So you’ve heard of MadMapper Spacial Scanner function,
but you don’t know excatly what it is, or even how to use it.
I’ll explain that in this tutorial.

The Spacial Scanner allows you to use your projector as a scanner,
to actually capture, pixel by pixel, what your projector “sees”.

For this tutorial, you’ll need:
– MadMapper
– a projector
– a Canon DSLR (see compatibility list)

Sometimes, being kitsch feels refreshing (esp. for the sake of a tutorial)
Here’s what the final mapping will look like (a radio-active garden gnome):

Frightening? Mwhahaha…
It was done in less that 10 minutes, this might keep you motivated
to read through all the next steps…

I picked up a plastic dwarf. (I had it already actually)
Put it somewhere in my office.
This is my setup by day:

I put a projector in front of it. I used an Acer K11 that has 300 lumens.
Noted the resolution, which was 1024 by 768 pixels.
Because I’m a bit of a cowboy, I set it on its side in order to make things needlessly more complicated, and to prove that the equations work even in extreme situations, being sure it would “shoot” the entire dwarf:

I placed my camera at around a 45 degree axis to the projector beam.

FYI, my DSLR is a Canon EOS 500D with a Sigma lens.
I set it up to shoot the scene a little bit wider to capture the full output of the projector.

I did set everything in Manual Mode:
– Manual Focus
– ISO 100 (less grain)
– 1/15s shutter speed. It has to be lower than 1/60, your projector’s refresh rate
– F3.5

These settings were the best for my scene. Yours might be a bit different.
According to my tests a white background is not ideal because it reflects too much light. Under-exposed pictures are better because you get less artifacts. Ambient light is bad because it competes with the light coming from the projector.

I launched MadMapper. Plugged my DSLR to my Mac using a USB cable
and started the Spacial Scanner function.
It all happened in one click (which is good!)…

Once plugged in, MadMapper shows a preview from your DSLR:

I clicked “Capture” to start the procedure.
What the program does is project a bunch of white patterns, aka Structured Lighting.
These are succesive white bars, such as:

Since the whole process is automated (remember ? just one click …),
I took the opportunity to make myself a cocktail, while waiting for the final result to be processed.
Then I saved the picture somewhere on my drive.
MadMapper also loads it automatically as a background in the preview output:

Note the little artifacts on the resulting picture due to the poor conditions of this tutorial, and to the reflective nature of the surfaces. Matte surfaces are ideal.

Next step was to load the resulting picture into Photoshop and do some selections.
I selected the interesting parts of the dwarf, made a new layer for each part and filled them with white:

Note that I rotated the whole canvas for extended lasso/magic wand pleasure. If you do so don’t forget to revert back to the original orientation when you are finished.

I saved each of the layers as a separate PNG file.
PNG is good because it retains transparency, aka alpha.
For the super lazy visualist, there’s a script in Photoshop to export all the layers as a separate file automatically: ‘File | Script | Export Layers to Files…’

Then I launched Modul8 and imported each file into the Media bin:

Then I assigned each picture to a layer and set the normalize option for each one.
This had the effect of correctly scaling each layer provided your preview ratio is set to 4:3:

With everything ready so quickly, I sent Modul8′s output to MadMApper (cmd-Y).
Make sure the Syphon resolution is the same as your pictures and projector, in my case 1024 by 768 pixels.
You can check that in Modul8′s ‘Preferences | Misc | Syphon output':

Switching to MadMapper, I set the media input to Modul8 by double clicking on it in the list:

Then I created one single Quad surface.
A little trick is to unzoom a little bit in the Preview output to display the whole stage and the created Quad will magically fit the stage:

Wow! Normally, everything fits perfectly.
Then I switched back to Modul8 and changed the color of each layer, added some auto-color effect and whatnot. Had fun. There are plenty of other ways to have fun. a cocktail is obviously a part of it.

It works seamlessly in MadMapper:

Finally I took a picture of the final result:

And in the true spirit of self-satisfaction of the quickly achieved video-mapping tutorial, a made myself a final cocktail.

30 Responses to MadMapper Spacial Scanner tutorial

  1. Omid says:

    hi there,
    your tutorials are great, even if at the end you can feel the influence of the cocktails (a made myself a final…):D
    thanx for this great software and excellent tutorials,

  2. alex says:

    Forgive me if I am missing something obvious . . .

    I have been able to hook up a camera + projector and generate a image that is displayed in the MadMapper preview window – however it is not clear to me where the dialog that allows me to save the resulting image is. In other words, how do I get/find the image file created by MadMapper’s Structured Light tool so that I can open it in photoshop?

    Thanks for making this tutorial!

  3. Corentin says:

    Comme j’ai vu que vous êtes francophones je me permet d’écrire en français.
    Je n’ai pas très bien compris ou doit on placé l’appareil photo par rapport au projecteur ?
    De plus j’ai essayé avec un appareil photo quelconque et madmapper ne l’a pas detecté, est-ce normal?
    Merci et félicitation pour ce tres bon logitiel et tout vos projets, votre site est passionant!
    Corentin, madmapper débutant
    Ps : Allez vous organiser un workshop à Paris? On m’a dit que vous y habitiez!

