Getting a Good Scan

Before you start scanning, you'll want to adjust your projector's settings if necessary, set up your physical scene, and select the ideal objects and conditions for the scan.

  1. Projector Settings
  2. Physical Scene Setup
  3. What to Scan

Projector Settings

There are a few projector settings you may want to change to ensure a proper scan. Settings and menus will vary across different projectors, but the following are generally consistent ones to look out for. If you have the Kit Projector (Epson 1060), we've outlined all our recommended settings here: Recommended Kit Projector Settings.

  1. Keystone
    Ensure horizontal and vertical keystone settings are set to zero. Some projectors have auto-keystone, which should also be disabled.

    Disable Auto Keystone
    Many projectors have auto-keystone enabled by default, which will adjust the image as you tilt the projector. Look out for that behavior and disable auto-keystone in the menu settings. Some projectors, including many Epson models, have a physical keystone slider on the top of the lens. This slider can be disabled in the menu settings.
  2. Image Mode
    Projectors have different image presets usually called "Image Mode" or "Image Preset" that combine settings for brightness, contrast, color balance, tint etc. The Lightform device's camera automatically adjusts its exposure and white balance settings, and should therefore work with most image presets. We recommend picking the image mode that you prefer the final look of.
  3. Brightness & Contrast
    In most cases, individual brightness and contrast settings should be left at their default settings. Increasing brightness or contrast too much may result in poor scans.
  4. Auto-Iris & ECO Modes
    Many lamp-based projectors have settings designed to extend the life of their halogen bulbs. These settings may be located in the "Image Preset" menu tree, but also in dedicated "Lamp" or "ECO" menus.
    We recommend disabling any "Auto-Iris" or "ECO" settings to get the most vibrant projection, but if you wish to extend the life of your projector's bulb (e.g. for permanent installations), you can leave these settings enabled and the Lightform device's scan should still work just fine.

Physical Scene Setup

The following guidelines will help you place your projector relative to your scene, and include general tips on the types of objects and materials that make for great projection surfaces.

Projector Placement

When placing your projector relative to your scene, there are a few main concepts to consider.

Coverage Is the projector able to cover everything you want to map with the appropriate throw ratio and zoom settings? Use the test card to make sure. 
Resolution This is directly related to coverage. Consider that pixels will appear larger and more spread out as you enlarge the projection. You may eventually see individual pixels if viewing from close range.
Focus Is the projector able to focus on all of the objects in your scene? If not, you may need to consider decreasing the overall depth of your scene.
Brightness As your projection image gets larger, you are also reducing the brightness. Insufficient brightness may result in poor scan results. You may get a "not enough correspondences" error if your scene is too dark to scan. 
Orientation Is the projector at an extreme angle? This may affect the quality of your content. More on this below.

Projector Orientation

Where possible, it is important to avoid extreme or oblique projection angles for three reasons.

  1. Pixels will become very "stretched" out, making your content look less than optimal. Some projectors with very low depth of field will result in stretched pixels that are out of focus.
  2. Light may bounce off the oblique surface to other areas of your scene, which can negatively affect the Lightform device's scan. The resulting scan may have holes or incorrect pixel values.
  3. Brightness falloff may occur, where pixels near the projector are small and very bright, while pixels far away are larger and much dimmer. The Lightform device is able to compensate for uneven scene brightness (HDR) and the difference in pixel size, but if the projector brightness falloff is too extreme, it can confuse the Lightform device's scan.


Avoid extreme projection angles where possible.

Pixel Grid

An additional consideration is the orientation of the projector's pixel grid relative to your scene. If you tilt your projector, you may start to notice that straight lines have jagged or fuzzy edges. This is because the content is not oriented to the projector's pixels. This effect will be particularly noticeable with small text.

What to Scan

  • The Lightform device can scan almost any size scene, from a coffee cup to a building.
  • The Lightform device cannot focus on objects closer than 3ft (1m) away.
  • If Lightform can see the projected image and the projection is in focus, then it can perform a scan.
  • Objects with a dull or matte finish typically scan best.
  • You can project on most colored and textured surfaces of any shape.

The following conditions tend to result in a bad scan

  • Glossy, shiny, reflective, or transparent surfaces (e.g., metal, glass, mirrored surfaces). Watch out for any nearby surfaces with these properties reflecting light onto your scene e.g., sometimes even a shiny table can bounce light
    Solution: You would want to cover the table with a cloth.
  • Projecting through glass.
  • Being too close or far away.
  • Surfaces that are too dark or too black.
    Solution: Bring the surface closer to the projector +Lightform device, try a lighter surface, or try a brighter projector.
  • An environment that is too bright, too dim, or has too much direct sunlight.
    Solution: Move to a darker or shaded environment if too bright. Adjust brightness in Scan Properties for dark environments.
  • Occlusions: scenes that have many parts that can only be seen by the camera OR the projector, but not both.
    Solution: These occluded parts of a scene will attempt to be filled in by the hole filling. Try adjusting the "Fill" slider to find the right amount of hole filling.

Some ways to improve a poor scan result

  • Adjust the scan brightness within Lightform Creator after you have taken a scan. Select the Scan Layer in the layers panel on the left and then adjust the Scan Brightness slider on the right as needed.
  • Reduce waves/warps by reducing the Scan Property called Fill. This will increase the number of holes but make the scan more accurate.
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  • Comment actions Permalink
    William Nigh

    Are you experienced in mapping an automobile or ceramics? Are they too reflective?
    Thanks !

  • Comment actions Permalink
    John Meehan

    Are there any recommendations for the brightness of the projected white versus the ambient light? What's the best contrast ratio for a scan? Any guidelines?

    Its hard to tell sometimes why the scan results are poor...  lots of variables .....



  • Comment actions Permalink
    Roy Whittle

    Design from just a picture.

    I did a scan of a large area but the scan produced no image to design on because the scene was too dark..

    I was able to guess certain areas and although faint the projection worked.

    Designing was not possible because I could not see the scene.

    However. Had I been able to just take a static picture during the day I could have used that to draw shapes upon it using the drawing tools (brush, rectangle, structure).

    Is that an option?

  • Comment actions Permalink
    Ashley Russell

    Hi Roy, 

    We definitely could show the camera image. In fact, you can load the camera image into Lightform Creator as an asset by going to your saved project folder, going into the scans folder, and finding the image "camera.jpg."

    However, the camera image is not from the same perspective/field of view as the projector. So if you were to use this to author content / draw vectors, and then publish the result, all of the content would be misaligned. All of the vectors would align with the camera's perspective, but this means that the projected result won't line up with the real world.

    This is the greatest value in the scanning process. It attempts to produce an image as if the projector could actually capture an image (which it can't, without Lightform device). This is how we can allow users to draw directly on the image, and have the content appear exactly in the real world as it does on your screen. Authoring in camera space will not achieve this.

    If, however, you want to see what you are doing in the black space as you are doing it in creator, I recommend 1. Toggling on the camera stream within creator (control menu --> toggle camera stream) and then 2. if you turn on the "stream" function with it set to "cursor on" and "mask on" like the screenshot below, you'll be able to see crosshairs show up in your scene and as move your cursor in creator and you can use the surface tools to create surfaces. With stream on, you'll start to see the shapes emerge in your scene as you finish creating surfaces.

    I hope that information is helpful but please let me know if you have other questions or concerns.