Current lighting trends include the use of arrays of fixtures, such as RGB LED units, to replay images and effects via Pixel Mapping. This article examines the fundamentals of pixel mapping and explores whether it’s feasible to recreate some of these effects on a tight budget.
What is Pixel Mapping?
In the World of Lampie, pixel mapping refers to the use of software to map and replay media, such as bitmaps or videos, on a set of lighting fixtures (also known as a grid or raster). The fixtures could be anything from moving spots to PAR cans to Birdies, but a popular and eye-catching technique is the use of color-mixing LED kits (including Pipeline, Versa Tube, or Color Web).
You essentially receive a low-resolution screen made of “pixels” of red, green, and blue LEDs to display your goodies. We will continue to use the RGB LED model in this article because it is simple to understand.
Pixel mapping doesn’t involve projecting media files onto a screen while controlling the projector from the lighting desk. The primary goal of mapping is to transform your collection of “simple” fixtures into a massive display.
Using pixel mapping, you could produce some amazing effects with a lengthy single strip of RGB LEDs or play a sizable image across a number of different elements. The “screen” doesn’t even need to be rectangular or even one entire surface.
How does pixel mapping work?
The pixel mapper treats each fixture as a separate pixel and transmits the appropriate data to the array (typically color and intensity).
Different DMX implementations are still frequently used to control lighting fixtures. You can see how even a small surface can consume hundreds of DMX addresses given that our LED “pixels” use up at least 3 DMX channels.
Some control systems and media servers use their own proprietary network protocol when communicating with each other. However, a standardized method is needed when communicating with the fixtures themselves. Currently, ARTNet, an open-source protocol for sending multiple DMX universes, is used to send the majority of control signals. This has two options: it can be divided at the surface or put directly into a private control box for the LED system.
Pixel mapping is simply a tool. With pre-made or live-rendered digital media, it enables you to easily create some complex effects. Programming a complex RGB-level chase in 1000 steps is definitely preferable to this. It isn’t necessary for the LED “screen” to be in full color. Nothing prevents you from sending the output to dimmers linked to a grid of PARS.
What information does a pixel mapper need?
A pixel mapper needs to be able to determine the number of fixtures, the surface’s shape, and the fixtures’ locations. The fixture personalities of specific instruments can be included in media server pixel mapping software to assist with the DMX channels. The personalities come in handy for quickly assembling sizable arrays using widely available fixtures that can be divided into pixels.
To populate a buffer with information about a pixel, the pixel mapper needs to know:
● the format of the sample data
● the location of the sample data
● the location of the pixel data
● the location of the screen data
● the screen width and height the number of channels
● the type of the pixel data
● the type of the screen data
● the row stride, row offset etc.
Content for Pixel Mapping
It depends on the arrays that will be replayed on whether a piece of content is appropriate for pixel mapping. An XGA full-color image will not look very good across a really low-resolution grid, like our 9 PARs. Even though producing media content at the ideal resolution isn’t always necessary, it’s still critical to consider how the images will appear.
With a low-resolution array and some carefully selected higher-resolution media, amazing effects can be produced. But consider what 16 million colors on those 9 PAR Cans would look like! A little bit of a flashy, dim mess.
Pixel Mapping on the cheap
You probably want to test out pixel mapping without shelling out for expensive full-on media servers or Grand MAs. Many inexpensive lighting control programs, including the Cham Sys MagicQ PC, have some sort of pixel mapping feature. Similar to the system on the Grand MA, the onboard array control on the Cham Sys creates grids, applies fixtures, and maps images, text, and other effects to them.
The best way to experiment with this kind of digital lighting on a budget is to preview your pixel mapping. The chances of being able to set up a sizable array of genuine RGB LEDs to work with are slim, even with some free pixel mapping software. It can be difficult to find 9 workable PAR cans in some places!
Pixel Mapping Software
The possibilities for pixel mapping are numerous. As mentioned above, the majority of professional stage lighting consoles, including desks like the Grand MA, Avolites, ETC EOS, etc., have some degree of pixel mapping capability.
The Cham Sys MagicQ is a desk that I particularly like for a variety of reasons, and its pixel mapping functionality is no exception. Readers of On Stage Lighting will be aware of this.
In addition, the following software is connected to pixel mapping for performance lighting: Madrix, LightJams, Resolume Arena, etc.
3D Pixel Mapping
3D Pixel Mapping is a process that creates a three-dimensional representation of an object using a two-dimensional grid. It is used to create images on a computer screen, such as a virtual 3D model of an object, or to create an illusion of depth in a two-dimensional image.
The color of a pixel is determined by the wavelength of light that is reflected off the pixel. The longer the wavelength, the bluer the pixel will appear. The shorter the wavelength, the redder the pixel will appear.
Pixel mapping is a powerful tool that can be used to create stunning visual effects. It can be used to create an illusion of depth and dimension or to add visual interest to a scene. When used correctly, pixel mapping can be an extremely effective way to add impact to a scene.