Projection Mapping in Isadora

This post is to help people understand and get started with Projection Mapping in Isadora. It is not an complete walk through or advanced post (you are best asking on the Isadora forum for advanced topics) but hopefully this will shed some light for new users, or those new to the idea of mapping.

What is mapping?

Mapping has been around for quite some time but my opinion is that it is the art of cutting up images and video to line up with complex shapes that are not the usual method for of display pictures and/or video. It allows artists to project onto buildings, cars, sculptures and custom built sets or similar. Basically anything that a light source (a projector) can hit!

Why Isadora?

Obviously you don’t have to use Isadora but one thing Isadora has that none of the other softwares has in the Interactive angle; motion tracking via Eyes and Eyes++ combined with the easy work flow and ever growing community.

Can Isadora do projection mapping already?

Isadora has had features that have allowed basic to fairly complex mapping for quite some time. It’s just the way in which you use them. Granted; it could be better but with a few 3rd part Quartz plugins 99% of things can be done easily.

Here are some basic actor that you should be taking a look at…

Isadora’s Existing Actors…. 


Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 10.36.30*SOMETIMES* the basic projector can be used. In particular look at the perspective, aspect mod and zoom.

HINT: Hold SHIFT when clicking and dragging values for smaller increments and fine tuning!


  • Great for projecting on very basic shapes.
  • Helps you understand and learn about perspective and basic 3D perception.
  • Ideal for beginners and not too complex.
  • You can layer up multiple projectors


  • Limited mapping functionality.
  • Won’t do complex mapping (isn’t designed for mapping)


Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 10.36.59

I use this one a lot. It’s really great for mapping and has enough features to explore new mapping skills but won’t overpower you with scary numbers or names.

HINT: Hold SHIFT when clicking and dragging values for smaller increments and fine tuning!


  • You can pick each corner of the image/video and move it in an X and Y position.
  • The Z translate (default -2.5) moves the image back and forth in 3D (3 dimensional) space.
  • You can rotate the X, Y and Z axis.
  • Has all the normal features of a the standard Projector actor.
  • Not too overpowering. A nice step up from the Projector actor.


  • You cant add corners or ‘break’ the image up into a grid.
  • It can be tricky at first. Using Shift helps but depending on what you are mapping it can be a bit tedious.
  • It can get complicated when you have a lot of these on your screen. You are best renaming the actor so you can see what’s what; such as “Top Right Window” or “DJ Booth – Left Side”.

Matthew Haber’s Mapping Tools.

Some of you knew this was coming! Pro user Mathew Haber has created a bunch of user actors that make mapping a lot easier. Based on the _1024 Quartz Composer

Matthew has created a topic just for support for the plugins on the Isadora Forum so please ask and discuss them HERE

The Cornerpin Mask user actor is in my eyes one of the best tools ever!

Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 11.00.48

“This actors offers click-and-drag cornerpinning functionality for masking video. This has built in facilities for rectangular and oval masks and it also accepts a user Image input for any black and white image mask.”


  • It’s just amazing! it works and makes life easier.
  • The red circles that pop up when you turn Edit on allows you to click and drag the corner to where you want them. Not only this you can do it on the stage output… meaning you can map directly onto objects whilst looking at it. So yes, you literally move your mouse onto the output screen. NOTE: Check in isadora Stage preferences that your mouse is visible on stage output otherwise you won’t see it.
  • Because this is a Mask; you can mask objects. Send in a black and white mask and it will block out areas you don’t want.
  • Easily flick between the type of masks.
  • it’s free – kind of…. Needs Core upgrade of Isadora.


  • There are non really. Who can complain at this? Mathew has spent hours upon hours putting it together and creating it. If there was one negative it is simply that you need the Core Upgrade for Isadora and you have to instal a few bits and pieces; but once its done its done and you never need to do it again.

Syphon it out to somewhere else…

There are lots of other softwares that just do video mapping. And with apple you can send it out via Syphon to another software that can do it all with very advanced features. There is nothing wrong with doing this. Here are a few suggestions….

MadMapper. It’s been around for a while now and appears on all the main forums when you are talking about mapping. They where one of the first to create an external/stand alone mapping application and its developed along the way. It’s not free but it does a great job.

Visution Mapio is a powerful FreeFrameGL plugin for creating projection shows. Now you can work not only with the standard screen, but also with any inclines, including cylindrical and spherical and various shapes.

Shaped by Ixagon SHAPED is a user-friendly projection mapping software. It enables the user to easily map many different surfaces and attach content to them. The content is managed in a sophisticated sequencer similar to those found in video-editing and music-production software.

MeshWarpServer Quite a complex application. Ideal if you have a mesh/3D CAD designs of a building or object. A steep learning curve but it does have Syphon so you can send media in from isadora. Worth a look for those of you with time, patience and advanced 3D knowledge.

There are LOTS more; VVVV, Resolume Arena, Max, MSP, etc.

Hope this helps some of you.

Graham (Skulpture)


Isadora: Edge Blending, 3D warp distortion, Quartz Composer and Syphon…

I want to say straight away that I am stealing/recycling/sharing (with permission!) PacoTheCharm‘s post from off the Isadora Forum here!

As you will read and see PacoTheCharm has been working with Isadora and Edge Blending, 3D warp distortion, Quartz Composer and Syphon.

Originally this post was started to ask how to optimise the system but it has become pretty clear that Paco has done a fine job and its working very well.

