3 Creative Ways to Use a Projector in Your Film or Music Video

Projectors aren't just tools for film exhibition; they can also be used to create stunning effects.

Whether it's a simple animated background or complex projection mapping, projectors have the potential to create some mesmerizing cinematic effects. However, utilizing one isn't as straightforward as many other techniques in filmmaking—which is why DP Justin Jones, who has lensed music videos for artists like Zayn and Wiz Khalifa, joins Ted from Aperture to explain how to do so. In the video below, they demonstrate the many ways a projector can be used to create different effects.

Front projection

This is likely the first effect that comes to mind when it comes to utilizing projectors. Though it's a relatively simple effect to create, you will need to know a little bit about how to position both your camera and the projector so as to avoid unwanted shadows. Jones suggests placing your camera perpendicular to your background without angling it up or down, and then mounting the projector slightly above your camera. 

You can create many effects with this technique, including projection mapping. Here's Kat Von D's live face projection mapping performance to give you an idea of the possibilities:

Rear projection

For this effect, you are going to use the projector as a backlight, so position it behind your subject. This technique will create some interesting light rays that also contain animated and live-action images, so you'll need to get your hands on a haze/fog/smoke machine in order to see them. You'll want enough atmosphere to be able to see each light ray, so try to avoid adding too little (because you won't be able to see them) or adding too much (because it'll obscure them).

Top projection

This method projects images onto the floor, which can be really interesting for music videos with a lot of choreography. You'll not only need to design a rig that can support the weight of your suspended projector, but you'll also need to get it high enough to create a large enough image size. Again, using haze will be extremely important for pulling off this effect, because your subject will be performing among the rays of light being cast down from the projector above.

Video is no longer available: vimeo.com/95946394

Technical considerations

There are some things you need to think about before working with a projector. First, where are you going to get your images? Jones says he gets his from royalty-free websites, but making them yourself isn't all that difficult, even if you're not very savvy with post software like After Effects. (Even creating a simple geometric shape or pattern would be more than awesome!)

Second, be aware of your frame rate. Why? Because of flicker issues. You don't really see any flickering from projected images captured at 24 fps, but as you raise your frame rate, you'll want to keep an eye on it.

What are some creative ways you would use a projector for your film or music video? Let us know in the comments.     

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Your Comment


My favorite DIY front-projection music video...

May 31, 2017 at 8:05PM

Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer

Thinking about this one for a new music vid, I'm not sure what will work but I'll try and cover my bases. This is in my head.

One Projector and One BMCC Camera and One Sony A7 and a flanders field mon.

Position Projector and Camera 1 and 2

1) project black n white video/stills onto a wall. Record
2) Add bright couch as prop against the wall. record with and without projection
3) Add band on the couch, record with and without projection
4) Connect flanders to Camera then to projector.
5) Try projecting each scene and record (this will probably create an infinite loop, maybe a little HDR kind of sort of thingy) From the BMCC=>Flanders=>Project Live=>Record on BM & Sony.
6) Try variations of the above with a green screen on the wall behind the band
All projected scenes synced via clapper.
7) Blend and cut all this together with other POV's, CU's, Slo-mo, stop motion.
oh dear, it's so complex I can't explain it...lol

I need a room, projector, couch, band, 2 cameras...some leds and time. perhaps some medicinal plants ^_^

June 2, 2017 at 10:29PM, Edited June 2, 10:29PM

Paul Abrahams

These are great... we did a spot for Cannondale a while back, and used a projector... was quite cool https://vimeo.com/124470583

June 3, 2017 at 11:13AM

Roberto Serrini
Director • Editor

Hello there,

I am filming a fitness exercise video in a studio gym. They already have projectors on the ceilings projecting images on the walls, 180-degrees in the studio. However, the only other source of light in the studio is a line of spotlights on the ceiling.

My concern is that my model will be too dark, even with the spotlights on.

Any recommendations of other light sources that I can use and where to place them in order to light the model standing in front of the wall with the projected image, but not destroying the projected images on the walls with the extra light?

Thank you in advance!

June 28, 2018 at 1:58PM