choose an initial projector position that avoids as many of these obstructions as possible. 

You can design your show to avoid areas where there are shadows cast from unavoidable obstructions. 

Or, the most extreme option, is to cut down or remove the obstructions from your yard entirely.

Ambient Light

How much ambient light do you have around your house? By this I mean how much other light is competing with your projections?

Other sources of light and light pollution around your house will make your projections look washed out, duller and appear less bright.

Ambient light pollution can come from many different sources including street lighting, yard lights, light from the sky and car headlights from people watching your show.

When dealing with street lighting, the best thing is to talk to your city or whoever manages your street lighting and hopefully negotiate something with them – they might be willing to install a shield to block any intrusive light, for example. 

You could also put up some sort of screen in your yard to try to exclude some of the light

Obviously turn off all your own yard lights and politely ask if your neighbours might be willing to do the same during the hours your show is taking place.

As for light from the sky, schedule your show to start after the sun has fully gone down.

This might be a deal-breaker when it comes to shows that take place when the days are long, like in summer in the northern hemisphere for 4th of July celebrations, Easter and so on. 

Ask audience members viewing the show from their car to turn off their headlights while they are parked. 

If you can’t turn off or screen unwanted sources of ambient lighting, your only other option is to outcompete them with more projector brightness.

Location

Is your house in a good location for a projection mapping show? 

Ask yourself if it is convenient and safe for people to visit. If you live on a junction and people are slowing and parking in their cars, that might not be safe. If you live on a busy road, is it safe to encourage pedestrians to cross or be distracted by your show?

Finally, ask yourself whether your street or drive has a good flow so that people can get in and out.

Neighbours

Think about what kind of neighbours you have and how they are likely to react.

The things that are most likely to annoy neighbours are the increased noise from music or the audience and also extra foot and road traffic.

You can reduce the impact of your show on your neighbours by offering them some hours of respite. For example, don’t project every night of the week and create a break between shows so a crowd doesn’t build up.

Also keep sound to a reasonable level.

Plan your show so that audience members on foot aren’t encouraged to wander on to your neighbours’ land or trample their planting and audience members in cars don’t block your neighbours’ drive-ways.

Which mapping method?

There are two main workflows for projection mapping your house. The first I call the Outline Method and the second I call the Orthographic Method. 

The Outline Method involves sitting in front of your house and outlining it using your projector. This builds up a picture of your house from your projector’s perspective. You then design your show over these outlines so that when you send it back out of the projector in the same position, your designs match on to the house. 

The Orthographic Method involves creating a flat guide of your house that doesn’t contain perspective. You design your show over this flat guide and then use projection mapping software to warp the flat content to fit the perspective of your projector.  

I want to be clear that when it comes to house mapping, it is useful to distinguish between two stages: the Mapping Stage and the Show Design Stage

The Two Stages

The Mapping Stage is what makes it projection ‘mapping’ and not just pointing a projector at a house. It’s the stage where you ensure the video content fits or ‘maps’ uniquely onto specific surfaces. 

Then there is also the Show Design Stage. This is where you create animations, effects or edit video that becomes the show that you project. 

Key Difference Between Outline & Orthographic Methods

A key difference between the two mapping methods – the Outline Method and the Orthographic Method – is that the order in which you complete the stages is flipped. 

With the Outline Method, you do the Mapping Stage first and the Show Design second. In the Mapping Stage, you create outlines with the perspective baked in, that’s custom to your house and projector position. You then design that perspective into your show. 

Outline Method = Mapping then Show Design. 

For the Orthographic Method, you do the Show Design stage first, and the Mapping Stage second. You design your show, free of perspective, flat onto your orthographic guides. Then you use software to warp the content and map it onto the surfaces afterwards. 

Orthographic Method = Show Design then Mapping.

Outline Method:

Advantages

Some people prefer the Outline Method because it’s more intuitive and straightforward. 

The majority of beginners use this method.

This method is easily achieved with free software. 