  4. juan says:

    Where you place the camera?

  5. Demian says:

    Thx for the great tut! we are thinking of buying this software but are running into some problems.

    After the calibration and spacial mapping thing is done, MadMapper doesnt load the processed image automatically as a background in the preview output… it only shows a small part of it. And I cant seem to find the photo’s / pictures anywhere.

    awaiting your reply,


  6. Moises says:

    JUst great! i finally got it! ill start experimenting ASAP!

  7. Kamal says:

    I was trying this out on the demo version, there is no preview output option. Is that because it is a demo? Also, te preview is just a bunch of with dots and lines?

  8. richard anstice says:

    Great tutorial and is obviously very simple. However when I plug my canon 550 d in (set as you suggested)and start the scan it’s shutter opens a couple of times and then appears to stay open. Nothing happens on the status bar and I thought perhaps I was being impatient but have waited 10 mins and nothing happens. I notice also on your image of the scanner that the resolution of the projector is displayed on the right , I can’t get anything to appear in this ‘tab’ Any help would be much appreciated – thanks

    • richard anstice says:

      Having solved the above problem I’m replying to my own question as I notice someone else had this problem in the forum. What the tutorial doesn’t mention is that the output of madmapper must be set to fullscreen. I had a problem with this as the projection would be fine but the screen would just be a series of coloured lines. I eventually found that the problem was that in settings , I had mirrored screens turned on. As soon as I turned this off everything worked fine!

  9. Vivek says:

    can you please post a picture of your placement of projector & camera both…

  10. Aitor says:

    Hi there!!
    we have been using mad mapper for a few projects already great tool so far, but the results with the scanner are not completely satisfactory since we always struggle a bit with getting the correct camera settings to get a decent picture that we can use in photoshop. The image is always quite jaggy and a lot of the detail needed to build the model/masks is often not enough. We followed the advise from you to use something as close to 100 ISO as possible but still nothing as clear as you show on the tutorial, any help on this?


    • franz says:

      it really depends what you’re trying to scan.
      scanning a plain white surface is problematic, as white reflects too much light, which will screw up the scan, resulting in jaggies.
      If you really run into problem, please contact the support (@Franz), and provide a photograph of the object you’re trying to scan.
      Usually, a good setting to start is :
      iso 400 (interior) or 800 (exterior)
      f: 2.8 (or lower is possible.)
      exp. 1/40

      Also, to improve quality, try shooting pictures in L resolution

      Hope this helps.

  11. Franklin says:

    Hi. i have a problem with the spacial scanner, because when i want to push CAPTURE, a little window appear saying ” IMAGEN QUALITY SHOULD BE SET TO JPG ONLY (NOT RAW OR JPG + RAW) but my imagen is in JPG M 3456X2304…WHTAS IS THE PROBLEM ?

  12. omid says:

    is it possi ble to scan a setup with 3 projectors splitting a full hd signal
    a la triplehead2go and softedges?


  13. JEFFLIM says:

    hi~ when i try to special scanning I had a problem
    message > “could not capture without an external display configured ”

    What ‘s the problem ??

  14. ThM says:

    Would love it if you could show the set up for camera and projector. Just a sketch would do…:)

  15. Ricardo Garza says:

    Hello I have the module8 and madmapper with 4 projectors, wanted to know how can i put a picture in each projector
    Greetings from Acapulco Mexico

    • ilan says:

      My apologies, but your question is a bit confusing in relation to this thread/post.

      At the moment MadMapper only supports multiple outputs using a Dual or TripleHead2go. Theoretically you could use 3 x DualHead2go’s to get 4 x outputs.

  16. Pixray says:

    Few questions:
    Although it works perfectly with a Canon camera, why doesn’t it work with nikon ? what is EDSDK ?
    What are the kind of USB cameras compatible… do you have a list?

    • franz says:

      Because Canon provides a software development kit (=SDK, think of it as a driver) that we can use.
      Since it is Canon, it won’t work with Nikon cameras.

      As an alternative you can use a firewire video camera that is compatible with QuickTime.

      there aren’t any other USB camera compatible.

  17. Ian says:

    Read your projector manual before placing it on its side or any radical positioning. You could ruin it.

    Damn kids…

  18. Joe says:

    Hey Ilan,
    We’re using a Canon T3i and running through the Spacial Scanner tutorial — everything goes fine until pulling the image into Photoshop — the saved image is a .png with just one layer. Is there a way to change this to a Photoshop file type with layers?

  19. Alex says:

    I think all of these questions would have been much less problematic and faster solved if you would put a video tutorial instead of bunch of static photos and texts. All your tutorials are pain to follow.

    After all Madmapper is a video tool, shame to have to deal with this basic tutorials presentation in this day and age when it takes the same amount of work to do a short but much more coherent video tutorial.

  20. Hello there! I simply wish to offer you a huge thumbs up
    for the great information you have got right
    here on this post. I’ll be coming back to your blog
    for more soon.

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