TightLight: Automatic 3D Projection Mapping Method from Grady Sain on Vimeo.

It seems like visual software is only just working out how to talk to an external display, how to recognize that it needs to be distinct from your computer display. And yet, we seem on the vanguard of a generation of tools able to seamlessly, automatically warp visuals to any set of surfaces. Instant projection mapping is nearly here, hopefully about to let you grumble to newcomer visualists about “you kids” and “how we did it in the old days.” (And when that happens, you better make sure you other chops – and content – are ready.)

CDM reader Grady Sain shares a project that does that, nicely titled TightLight, combining Arduino hardware for movement with the lovely Derivative TouchDesigner for the soft bits. Grady writes us:

TightLight is the codename for an automatic 3D projection mapping method devised by (me) Grady Sain. It’s a fast, accurate, cheap, and dependable way to projection map any number of objects of any size or shape. I developed this technique after many years experience designing and directing projection mapped events and shows. I used TouchDesigner 088 to develop the system. It interfaces with Arduino hardware and custom-built circuits.

Sounds good to us. Check out the video at top to see if you’re convinced – and here’s a full promotional description of how it all fits together:

TightLight has two main goals. The first is to help lower the skill level and time needed to calibrate complex projection mapping setups. The second is to address situations that require fast, accurate, and repeated calibration, such as installations and touring stage shows.

As an artist, I want to help projection mapping become ubiquitous, cheap, accurate, fast, and most importantly- accessible to artists of all tech skill levels.

TightLight is my effort to help de-mystify complex projection mapping, and help kickstart a new phase of growth in this medium.

It requires no camera or complex shape matching software, or super smart artists/ calibrators/ operators. Anyone can be easily trained to calibrate complex setups. In most setups, TightLight is only slightly more difficult than turning on a light!

TightLight is great for:

Homes, restaurants, bars, hotels, airports, and libraries. From standard lighting to interactive displays on any surface. tabletops, bar tops, floors, or walls.

Art! Sculpture, digital paintings, all sorts of new hybrids.

Set design, stage shows, all sorts of theater productions.

Film and video shoots. Projection mapping has huge potential for set augmentation, non-traditional rear projection, set lighting, and many other special effects.

Retail displays, windows displays, point of purchase installations, and interactive kiosks.

Products! Toys, games, educational, and entertainment.


Yes, please, someone make a toy with this. Okay, sure, maybe only CDM-reading VJs and artists will wind up playing with it, but we will be blissfully happy, beyond words…

  • DJ Autom8

    Very cool! I can’t wait to see more of this, keep up the good work!

  • wow

  • VJ Anomolee

    Interesting. Too bad its TouchDesigner based though. That means I can’t syphon VDMX into it. Also, in the first example the requirement of placing the photocells in the surface of the object seems odd because you still SEE the sensors in the projection… Also, what sort of 3D scanner was that in the video? Looks expensive. All the barriers to entry here seem to take the steam out of the “automatic” nature of this project.

    • Daniel Moszkowicz

      The 3D scanner looks to be NextEngine, and it’s actually relatively cheap in comparison to its high performance competition. However, I agree that the “automatic” factor is diminished by what is a doable but ultimately fiddly nuts and bolts project. Additionally, Mr Sain’s intentions for making projection mapping “accessible to artists of all tech skill levels” is to be admired.
      Daniel Moszkowicz

  • Elliot Woods

    this method is outlined by Johnny Chung Lee in his 2004 paper “Automatic Projector Calibration”:
    (check about 3:45 onwards in the video)

    But this implementation is super neat too!