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.