3D Billboards Are Just An Illusion And That's OK

As an experiential producer, my clients are always looking for the newest and coolest technologies out there and it is my responsibility to distinguish between real evolutions and hyped up vaporware. So, when one of my clients sees a post from an LED vendor claiming to have 3D displays it's my job to debunk that claim.

By now, nearly everyone has seen at least one eye-popping video in which the side of a building is magically transformed into a logic-defying 3D display. From Tokyo, to London, to my home city of New York, anamorphic displays are becoming a regular part of the DOOH landscape.

Many have heralded this as the arrival of a new technology, and in some cases claiming the 3D effect is due to something unique about the screens themselves. None of this is true.

Instead, the key reason for the appearance of these displays is the explosion in super-large LED displays, many of which are curved or wrapped around a corner. This format then offers designers an opportunity to take advantage of the age-old optical illusion of forced perspective.

If you have yet to witness an anamorphic display in person what you might not know is that they only appear to be 3D when viewed from a relatively narrow angle. The further one moves from the prime viewing spot the more distorted and less 3D the display will become. This is not a failure of the technology but the limit of the illusion.

This information is not meant to detract in any way from how awesome these displays can be. However, it is vitally important to be transparent about how these displays actually work.

For those considering incorporating an anamorphic video, understand that the majority of street-side viewers will be unable to see the 3D effect and that their message will receive fewer total impressions than a more traditional video.

There is an argument to be made that one can make up for this loss from all of the attention these videos receive on social media but this will only be true for the biggest and best examples.

It's fantastic to see all of the wildly creative anamorphic displays folks are creating right now and I hope this approach continues to evolve.