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November 17, 2014 AT 4:00 am

Projection mapped e-sports gaming stage from Blizzcon 2014

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Thanks to Justin for sending in this blogtip! Via eSportsMax.

This weekend’s high level WCS Starcraft II action on stage needed no additional panache, but that didn’t stop Blizzard from assembling the world’s second largest projection mapping stage at BlizzCon 2014. Get a glimpse behind the scenes of this technological wonder and how it was used in this visual tour.

A bank of 30 high-powered projectors, each about the size of a large truck engine, power the display, with an array of cheap box fans pushing waste heat, indistinguishable from the output of a residential furnace, into the nearby seats. The animated images drew their depth both from image quality – we can only guess at the resolution needed for a hundred-foot wide stage – but primarily from the bevelled and slanted projection surface. The combined effect was more than enough to fool the eye into believing that the stage was more contoured than the sum of its symmetry and imagery.

This technology, called projection mapping, is relatively new on this scale. The only projection mapping display larger than WCS BlizzCon’s was that of Fête des Lumières in Lyon, France, where the front face of a cathedral is inset with images during the yearly festival.

It may not be the largest, but Blizzard’s display is no doubt more dynamic, drawing from stores of backgrounds, models, and concept art, then animating and layering the images to astounding effect. Each map has its own base layer – the swaying vegetation of Overgrowth and Catellena, the wintry starkness of King Sejong Station, the sterile or toxic industrialism of Nimbus and Deadwing, the unsettling research chambers of Foxtrot Labs, the tongue-in-cheek celestial filling station references of Merry-Go-Round. This was a labor of love – assuming this stage could be reused, a few of these maps will likely never be played in competitive SC2 after this season.

Layered over top in real time, on his side of the stage, is a visual representation of the player’s race. Gold, inlaid gems, and vespene vapors for Protoss, a MechWarrior style viewport for Terran, an undulating pink creep layer for Zerg (complete with wriggling tentacle). If the player should win, his race backdrop extends across the scene.

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