Thinking Outside the Plate to Tell Stories: Projection Mapping Brings Dining to Life

| By Editorial Staff

Dining as a form of entertainment isn’t anything new. The go-to first date is dinner and a movie. 50-year marriages are built on early-bird specials at the local restaurant. With so much history associated with eating out, you’d think it’d be nearly impossible to introduce something completely new and disruptive to this world.

Think again.

Using modern 3D projection mapping techniques, and harnessing people’s desire to be entertained, two artists have created a way to tell stories at the dinner table like never before.

The artistic work of Skullmapping

Filip Sterckx and Antoon Verbeek are the men behind Skullmapping, the small artistic collective that created Le Petit Chef – projection mapping that’s played out right on your dinner plate.

Using a combination of 3D animation and motion capture, Skullmapping tells the true story behind the diner’s prepared meal. It all begins with the chef, of course. Our little chef enters the scene through a “hole” in the diner’s table. He then makes his way to the dinner plate, which will serve as the canvas for his artwork.

Using both sights and sounds, projectors positioned overhead transform a seemingly average restaurant table into an entertainment center. Diners watch in awe as their plates turn into a grill, which the chef sets aflame to get his meal started. He then gets to work adding the necessary ingredients for his masterpiece: he has to cut down a broccoli tree (with a chainsaw) and pull a carrot from the ground, all to ensure his guests get only the freshest ingredients.

Of course, as with any good story, our beloved chef runs into some obstacles on his way toward achieving his goal. Take, for example, the nagging flies looking to spoil the food he’s preparing. In retaliation, the chef swats at the flies with an oversized fork, only to accidentally spill the canister of lighter fluid right into grill.

What happens next, well, you’ll have to see for yourself.

Entertainment for the modern age

Diners can’t help but become fully engaged by this unfolding, modern-age story. It not only helps pass the time before the real meal arrives, but it also gets people talking about this unique dining experience.

Innovations like this have such an impact because they’re tailored to a modern audience. Centuries ago, dining entertainment came in the form of jesters, musicians, and stage performances. But as we continue to merge the digital and real worlds, the modern-day consumer demands experiences aligned with the technological landscape in which we live. While it’s still entertaining to sit down to a meal and listen to a violinist play a tune, it’s not nearly as exciting or unexpected as watching your table come to life right before your very eyes.

The power and draw of projection mapping

Skullmapping’s Le Petit Chef isn’t the first time we’ve seen projection mapping at work. Across the globe, innovative minds are finding intriguing ways to use this type of technology to capture our attention and stimulate our senses.

Take, for example, Prague’s Astronomical Clock. When it turned 600, The Macula and Tomato Productions created a projection mapping project to celebrate the clock’s history. Displaying their work right on the historic relic, the story begins with the original architect’s plans, charts the construction of the clock, and highlights key moments in Prague’s history.

The result is a multimedia spectacle that’s part documentary, part artistry, and certainly a sign of the future of storytelling.

The fate of storytelling – more than words

It’s no secret that print journalism is all but dead. But even sales of print books are lagging. This isn’t because audiences are averse to reading; they just want something more than words on a page.

Projection mapping provides that opportunity to engage the modern-day consumer. It can be used for just about anything, from offering a unique selling point for a restaurant to becoming an integral part of a marketing campaign.

Technological advances are making it possible for innovators to create full sensory experiences, and projection mapping is an example of this type of storytelling at work. And this technology isn’t overly expensive or hard to access. Skullmapping, for example, has been taking orders to create customized projection mapping experiences for restaurants across the globe.

In a competitive climate where everyone’s shouting to get heard, it’s the most innovative, and creative-minded folks who’ll turn heads. Le Petit Chef is a fantastic example of how two independent artists thought outside the plate to recreate the dining experience.