US OPEN OPENING CEREMONY from Glow Design Group on Vimeo.

New York-based Glow Design Group, above, turned a tennis court into a projection-mapped visual surface for the US Open. The effect makes sense for such an event – after all, the court will be the setting for the sport to come. But this project doesn’t appear to go much further than work by French visualists 1024 Architecture, as at the French Masters series in Paris Bercy / 2010. Like the earlier work, it uses the markings on the court – adjacent rectangles – as the starting point. But unlike the previous work, it seems bounded by those elements, and since tennis courts aren’t terribly interesting (at least basketball and football/soccer have circles), that can be a bit restrictive. (1024 Architecture, for their part, had a role in the development of the MadMapper software that has helped accelerate the popularity of the technique.) As one reader notes in comments, what you do get in the US Open project is more video content – so a critical difference is also the brief for the particular application; France’s contribution was more abstract.

Projection mapping can be thought of as part of a larger set of techniques – producing illusions, and blending the digital visual with a physical environment. It is a form of augmented reality, in that sense. For big events, it may be a matter of working this larger toolbox of possibilities that keeps the technique fresh.

I don’t know in this case that Glow Design, who have down some nice live event visuals, were aware of the earlier work. But this could demonstrate that awareness can be an advantage. In fact, it’d be nice to see some friendly competition and one-upmanship push work forward. So, in that spirit, have a look at the two together, and see where you think potential for sport projection design might lead.

TETRA.TENNIS v3.0 from 1024 on Vimeo.

  • projection mapping is the new fireworks, what else can you do with a tennis court? did they crumble bricks of every building they ever mapped? stage one is over.

  • Kevin Hackett

    1024 is hands down more creative, more original and more exciting. They are the masters of what they do.

    The GDG setup is boring, not very exciting with the visual impact and the dancers distract from the video mapping (if you can call it that). What did they want people to watch, the video, lights or dancers (which are not even in sync btw). The choice of music was to puke on. The least they could have done was selected a song that inspired, but they chose to serve up some crap about rocking a club all night. FAIL.

  • I agree that 1024’s use of projection mapping as a tool for distorting and augmenting the physical space is far more creative. That being said, besides the fact that it uses the tennis court as a canvas, it is basically just eye candy.

    I think it’s clear that Glow Design’s priority was creating a narrative that is relevant to the sport of tennis. Could they have pushed the mapping further—sure, but I think in the case of a historic sporting event the narrative and content should support the context.
    I think it is important that we not let a tool’s functionality take away from the context, history, or narrative of an event—but to support it. If we use a tool simply for the tool’s sake, we are engaging in artistic masturbation.

  • Roy Macdonald

    I completely agree with @facebook-508652870:disqus, yet I’d like to add a few things.
    I guess that whom ever commissioned this work to Glow Design said something like “I want everything, fireworks, projection mapping, a narrative video, dancers, a light show, loud electronic music”. At least it looks like that. And in this sense I think that this can’t be judged in the same way as 1024 work. In fact, @peterkirn:disqus, I’m almost completely sure that GDG was completely aware of the mentioned work of 1024, as it must have been given to them as a reference, something like “I want this same thing but add this and that and….”.

    So, what’s to do now with projection mapping?


  • I like most 1024 mapping, the other one is cheesy.