Projection-Mapped Advertising Goes Airborne Over NYC


Last week, New Yorkers might have looked up one night and seen a huge illuminated billboard floating along the west skyline, over the Hudson River.

Industry friend Will Amos of Diversified sent me a smartphone video that was, as he advertised, crappy, and had him guessing way off in the distance was a plane towing an LED light array, a modern spin on the decades-old business of aerial advertising using cloth banners. He

Turns out it wasn’t LEDs or a plane. It was projection mapping – with a chopper pulling along a 250-foot-wide white fabric banner and a second chopper flying alongside, keeping the same speed and altitude and blasting a stacked, edge-blended video on the floating screen.

It was an over-the-top promotion for a show the is all about over the top – the MTV Video Music Awards which went off last night in NYC.

The effort broke the Guinness world record for the largest aerial projection screen – with me guessing there wasn’t a previous record to break.

The campaign was executed by the Aussie firm Branding By Air, in collaboration with Remarkable Media.

Here’s a Gizmodo piece that goes into more technical detail.

I’m guessing this costs a couple of bucks to pull off, as you don’t just hire any old “Fly By The Statue Of Liberty!” chopper pilot to fly the chopper with the projection unit. But doing it gets attention and free media (like this).

Dave Haynes

Dave Haynes

Editor/Founder at Sixteen:Nine
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for more than a decade. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He's based near Toronto.
Dave Haynes


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  • Bryan Crotaz says:

    I really don’t like it when marketeers devalue terms like augmented reality and projection mapping.

    Projection mapping is the warping of images so that a 2D projection is mapped onto a 3D surface so that shapes appear to be on the surface itself rather than on a flat projected rectangle.

    Augmented reality is the adding of graphics to a live camera feed, generally where the camera is behind the screen, creating a “window” into the real world that the user can manipulate. Generally the graphics would respond to the movement to enhance the illusion of being in the scene.

    In this case, a flat(ish) screen is flown with a helicopter tracking it with a bog standard stacked projector inside. All they have to do is to stay at the correct distance from the screen to stay in focus.

    It’s a nice marketing idea, but apart from getting enough power to the projectors and keeping the right distance (a laser tape measure would do), it’s not very hard. It’s certainly not projection mapping or augmented reality. If it is, then every billboard in the world is also augmented reality.

    If they really were projection mapping, then they’d have warped the image to match the rippling of the screen (and the photos on the site show they didn’t), but this would only work from the point of view of a single viewer, not a whole city.

    • Dave Haynes says:

      All good points, Bryan – the technical challenges are in the flying. Mapping a big bed sheet is a bit easier than the mapping and projecting on the turrets of the cathedral in Moscow’s Red Square or the curved roof of the Sydney Opera House.

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