Oct. 11, 2021 - As large outdoor LED screens compete for viewers’ attention, advertisers and video content developers seek ever more effective ways to stand out. We’ve all seen wonderful videos circulating on social media of giant building-side LED displays with animals or space ships appearing to come right out of the building. It has viewers both in-person and online completely spellbound and captivated.
It may appear magic, but it is really just an optical illusion that required careful planning and execution. In fact, the magic is in the creative combination of display hardware, content and viewing position. This kind of 3D viewing experience is often referred to as "anamorphic content" or "naked eye 3D".
This is not the same 3D experience you’ve seen at the movies or on a 3D TV, which is called stereoscopic 3D. In those cases special active 3D glasses are required to merge two different overlaid images. Human eyes see an image from two different perspectives which gives you depth perception (binocular vision). Active 3D video content feeds your brain two different perspectives so you think you’re seeing depth. If you look at it without the glasses, it just looks blurry.
There is such a thing as a stereoscopic LED display but it requires special hardware, software and content plus active 3D glasses. Typically the even-numbered rows of pixels display the image for one eye and the odd-numbered rows display the image for the other eye. This technology is most often used for 3D simulation and scientific research.
Naked Eye 3D allows you to see a 3D effect with the naked eye; no glasses required. The definition of the word anamorphic includes "intentional distortion along perpendicular axes" but the bottom line is that your eyes are being tricked. Therein lies the magic. How is it done, you ask?
The first thing to understand is that the 3D effect is the result of the content, not the display itself. Some manufacturers might make you think their screen is special, but the screen itself is not 3D. You do need a high-quality outdoor LED display with high brightness and contrast and support for wide viewing angles. The bigger the screen, the better. You also want the screen to go around the exterior corner of a building, square or round.
With anamorphic content, the best 3D effect comes from a very specific audience perspective or viewing zone. The content must be developed and optimized for viewers inside this zone. Viewers outside the zone will see a distorted image, thus the magic is revealed. The most effective content seamlessly integrates into the display’s physical environment. The content around the perimeter of the display is made to match the building exterior, so the viewer can’t tell where the building ends and the display begins.
Good anamorphic content makes the viewer think they are looking into an interior space with some subject like a person or animal on the inside. When this subject breeches the visible boundary of the display (not the physical one) it appears to be coming out from the interior space. It can also look like the subject is getting closer to you. When well executed, it has a jaw-dropping impact.
Now you know the secret behind the magic of anamorphic video content. It creates a powerful audience attraction for public art, entertainment and advertising applications, and there’s no better delivery vehicle than a large outdoor LED corner display.
by Peter Lawrence, Director, Planar Custom Solutions Group