Disadvantages

One disadvantage of this method is that the projector must stay in the same position from which you made your outlines. 

You also need to put perspective into your content yourself manually.  

It is harder to utilise all the pixels of your projector’s resolution with this method and many pixels often end up wasted.

Additionally, you need to make your outlines with your projector outside at night which can be cold and tedious (although I have a tutorial for a quick method of doing this).

Orthographic Method:

Advantages

This method lets you create your designs on a flat guide and worry about perspective later. 

It also gives you flexibility because you are not locked into your projector position and can use the same video designs with multiple projectors. 

You can utilise pixels more efficiently within your projector’s resolution space.

With this method, you also don’t need to spend so much time outside in the cold. 

Disadvantages

The main negative is that it is more complex and takes more time to set up at the outset.

It requires several software packages to accomplish rather than being able to do everything using one or two bits of software. 

The method is most easily achieved with paid software. 

Orthographic Method

Learn more about the Orthographic Method and watch my tutorial series.

Luxedo

There is actually also a third option for projection mapping your house and that is using a semi-automated projection solution like the Luxedo system

The system is marketed as an all-in-one solution. The projector is controlled remotely and comes inside its own weatherproof enclosure and ready to connect to speakers via bluetooth. 

In terms of workflow, the Luxedo option is a kind of hybrid of the Outline Method which builds a picture from your projector’s point of view and within its proprietary software you can build your show on top of this picture.

Luxedo takes quite a lot of the hassle out of the process. For example, you don’t have to make the outlines yourself and you don’t have to worry about making your own weatherproof enclosure. 

On the negative side, the Luxedo system is relatively expensive at the current time and the projector is lacking a bit in resolution at only 1280×700 as of 2022.

Kit List

See my list of suggested house projection mapping kit including projector, media player, computer, audio, cables, window covering & enclosure materials.

Which projector do I need for house mapping?

Lenses

The projector’s lens determines how large an image the projector can produce from a given distance. Because most of us are constrained by the length of our yard, lenses are an important consideration.

On the whole, I’d recommend going for a projector with a short throw lens. This type of lens requires less distance to throw a large image compared to a standard lens. 

If you look at a projector’s specifications, anything with a throw ratio between 0.4 and 1 is typically considered short throw.

Once you have identified a projector that is potentially suitable, you can use Projector Central’s throw calculator

Just select your projector and then use the tool to tell you the distance your projector needs to be from the house to produce a large enough image.

Just a word of warning about the estimated image brightness section of this tool: Often it will flag that your estimated brightness is too low. Don’t get too hung up on this. The tool is working to professional standards and applies to indoor scenarios like conferences. We can afford to be more lenient when it comes to residential house mapping.

If you have a long enough yard, absolutely feel free to go with a projector with a standard lens. 

They tend to be cheaper and easier to get hold of. But remember that the projected image appears less bright as you move your projector further away. Having a large distance between the projector and the house also increases the chances of encountering shadow-casting obstructions within the beam.

There are also ultra short throw projectors but I don’t recommend these for house projection mapping. They suffer from shallow depth of focus and lens distortion.

Brightness

Moving on to the other big factor when it comes to projectors – brightness.

Lumens are a measure of how much light a projector gives out.

As a general rule of thumb: the more lumens, the better, and you should get as much brightness as your budget will allow, without going totally overboard.

In general, I’d say you should be looking in the 3,000-3,500 lumens range as a minimum on average. But it also depends on how far away you’re projecting from, the colour of your house and the level of ambient light.

If you have a dark house and/or lots of street lighting, consider going up to 4,000 lumens or more.

If you have complete darkness and a white house, you could get away with fewer lumens.

For example, I’ve used a 2,200 lumen short throw projector in a situation like this and the results were still great.

Look out for ANSI lumens which is a standardised rating – although there is still some room for interpretation.

Beware of overinflated lumen-claims from cheaper, off-brand projectors; If it seems too good to be true, it almost certainly is!

