Talking With Philippe Bergeron

Philippe Bergeron dreamed of being an actor when he was young. However, his pragmatic parents thought differently, so the young Bergeron decided to study computer animation instead. During his studies, Bergeron realized there were many similarities between computer animation and acting. His epiphany led him to a career in a field that is always evolving, and Bergeron wouldn’t have it any other way.

The computer animation guru launched PaintScaping in 2009 and has shepherded his company into one of the foremost projection mapping companies on the planet. PaintScaping creates projection installations for a variety of events from music videos (Rihanna, Calvin Harris) to advertisements (Porsche) to special event for high-end clients (Tiffany, Park MGM, Westin). Everyday is different for Bergeron as the projects are rarely ever the same.

With projection installation still growing and new technology being introduced, Bergeron remains on the cutting-edge, helping the medium grow. His amazing work continues to receive rave reviews as it evolves with every new project.

Philippe, can you tell us about PaintScaping and how the company can transform a landscape with light?

PHILIPPE BERGERON – PaintScaping is a world leader in projection mapping and although the majority of our work is architectural, that is more a product of the market at the moment. We actually began with landscaping. In fact, one evening I was working in my garden, just trying out things with a very simple paint program and a projector when my finger slipped and I painted a rock. It was an electrical “aha!” moment. I was suddenly able to literally paint the landscape with light.

Suddenly, I had an entire palette – color, patterns and textures to play with and what was truly extraordinary – unlike traditional landscape lighting there was no spill whatsoever. I could paint each leaf individually if I had wanted. It was a breakthrough. This is where our name – PaintScaping – actually came from: “Painting the landscape.”

How exactly did you get into the 3D projection mapping industry?

PHILIPPE BERGERON – Our first few gigs were “complimentary,” until we got our first paying customers. Our big break came with the Ritz-Carlton in Hawaii. They had a tiny budget, but the canvas was hard to beat!

Who is 3D projection mapping for and what are some of the projects you have worked on?

PHILIPPE BERGERON – Projection mapping is so versatile, it can be used in a enormous variety of applications. It can be thought of as smart lighting. It can mimic traditional architectural or landscape lighting but it’s more powerful and flexible. It can also do the job of traditional projection – rear screen or front. And of course, 3D projection mapping creates eye-popping 3D special effects without the use of 3D glasses. So, it’s a powerful, flexible and incredible tool for creatives in a variety of fields.

3D projection mapping is often used for special events as a grand finale – transforming a building with eye-popping special effects is always a huge crowd pleaser. However, we find transforming a building while telling a compelling story adds emotion to our events that audiences love.

As an example, for Rodeo Drive, we transformed that famous Beverly Hills landmark for a holiday installation. The client wanted the theme to be “giving” and so we told the story of a Victorian family, celebrating the holiday and sharing gifts. Naturally, we included a 3D visit from Santa.

The variety of opportunities and uses for projection mapping are expanding at a tremendous rate. Creatives are finding such inventive ways to use the technology.

We’ve done music videos (Calvin Harris’ “This is What You Came For” featuring Rihanna, 2 billion views), commercials (BMW, Gucci ad featuring Lana Del Rey and Jerod Leto), an oligarch’s wedding, a water tower art installation, and an immersive training room for EMTs. We’ve created a whiskey distilling experience in a life-sized barrel and brought mountains to life for a snowboarding extravaganza. We’re in the pre-production for projection on a rocket. We just can’t wait to see what comes next.

Bergeron dreamed of a career in acting when he was young. But at the insistence of his parents, he pursued a career in computer animation. While making terrific strides in that field, Bergeron also found the opportunity to work on-screen as well. He finds that computer animation and acting have many of the same traits, all of which fulfil the creative impulse he had as a kid. While Bergeron has an impressive list of film and television credits, his worldwide notoriety springs from his astonishing projection mapping work.

You have appeared as an actor in more than 50 films. How does your acting career coincide with your 3D projection work?

PHILIPPE BERGERON – Acting and storytelling are essential to projection mapping. At least to reach the next level. Yes, our visuals are astonishing. To us, that is the baseline, bare minimum. Fantastic visuals.

But projection mapping is so much more. When we add storytelling to our shows, they reach audiences on an entirely different emotional level. That’s where acting comes in. As an actor, emotions are a job requirement. So, working with emotion is something that actors and animators have in common. And now, with 3D projection mapping, it’s one of our most powerful tools.

My background in acting has provided me with an ability to use those actor tools – storytelling and emotion – to deliver fantastic shows.

Previously, you worked as a director of production research and co-wrote the IMAX movie Adventures in Animation. How did those experiences help prepare you for your current role?

PHILIPPE BERGERON – Projection mapping shows require all the skills of a movie-producer plus all the skills of a storyteller and actor. As a writer, I understand story structure. So even though projection mapping is a completely new medium for storytelling, we still use story principles as old as time.

Having brought numerous productions to fruition – from the first glimmer of an idea all the way to a completed project – I have experience in overcoming the numerous unexpected hiccups that crop up in any production. Since many of our events are live with a large audience, we live by the old adage, “The show must go on!”

