Time Out São Paulo

Mapping São Paulo

Using advanced video mapping techniques, VJs are lighting up the city

Watch a clip of video mapping on the facade of the Cathedral in Campinas, São Paulo state 

There’s something in the air in São Paulo, streaming through the ether to animate building facades, and illuminating nightclub interiors. It’s video mapping – a sophisticated projection technique that ‘maps’ 3D surfaces, then projects carefully tailored images back over their contours to create the kinds of visual effects that would have been unthinkable a few years ago.

If you’ve been to Sonique or Clash Club, to Lab Club or the new Cine Joia, you’ll already have an inkling of what the nightlife strain of the art-form can achieve, especially when mapping blends with clever lighting and graphics and the older-school skills of DJs and VJs. In the best examples of the genre, lights, images, patterns and films seethe across walls, threading in and out of architectural details and meshing with music to spectacular effect.

At Liberdade’s Cine Joia, a high-tech two-projector system by the Argentinian studio Estado Lateral adds several extra layers to live music shows: a Twitter feed is rendered as a set of polygon chips scattered up the wall, VJed films and images come and go, and mapped graphics march across the wall behind the band as lights spiral up and down the plasterwork relief in the opposite direction.

The axes of art

Mapping the space, says Estado Lateral’s Enrique Mármora, involved a laborious process of measuring, designing and programming so that the visuals, represented on X, Y and Z axes, seem to penetrate the surface’s topography, playing across the complicated plasterwork.

Another recent video mapping event in late November took the high-tech art to the streets, with site-specific projections beamed onto a selection of rickety Rua Augusta buildings. As cars cruised up and down the late-night hotspot, Video Guerrilha, a creation by the São Paulo collective Visualfarm, set films, photos and animations crawling the walls above them.

In one installation, the scrawls and sketches of passers-by were projected onto a wall like fleeting graffiti; and on another building, daubed in pichação, SP’s hieroglyphical graffiti tags, pichos came to life and marched back over themselves on the suddenly swarming surface.

Relatively small scale for Visualfarm, which has created projects all over Brazil and beyond, and which is responsible for the visuals at Sonique, Clash Club and Lab Club, the happening had a gritty, urban edge that’s sometimes missing in the grander affairs for which mapping is often harnessed – corporate events and civic occasions.

Get the skills

If any of this has piqued your interest, or you know someone who’d be interested in getting involved, this is your chance. December brings a year of huge strides taken in the SP video mapping scene to a close with Passport VJ University, held at Trackertowers, the audio-visual school in Centro. Video mapping, programming, video graphics and interface design are some of the skills on offer in the seven days of talks and workshops, with prices from R$10 for those who sign up soonest.

‘The idea is to increase the skills of VJs and create new links with interested beginners,’ says the curator, VJ Spetto of São Paulo’s United VJs (see the video below of a United VJs' projection on the facade of the Catedral Metropolitana in Campinas). ‘There’s a real shortage of artists and professionals in the area.’

Participants with previous knowledge (aka nerds) may find the Quartz Composer and the programming workshops of interest, while presentations by SP’s United VJs, the Spanish mappers Telenoika and German interactive whizzkids Urbanscreen will have pleasures even for newbies.

Wrapping it up in spectacular style, a closing party at the Memorial da América Latina on 17 December (4pm-midnight) brings cutting-edge mapping together with the kind of architecture it was made for, plus a spot of good old-fashioned DJing by the deep-house maestro Larry ‘Can You Feel It?’ Heard.


  • VJ University is at Trackertowers (Rua Dom João de Barros, 337, Centro, 3337 5750, trackers.cx) from 8 to 14 December.

Watch the United VJs video below

By Claire Rigby
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