Resolution

I’d recommend a minimum of Full HD resolution which is 1920 x 1080 pixels.

Anything less than this on an average-sized house will probably look pixellated.

To 4K or not to 4K?

If you have a very large home, it does make a visual difference to use a 4K projector, but it comes with some disadvantages. 

4k footage can be slow to preview and export if your computer is not that powerful.

And will you even be using 4K video content? If you’re not able to source and build your show using high-resolution 4K content, there’s no point to having a 4K projector.

4K projectors also are generally more expensive so you need to work out if the extra resolution is worth it to you.

Be aware that when a projector is marketed as having a “4K input” that means it can accept a 4K signal, as in you can give it 4K media to play, but its native output resolution listed in its specification is usually still just 1080p which is Full HD 1920 x 1080. 

In recent years, 4K UHD projectors have become affordable and give you 4x the image quality of Full HD projectors. 

Confusingly, some models claim the accolade of True 4K but they are not true 4K in the strictest sense – they have to use a pixel shifter or enhancer, but they do still deliver near-4K image quality at a fraction of the price of true true 4K.

Lamp-Based or Laser?

Traditionally, projectors use a halogen lamp or bulb. But laser light sources are starting to become more ubiquitous in the consumer projector market. 

Lamp-based projectors have been around the longest and are typically the most affordable projectors on offer when you take all factors into account including brightness, lamp lifespan and image quality. 

However, they do come with some downsides. The main one is that halogen lamps have quite a steep reduction in brightness over their lifetime and particularly at the start.

Nowadays you might expect to see lamp lifespans of 5,000 or more hours, longer if the unit is run in eco mode. 

To put that into perspective – 5,000 hours is the same as running your projector for 8 hours a day, every day for over one and a half years. 

Most people will be using it far less frequently than that and by the time it comes time to replace the bulb, technology will have moved on and you may feel it’s time for an upgrade anyway.

Laser on the other hand boasts over 20,000 hours of life, requires less maintenance than lamps and generates less heat.

They also often outperform lamp-based counterparts in terms of how wide a range of colours they offer and sharper contrast.

However, as things stand in 2022, they are more expensive than lamp-based projectors with equivalent specs so it will be for you to decide whether the slight visual improvement and cost-savings over the long term are worth it to you.

What software do I need for house projection mapping?

I want to make a clear distinction between the two different stages of house projection mapping which require software.  

One stage is creating and animating your show: The Show Design stage.  

The other stage is mapping the house: The Mapping Stage.

The Show Design Stage

The main software people use to edit and animate their projection mapping shows are Davinci Resolve, Adobe After Effects and HitFilm Express.

Davinci Resolve and HitFilm Express are both free but they have paid versions which come with more features. 

After Effects is a subscription software which can be bought standalone or as part of Adobe’s entire creative suite and billed either month-to-month or annually.

I work as a freelance animator and I use After Effects day-in-day-out. It is incredibly powerful, particularly for motion graphics and VFX and there are thousands of plugins you can install, some free, some paid, to extend its capability. 

I know a lot of people work with Davinci Resolve and DaVinci Fusion which is the video compositing platform within DaVinci Resolve. They get great results from it and stand by it because it’s free. I know that DaVinci is very strong when it comes to colour-correction and colour grading. But I don’t think it has the edge on After Effects in any other area aside from price – you can’t get better than free!

There are lots of tutorials out there for both After Effects and DaVinci – perhaps more for After Effects for the kinds of animations you typically see in projection shows so I think you’ll find more support with After Effects.

If you strongly feel that you don’t want to part with money for software then HitFilm Express or particularly DaVinci Resolve will take you a long way. Especially if you’re looking to source videos online and are only wanting to edit and assemble them for your show.

If you can really see yourself wanting to develop your animation skills and create your own effects from scratch, then I would definitely recommend After Effects.

The Mapping Stage

Which software you need to map your house depends on the method you choose from the options I set out in my Mapping Methods section above. 