PaintScaping’s client list is as varied as the projects it creates. The company is always working on something different, and its range of clientele is proof PaintScaping is at the top of its industry.

What can a client, company, or marketing team expect when working with PaintScaping?

PHILIPPE BERGERON – Each client is unique just like each projection mapping event is unique. A ski resort, for example, is quite a different client, environment and audience than a Cardi B music video. This means we are very flexible in our working methods. Some clients want to be completely involved throughout the process, others prefer a more hands-off experience.

In general, there are certain tent-pole elements that most productions share. For example, one thing clients may not realize at first is that projection mapping shows are often choreographed to music. So, music is hugely important and a critical first step. The client may give us sample music and we will find something that suits them and is also a good fit for mapping. Then we create an animatic and walk the client through that – it’s basically a rough sketch on a timeline of their show.

As the show develops, the animation, choreography and emotional highs and lows, go from rough to fine and detailed. Until, just like a Broadway opening, we have a tech rehearsal followed by opening night.  And then an opening night celebration!

In December, PaintScaping will be at Randhurst Village in Chicago for a seventh year. How does the company’s 3D mapping evolve each year to give people something new and exciting?

PHILIPPE BERGERON – The Randhurst Village show is a complete story with a beginning, middle and end. So, adding a new exciting element is always a challenge. When we have to add to an existing show, it has to “fit” in the existing narrative structure. We have a show that opens with a girl and her Christmas present. For this year, we’ve added the actual creation of that present. It comes together with sweeping, swirling, 3D magic.

PaintScaping recently worked with Porsche on a major project. How long does it take to model and create projections for events like the one for Porsche?

PHILIPPE BERGERON – Of course, the easy answer is, “How much time have you got?” For the bicentennial celebration at the University of Virginia, we spent over a year developing the show. Whereas for some other projects we’ve been able to put something together in a very short time – say two to three weeks. Both of those are the extremes, however. The average amount of time would be about three months for a special event and a few more months for a permanent installation.

Between 1982 and 1985, Bergeron worked on the short film, “Tony de Peltrie”. It was the first computer animated film featuring characters who expressed visual human emotion. The film was created just as Bergeron and his co-directors were kickstarting their careers. It was a revolutionary animated short film and it put Bergeron on the map in the industry. Without “Tony de Peltrie”, the world may not have the animated films of today.

Can you tell us about the groundbreaking short film you co-directed, “Tony de Peltrie”?

PHILIPPE BERGERON – Originally, I had wanted to be an actor, but my parents – practical French Canadians that they are – vetoed that. So, I ended up in computer animation where I realized character animation was simply a new kind of acting.

For those who don’t know, “Tony de Peltrie” was a short film I co-directed that starred the world’s first CG human with emotion. Time Magazine hailed it as a “breakthrough.” Some say that Tony was the Godfather of Woody, Buzz, and all the other computer animated characters that we’ve come to love.

What is the future of 3D projection mapping? What will be created in the future? And what’s next for PaintScaping?

PHILIPPE BERGERON – 3D projection mapping is really still in its infancy. Think of film in 1920. The technology is being improved all the time and it’s constantly being adapted in new and exciting ways. We now have tiny projectors for tiny areas and large projectors that can light up a skyscraper. I can see a day when all light fixtures are projectors. Why not?

One of the areas we are focused on is live mapping on moving people. This means we will be able to project on a person, say a dancer or an athlete, as they move. And there will be no lag time. Currently the lag time is about half a second, still noticeable. It’s quite fast, but not fast enough.

What is a day in your life like?

PHILIPPE BERGERON – Every day is different. Some days, I may be on set for a green screen shoot in Los Angeles, another day I may be overseeing an installation in Las Vegas. One day I’m interviewing an animator, the next I’m in London giving a talk on the future of projection. But day in and day out, I get to work with creative, motivated artists, producers, event planners and visionaries. I’m incredibly lucky.  P.S. – I never sleep.

What is something most people don’t know about you?

PHILIPPE BERGERON – I’m a burner. A Burning Man alumni! Love the freedom, the creative expression and the absolutely insane world that is created.

Philippe, what advice would you give to anyone starting a new business?

PHILIPPE BERGERON – Never use lack of funds as an excuse. In today’s world, you can create amazing visuals with consumer tools.

If you had the power to change just one thing in the world, what would it be?

PHILIPPE BERGERON – Everybody would attend Burning Man at least once. Can you imagine the creative energy that would be unleashed in the world? It would be transformational. Until then, I’ll be happy to talk your ear off about it.

PaintScaping’s projections are not only great to look at, but they are an experience. The work Bergeron and his team do is more than just projecting an image onto a surface. It is storytelling that evokes emotion from those who witness the unbelievable images created by PaintScaping.

As technology advances, the sky’s the limit for Bergeron and PaintScaping. The kid who once dreamed of being an actor has fulfilled those desires and more. With over 50 films and TV shows to his name, and a growing list of projections and clients, Bergeron continues to make his mark.

For more information on Philippe Bergeron and PaintScaping, please visit



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