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IBX Insights

Bringing the IBX Letters to Life with 3D Projection Mapping

Marie Thresher, Chris Counter, and Calvin Tan alongside the IBX letters displaying the projection mapping

Marie Thresher, Chris Counter, and Calvin Tan from the IBX Creative Services team.

By now, most people in the Philadelphia area have probably seen at least one billboard featuring the Independence Blue Cross (IBX) 2024 ad campaign, featuring people posed on or beside large, blue, three-dimensional IBX letters.

Those letters are not a digital design — they’re real. In our ads, the people are interacting with actual physical IBX letters. We’ve also sent the IBX letters to various events, where the public can interact with them, too.

And when they’re not in use, they live in our lobby and elsewhere at our 1901 Market Street headquarters.

The letters themselves are already pretty impressive. But Calvin Tan and Marie Thresher from the IBX Creative Services team have found a whole new application for the letters. They’ve worked out how to project images or videos onto them in three dimensions using a technique called “projection mapping.” Here’s how that happened.

The Idea

Projection mapping has been around for some time. It has been used to create everything from the singing busts at Disney’s Haunted Mansion to the beloved holiday light show at Philadelphia’s City Hall.

Calvin Tan, a lead internet communication coordinator on the IBX Creative Services team (as well as an accomplished magician), had seen projection mapping being used in various contexts, and wondered if there was a way for IBX to take advantage of this technology.

He approached his colleague Marie Thresher, Creative Services’ senior motion graphics designer, with the idea of projecting video onto the three-dimensional IBX letters for the 2023 IBX Health Care Forum. “I realized I’d need someone like Marie to help me with this,” says Tan. “I started talking to her about it, and she got really excited.”

The Process

Tan researched what software would be required; Thresher created the animation. Then, the two associates pitched the idea to the Creative Services leadership team.

Marc Balara, director of Creative Services, embraced the idea and approved the acquisition of the software. “Marc was really giving us the green light to learn it and test it and see if it works,” Tan noted. “His support on purchasing the software and allowing us to learn it was huge.” The cost of the software was an investment, but handling the projection mapping in-house was far less expensive than hiring an outside company to do it.

Chris Counter, manager of digital and graphic design at IBX, commented, “We all got super excited because it’s a fun, immersive way of storytelling and it captivates people.” He added, “We have really good leadership that recognizes new technology, or just supports things we’re excited about doing. They’re willing to put the investment into it.”

The letters were 5.5 feet high by 11.6 feet wide. It was important to map the projection to their exact measurements or else the animation would not be effective.

Tan and Thresher elicited help from multiple departments at IBX, especially the audiovisual and building facilities teams. “Collaborating with other teams was vital; we had to lean on each other for a lot,” Tan commented. “Everyone was really excited about it from the beginning. Other departments were willing to help.”

The Results

It took Thresher and Tan six months to complete the project, but their efforts paid off. The projection-mapped IBX letters were enthusiastically received.

Counter commented, “It’s taken some experimentation to determine what kinds of images or videos will be visible when projected onto the letters. That’s something we’re still figuring out, but it’s fun.”

“The lighting in the spaces matters as well,” Thresher noted. “Projecting onto a surface is very different from projecting onto a TV screen, where the lighting adjusts automatically.”

And now that Tan and Thresher have perfected the technique, they’ve been able to use it for subsequent events. Thresher affirmed, “We’ll see how it evolves over time, but projection mapping will definitely be part of our playbook from now on.”

So, if you happen to be walking past our Center City headquarters, be sure to stop and check out the letters. You’re likely to see something cool being projected onto them, and now you’ll know whom to thank.

IBX Insights Team

The IBX Insights Team is here to provide tips on using your health insurance and living a healthy life.