To recap, you have the Outline Method where you design your show over outlines of your house which have perspective baked in. Then you also have the Orthographic Method where you design on a flat guide without perspective and introduce perspective later with projection mapping software. 

If you choose the Outline Method

You can use free outlining software from Digital Pressworks designed for just this purpose. 

If you use this software, you will need to sit outside with your projector and draw lines on the features of your house. 

I’ve also made a tutorial for creating outlines. This method only requires a single reference photo and drastically reduces the time spent outside drawing the outlines. For this method you need some graphics editing software with a filter that can detect edges, I recommend either GIMP which is free or Photoshop

You also need some projection mapping software that has the ability to corner pin and for that I recommend MadMapper which you can download free as a demo.

If you choose the Orthographic Method

With this method, you first need to create an accurate guide image of your house that does not contain any perspective. 

If you already have a front-on architectural drawing of your house, you’re good to go. 

If not, you need to create a 3d model of your house from reference photos using photogrammetry software. Free options are Meshroom, 3DF Zephyr or Regard 3d

When you have your 3d model, you need to bring it into 3d modelling software to create a guide.

A good free option for this is Blender.

Once your show is designed you need to map the video content onto your house. This can be done with After Effects which I show in my tutorial series for the Orthographic Method, but you can also opt to use dedicated projection mapping software. Professional, paid-for options include MadMapper, HeavyM and Resolume.

Kit List

See my list of suggested house projection mapping kit including projector, media player, computer, audio, cables, window covering & enclosure materials.

What other equipment and materials do I need for projection mapping my house?

Media Player

You will probably want to invest in a media player. You could connect and play your show off a laptop, but many people don’t want to do this for the added problems of security it presents.

Some cheaper projectors can read media files straight off a USB plugged in the back, but many projectors need an HDMI input either from a computer or a media player.

A media player is a little device which is relatively inexpensive. You can load your video file onto an SD card or USB thumb drive and plug it into the media player and then connect the media player to your projector, usually via HDMI. 

Watch out for the resolution capability of your media player.

For example, if you want to project 4K content, check that 4K is supported by the media player.

An extremely useful feature for a media player to have is the ability to loop seamlessly so your show can play over and over, so look out for this.

Some people use a Raspberry Pi as a media player.

A Raspberry Pi is a very small, low-cost computer. You can run software on the Raspberry Pi called Falcon Player, formerly Falcon Pi Player and often abbreviated to FPP. It is free software that allows you to sequence a playlist of media and even schedule when it will play.

There are tutorials and blog posts about how to set this up online.

Laptop or Desktop Computer

What do you need in terms of a laptop or desktop computer to do house mapping?

Even if you aren’t going to use a laptop for playback, you are still likely to need a machine on which to edit and create your show.

Video editing and animating effects can be quite strenuous on a machine.

I’d recommend you check the minimum requirements of all the software you intend to use in your projection mapping workflow and use those as a guide to what you will need.

Let’s take After Effects as an example – it gives minimum and recommended requirements for both Windows and MacOS.

Since these are minimum specs, go higher if you can – more RAM and a better graphics card will give you better performance.

Cables

You will likely need an HDMI cable or equivalent depending on what your projector accepts as a media input.

You will also need extension cables that are rated for outdoor use.

If you are very concerned about your cables in wet conditions you might consider extension cord gaskets and a connection protector box.

You might also want cable covers to reduce tripping hazards.

Window Coverings

You need to put some kind of opaque material in your windows in order to catch the projection, otherwise the light will simply go straight through the glass.

When you’re thinking about what to use in your windows, bear in mind that any bumps and folds in the covering will produce distortion so usually the the aim is to make it smooth and without creases. 

Your options include paper or cardboard and a lot of people use cheap frosted shower curtains. Some people use perforated vinyl so that they can still partially see out of the windows – because remember, unless you’re going to take the window coverings down each night, they’ll be in place for as long as you want to run your show. 

That’s why some people opt for removable solutions like pull-down shades or fabric stretched over frames which can be hung in the window.