Paco told me “…Once I catch up on some sleep I will be doing an update within more information and tips, maybe some better pics. I’ve ultimately got Qlab triggering izzy computer over midi note on, izzy sending video to one control scene, syphon out to quartz which has ffgl plugin that let’s me use mapio to 3d warp distort (unassuming, yet awesomely easy to use software) without almost any drop in frames. I’ve hardly been this proud of an izzy show”

Be sure to check out the official website [here]

The show opens on Friday and hopefully lots more pictures will come our way. But for now this will give you an idea….

Quartz and Isadora [Troubleshooting]

A very handy post was submitted on the Isadora forum a few days ago from Mark Conglio (creator of Isadora) , I decided to directly copy and paste it because I get the odd private message or comments about Quartz Composer. It is some thing I am still learning about and this has helped me out a lot.

So here it is:

OK, let’s look a little bit at the wild world of Quartz Composer plugins.

1) How does Isadora make use of Quartz Composer (.qtz) files?

Apple provides an API (Application Programming Interface) that allows any app to load a QC patch and use it. That’s how Isadora “imports” them into the program. Isadora creates a “wrapper” around the QC patches so that they appear as normal Isadora actors.

2) Where does Isadora find the patches?

The agreed upon location for the Quartz Composer files are
/Users/YOUR_NAME_HERE/Library/Compositions (also referred to as ~/Library/Compositions)
Isadora also searches the “FreeFrame” folder at /Library/Application Support/FreeFrame — not an Apple “approved” of place, but it’s where the Isadora community and I agreed to put these beasts back in the old days before Apple designated the three folders above.
There are two more important folders: /Library/Graphics and ~/Library/Graphics — it is in these locations that you may need to add a file with the .plugin extension. These are files that add some behavior to QC that can’t be implemented in QC. For instance, the Kineme “ArtNet” plugin (which controls lighting) has an associated .plugin file.
So, first let’s take a look at /System/Library/Compositions. Here you’ll find quite few QC plugins created by Apple. (A default install of 10.7 seems to have 102.) Most of these will work fine in Isadora. But there are few that won’t. For instance, “User Backdrop 1,”  “User Backdrop 2,” etc. These won’t load because Apple limited them to run with three particular apps: iChat, Quartz Composer Editor, and Photo Booth. I created a work around for this particular plugin by creating a small app called “Quartz Composer Compatibility” that adds Isadora to the list — it ships with the normal Isadora Core Installer. There may be others that may not load for reasons like this, but the bulk of Apple’s plugins will load and work correctly.
In the default 10.7 install, there’s actually nothing placed in the other two locations (/Library/Compositions/ and
~/Library/Compositions.) If you want add a plugin so that its available to every user, then it would go in /Library/Compositions/. If you wanted to add a plugin that you would see only when logged in to a specific account, you would add it into ~/Library/Compositions.
You may choose to not load from one of the designated folders by unchecking the appropriate check box in under “Quartz Composer Load Options” in the Video Tab of the Preferences. (Why would you want to disable one or more folders? Because Isadora has to open each one to find out about its published inputs and outputs every time it starts up. That can add considerable time to Isadora’s start up sequence which can be annoying if you’re not actually using all 102 default plugins.)

3) How does Isadora get data in and out of a Quartz Composer plugin?

In the Quartz Composer editor application, you can “publish” and input or an output. By so doing, the API mentioned above allows an external program to “see” that input or output, and get information about its characteristics. Isadora does just that, and for every published input and every published output, you’ll see a corresponding input and output on the QC actor in Isadora.

4) Why don’t some plugins work?

There can be any number of reasons for this.
First, there are many, many people out there creating patches using Quartz Composer. Some of them do a good job of making these plugins useful in environments other than QC: they and publish the relevant inputs and outputs so that other apps can access them. But, some plugins might not have and published inputs or outputs. In that case, there isn’t much Isadora can do. Using Apple’s API, no way to “discover” inputs or outputs that are not published.
Second, there simply might be a programming error or other problem in the qtz file. For instance, right now, I’ve got a QC plugin called “Datamosh” that a user was having trouble with. It won’t load because of an error, which is only displayed in the System Console (see /Utilities/Console.) For this particular patch, one of the errors looks something like this:
2012-07-31 15:16:23.725 IsadoraCore[7353:a0f] *** Message from <QCPatch = 0x01493A50 “(null)”>:
Cannot publish input port [“insertKeyFrameOne” @ “PlugInPatch_DataMoshPlugIn_1”]
2012-07-31 15:16:23.727 IsadoraCore[7353:a0f] *** State restoration failed on <QCPatch = 0x01493A50 “(null)”>
Third, there may be an associated plugin required to run the QC patch.  For instance, I have a patch called “v002 Rutt Etra isadora” that generates a ton of errors because it’s missing the associated RuttEtra plugin. If you load it in Quartz Composer, you see those errors in a dialog. Isadora doesn’t show a dialog with this information because 1) I can’t get it from the API and 2) for those not concerned with Quartz Composer patches, I don’t want to disturb them with information that’s not useful.


So, the upshot of all of this can be summarized by the abbreviation YMMV — “Your Mileage May Vary.” Meaning, some of Quartz Composer plugins that you find on the internet are going to work right out of the box; others just won’t. If you’ve paid someone for a plugin you might be able to get support (e.g., the folks at Kineme.) But if its a freebie or you don’t know the source, you really don’t have anyone to whom you can turn.
To really make the most of these plugins I would say you have to be a bit of an expert, because they have not always been designed to be used by an application other than Quartz Composer. You might just have to crack them open and work on them a bit to get them going. The problem is, especially for students, they may not have the skill to do so.
I hope that helps explain the situation a bit.
Best Wishes,
Hops this is helpful for some of you.