Anamorphic Creative and Large-Format LED

It’s no surprise that anamorphic and other realistic, three-dimensional content is making waves on large-format video platforms across the globe. The exciting frontier of digital creative offers artists and advertisers a powerful messaging tool, of that there is no doubt. Content creators continue to push the envelope and find new ways to stand out in an increasingly crowded digital landscape, often turning to attention-grabbing illusions to recapture the awe and wonder of audiences desensitized to moving pictures.  

While digital displays are influencing cityscapes throughout the globe, five notable markets for 3D/anamorphic digital-out-of-home (DOOH) advertising are New York, Tokyo, London, Paris, and Hong Kong.

As more advertisers experiment with experiential forms of promotion to engage viewers, expect 3D advertising to continue to grow in popularity.

What it IS

Anamorphic content as an art form has been around and continually evolving for a very long time.  

So, what exactly is it?

Anamorphic content is distorted imagery that appears normal when viewed from a particular point or with a suitable mirror or lens. Perhaps a more technical definition is an intentional distortion along perpendicular axes of an image.

Basically, anamorphic content, sometimes called “forced perspective” or “naked-eye 3D,” is an optical illusion where you think you’re seeing a 3-dimensional picture. This type of delivery is a careful combination of digital art and large-format display technology that allows images to appear to leap out from flat surfaces when viewed from a certain vantage point.

Optical illusions of this sort require careful planning and execution. It’s important to remember that the magical effect is in the creative combination of content and viewing position, with modern anamorphosis often being achieved through the use of high-quality video display hardware.

Forced perspective is achieved by manipulating the viewer’s visual perception using scaled objects seen at specific angles. This method makes objects appear closer, farther away, smaller, or larger than they actually are. With various lighting and shadow tricks, it creates a depth-of-field illusion that makes digital content come to life like no other medium.  The technique has been used in painting, photography, street art, sculpture, and films, but in the modern era, motion graphics, animations, and VFX are the most exciting ways to create 3D environments and depth on flat 2D screens.

What it ISN’T

Anamorphosis is not the same 3D experience seen at the cinema (that’s known as stereoscopic 3D and requires special eyeglasses to merge overlaid images). Human eyes see an image from two different perspectives to get depth perception (binocular vision). Active 3D video content feeds your brain two different perspectives so you think you’re seeing depth, which is why if you try to watch a 3D movie without the glasses, the screen just looks blurry.

Additionally, as some industry experts point out, “the magic is in the content, not the display.” Once the technology requirements are met (e.g., pixel pitch), the burden is on the creative shop to generate the 3D effect. In other words, though quality LED display technology is critical for crisp, clear imagery, it’s really the creative that does the heavy lifting with forced-perspective digital content. Some LED display manufacturers would have you believe differently, but the real credit for effective anamorphic work should go to content creators.

How the Technology Helps

The forced-perspective experience found on large-format LED screens is arguably most effective when the digital canvas has two opposing surfaces with a midpoint, providing a change in the physical canvas – for example, a display that wraps around the corner of a building, either along a smooth curve or at a 90-degree angle. Anamorphic content designed for such display surfaces must be viewed within a specific viewing area, and the further from this area the viewer is the more distorted the content becomes.

However, content on flat surfaces can mimic the exterior of a building, thus creating the same depth of field via well-made content. Seamless screens with tight pixel pitches and high-end processing are also important to maintaining a quality anamorphic effect.

Limitations and Challenges

As discussed earlier, anamorphic content requires a narrow viewing zone – a “sweet spot” – to fully appreciate the effect. Outside those parameters, content will tend to stretch and appear distorted.

Another challenge to creating high-quality anamorphic content is cost, at least for the time being. Creating 3D DOOH content can be costly, given the technical and creative skills required to properly deploy such an experience. There’s a limited pool of talent with the chops to make high-end, forced-perspective art, not to mention the raw computing power necessary to make it happen. These factors make this type of deployment less attainable for smaller or budget-strapped companies to take advantage of the trend. Project location, display size, complexity, and length of the content also contribute to cost considerations.

It’s Worth It

Despite the challenges to making effective anamorphic content, it can be well worth the effort and expense. For one thing, it creates some of the most memorable experiences and eye-catching advertisements available on a digital platform. Some creative even involves having a 3D figure appear to interact with the viewers themselves, creating an almost interactive and immersive feel to an otherwise cold relationship between viewer and screen.

In addition to being one of the most effective ways to stand out, forced-perspective content greatly increases the likelihood of going viral on social media. In fact, many advertisers are keenly aware that capturing video of an anamorphic campaign and posting it online can exponentially add to the number of total views.

Finally, 3D simply stands out more. Consumers might see a static ad and register its message, but they may not linger to let the message really sink in. However, with 3D DOOH, objects can appear to come to life, leaping right toward the viewer. This type of messaging demands attention and can hold that attention for much longer than conventional methods. This allows audiences to engage more completely with a brand.

Overall, 3D/anamorphic content seems to work best in tourist destinations, high-traffic areas, and corner units with busy crosswalks that allow ample visibility. However, as anamorphic content deployments becomes increasingly accessible through more cost-effective LED display technology and a growing talent pool of digital artists, one can expect to see more content like this show up in a variety of applications.

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