Time

This isn’t something you can launch into and perfect in a short amount of time.

This isn’t for you if you’re looking for quick results.

You are going to need patience and a willingness to learn a new skill which can sometimes be challenging but also very rewarding.

Audio

If you’re hoping to incorporate music in your show your options are either speakers or an FM transmitter, or both.

Speaker

With your speaker, if you want to go down a cabled route, you’ll typically be dealing with a 3.5mm AUX headphone jack.

Or you might choose to go wireless with Bluetooth.

On the one hand, that’s one less cable to worry about.

However, there is a lag with Bluetooth; it’s only a few milliseconds but can be noticeable if you have characters with mouths synced to speech or music lyrics.

If you opt for a battery-powered speaker, again that’s one less cable to worry about and presents less of a tripping hazard – but you need to remember to charge it.

You can typically expect around 16 hours from one charge.

For a speaker you’ll be using outside it either needs to be outdoor rated or kept inside a weatherproof enclosure.

Inside an enclosure is better for security since it’s easier to walk off with it if it’s loose.

If you aren’t keeping the speaker in a secure enclosure you need to consider its security by maybe hiding or disguising it, chaining it or locking it down or fitting it with an alarm.

When it comes to positioning your speaker, I’d recommend placing it where the audience is, not necessarily where the projector is.

This means the sound can be quieter to keep neighbours happy.

Having a speaker encourages visitors in cars to park and come up to the show so they don’t hang around blocking the road.

The speaker also serves people coming on foot, like trick or treaters.

FM Transmitter

An FM transmitter, on the other hand, takes your audio and broadcasts it over an FM radio frequency which audience members can tune in to, usually in their car.

At colder times of year this is advantageous because people would rather be in a car.

It also has the advantage of creating no noise for neighbours.

It also keeps the audience out of the way of the projections where they might cast shadows.

Depending on where you live, there might be rules around taking over a radio frequency and over what range you can broadcast, so look into those.

Remember to have some kind of sign to tell people the frequency to tune into – this can be some kind of physical signage or integrated visually into your show.

If you want to incorporate both a speaker and an FM transmitter, you need an audio splitter out of your projector or media player.

Video Content

Something else you are definitely going to need to create your holiday projection mapping show is video content.

You can design your own from scratch, or you can source content free online or buy content.

If you want to create your own designs from scratch I would highly recommend YouTube tutorials to teach you pretty much any effect you can dream up.

Free

You can also adapt or layer effects on top of free content available online. 

YouTube is a great resource for this. Search for “green screen” or “chroma key” to find footage with a background you can remove using the chrome keying technique. And anything with a black background is good because projecting black is the same as projecting nothing at all.

Free stock footage sites are a brilliant source of copyright free video and images.

A good example of this is Pixabay or Videvo.

soundimage.org is a good source of sound effects as is freesound.org.

textures.com is great for images of different materials like stone and wood.

Using tools like doodad you can generate hundreds of tillable patterns.

Free Video Content

See a list of some of my favourite resources for free video content online. 

Paid

Then of course you can pay for content.

AtmosFX is the biggest player in this space. Their content is very popular and high quality though it is quite pricey. 

There are other places like holidayprojection.com, hi-rezdesigns, HallowFX and my shop.

You could consider subscription services like Envato Elements which gives you access to thousands of high quality videos, motion graphics, images and sounds.

Ribbon
£5.99
String Lights
£15.99
LED Shapes
£15.99
LED Meshes
£12.99

Pre-Made

Lastly, a discussion about pre-made shows that you can buy.

The way this works is that you submit the outline map of your house, you select from one of their pre-made shows and they adapt it to your house.

These usually cost between $99-$200.

You still need to create and submit an outline map of your house, so you can’t wash your hands of the technical process entirely.

And this map needs to be correct; if you change your mind on the projector position or you made a mistake – too bad, the show won’t fit on your house.

They are selling you the final video file, so it’s much harder to make your own edits or tweaks.

Also watch out for copyright infringement. Some of these companies use movie clips or characters which are someone else’s intellectual property which is against the law.

Copyright

A word on copyright and using copyrighted material in your shows – that might be music or footage you’ve lifted from movies or recognisable characters from well-known franchises .

Although I am not a lawyer and don’t claim to offer legal advice, my understanding is that if your showing of copyrighted material is public, you must obtain performance rights.

So anyone playing movie clips or using copyrighted music is technically in breach of copyright law.

If you take an entrance fee to see your projection mapping show, you are more likely to get in trouble, but offering your show for free doesn’t make it legal.

If you use copyrighted music and you post on YouTube, it will likely get flagged but usually this doesn’t result in anything bad – your video just won’t be able to be monetised. 

If you use copyrighted material you might want to avoid news coverage. News crews will probably avoid you because they don’t want to get into legal trouble.

Though the chances of getting in any serious trouble from using copyrighted material are very low, the safest option is to avoid using other people’s intellectual property altogether if you don’t own the appropriate licenses.

Enclosure

If you plan on running your show for a number of weeks as opposed to a one-time show, you are going to need some sort of enclosure for your projector.

There are some options out there for purchasing professionally manufactured outdoor-rated projector housings. These are quite expensive and not all of them have sufficient ventilation or come with a tripod or mount.

Then there is the DIY route…

DIY

Digital Pressworks has a box build guide with a list of materials and instructions.

But if you would rather design your own solution, these are your main considerations:

Enclosure Materials

See my list ideas for products you can purchase or incorporate into your DIY enclosure build. 

Adjustability

We’ve already talked about the importance of your projector not moving once everything is mapped so this enclosure and mount needs to be stable and fixed but perhaps with some latitude for adjustment if the ground moves or settles.

Incorporating a projector mount or bracket in your design gives you the ability to adjust but also to lock off a fixed position.

One feature of short throw projectors is that they often have some lens shift which means they project an image that is offset upwards rather than perpendicular to the unit. 

What this means is that you usually need to tilt them forward to some extent to get coverage on the areas of the house that are at the same level as the projector.

A projector mount or bracket would help you do this, but alternatively you could use an adjustable laptop stand inside the enclosure. 

Weatherproofing

Depending on where you live, the enclosure might be at risk of rain so it needs to be weatherproof to some extent.

You can buy some kind of plastic box or container that will give you a good starting point for your enclosure. Things like a plastic tote or cooler would do the trick. 

Or you could make your box out of wood. If you are using wood, make sure to seal all the gaps and use a sealant on the wood to resist the elements. Also use screws and other fixtures and fittings that are for outdoor use so they don’t rust. 

Beyond regular wood sealant, tough protective coating like the stuff you use on a truck bed can give even more protection.

If you’re cutting your enclosure and running cables into it, you might want to consider using cable glands to keep the enclosure sealed and free of moisture.

Port Glass

You will also need a hole for your projector’s light beam which will be covered with some kind of transparent material to let the light through.

You might be tempted to use a cheap material like plexiglass but be aware that this material interferes with the light beam and often reduces brightness.

From looking at home theatre forums, there are many recommendations for ‘home theatre’ glass, also sometimes called ‘projector porthole’ or ‘port’ glass or ‘water white’ glass. 

These products are a lot more expensive but they are anti-reflective and have high light transmission so the glass barely impacts the light passing through it.

Portability

If you plan to bring your projector inside each night and during bad weather then you want to be able to do this as efficiently as possible whilst still being able to return it to its exact mapped position each night. 

You could do this using markers, fixings or just adjusting by eye each night. 

If you’re going to move the whole enclosure every evening you might benefit from fitting it with wheels or handles for lifting and carrying it.

Alternatively you can leave the enclosure in place and just remove the projector.

If you put some signage on your enclosure to let thieves know you remove the projector each night there is less chance of them destroying all your hard work only to find out there’s nothing inside.

Temperature

Projectors, especially short throws, are at risk of overheating if they don’t have good airflow around their fans. If this happens they will turn off and potentially sustain damage. 

So your enclosure needs good ventilation and to be large enough so air can circulate around the unit.

18” x 24” x 8” is generally large enough to provide good air circulation.

You should consider having at least 3 enclosure vents that won’t let in rain or bugs – 1 as an inlet and 2 as outlets, ideally corresponding to where the projector’s fans are located.

And although projectors are more intolerant to high temperatures, they also do not want to be too cold.

A projector will have a range of operating temperatures in its spec sheet which you want to keep within.

Some more sophisticated enclosure builds incorporate temperature monitors which can intelligently switch on heating devices like heated reptile mats or cooling systems like computer fans.

Disguising

To make their enclosures less of an eye-sore, some people disguise them as tree stumps, boulders, tombstones and other creative things.

Even if you don’t want to give it a theatrical disguise, at least painting it black will help it blend into the yard and not glow with the light of the projector inside.

Mounting

As for mounting your enclosure, I’ve seen some that aren’t mounted at all and just sit on the ground. 

If you need a bit of height, you could mount it on a pole fixed in concrete or anchored into the lawn. 

You could investigate projector or laptop stands. You could also consider a heavy duty camera tripod or a construction tripod. 

I’ve seen someone recommend a sheet music stand.

Security

What are your options if you are concerned about security?

You could stay with your projector or at least bring it in each night.

For while it is unattended, you want to make it as hard as possible for thieves to quickly access the projector so you want every part of your enclosure to be secure. 

People use ground anchors and bike locks for securing mounts and enclosures to the ground.

Then any access to the projector inside the enclosure would ideally be fitted with a lock.

You can then layer on other forms of security like alarms and motion sensitive security cameras and lights.

Budget

How much does house projection mapping cost in total?

I’ll talk in USD$ because at the moment most people are doing this in US. These are rough estimates – if you’re good at sniffing out great second hand deals then your investment might be much less.

Projector

The cost depends on whether you go new or used and whether you need to buy a replacement bulb or not, but I’m going to say $400 – $1,500 dollars for a projector.

Software

You can do it all with free software but if you get a year’s subscription to Adobe After Effects that’s around $240 – although if you or a family member has access to a student or school-issued email address you can get some hefty educational discounts.

If you decide you want to use professional projection mapping software like MadMapper you can buy a perpetual license for the equivalent of around $520 or you can rent it for the equivalent of around 50$/month.

So I’m going to say a maximum spend of $760 on software.

Video Content

Like with software, you can source everything free online so you can make a show with $0.

However, if you go for a subscription to something like Envato Elements that’s the equivalent of around $17 per month – again you can apply for a student discount.

If you buy content from somewhere like AtmosFX or my website you might spend $50.

Or of course you might swing for an entirely pre-made show and they tend to cost $99-$200 – so I’m going to max the video content budget at $200.

Computer

I’m going to put a minimum of $0 because a lot of people will already have a computer they could put to work on a projection mapping project, even if it’s not the most high-spec machine in the world it will probably do the job.

However, if you wanted to get a new machine that meets the minimum recommended specs for After Effects, for example, you would be looking to part with at least $1,500.

Enclosure

For your enclosure, if you buy one pre-made that might cost you $500.

If you build one yourself, the cost of materials could be as low as $100.

Media Player

For a media player – $40 for something cheap, $120 for something better.

Other Materials

Other materials – for example to cover your windows: $10 for some shower curtains from the dollar store all the way to $150 for perforated vinyl.

Cables

$60 for a 80′ extension lead and an HDMI cable. Add $30 for some extra safety accessories.

Audio

$30 for just a speaker, add an FM transmitter in the mix for $80 to max at $110.

Total

So based on those rough estimates, I think you can do house projection mapping for as little as $640. 

However, if you choose the most expensive option at every stage you could spend just under $5,000.

Kit List

See my list of suggested house projection mapping kit including projector, media player, computer, audio, cables, window covering & enclosure materials.

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