by Tom Zerega
Founder/CEO, Magnetic 3D
(This is part one of a four-part series looking at 3D in digital signage. Read part two here.)
The importance of engagement and content: How glasses-free 3D solves for both
Today, companies are embracing digital signage faster than ever before. So the idea of using a flat panel display as a means of "cutting through the clutter," is less likely to have the same effect now as it did five to 10 years ago when it quite possibly may have been the only source of moving images in a given environment. Fast-forward to the present and video is, for lack of a better word, everywhere.
The objective of grabbing viewers' attention to deliver important messaging and advertising can fall short if the medium to deliver that message fails to capture and hold the attention of its target audience. As a result, new display solutions are becoming available that increase audience engagement in a major way.
Engagement is a key word among advertisers lately who are buying into digital signage. They want to know how well consumers are engaging with their message, and rightfully so — digital signage is not inexpensive and there are plenty of ways to spend media dollars these days. Therefore, proving an advertiser's return on investment, or ROI, is no longer just hinged on whether a viewer had an opportunity to see a given ad. For network operators today, it's quickly becoming a market that seeks proof a consumer actually connected with the message. It's clear that the level of success of any network will be elevated by proving advertiser ROI in this new age of accountability. Advertisers want to see digital signage ROI measured to more stringent standards, perhaps as analytical and concrete as online media standards have become.
Glasses-free 3D technology, otherwise known as autostereoscopic 3D, has entered the digital signage landscape as an emerging solution, and potentially the wave of the future for an industry focused on delivering consumer engagement.
Today's 3D displays go well beyond the limits of traditional 2D digital signage, by allowing advertisers to break the fourth wall and introduce the brand into the consumer's environment without the hassle of putting on and taking off 3D glasses. The combination of new technology that viewers don't yet have in their home, with stimulating digital effects that leap off the display, is the one-two punch combo that marketers are using as their visual "bullhorn" to drive engagement. Glasses-free 3D is the new way to connect in the overcrowded out-of-home media market.
The difference between traditional media and glasses-free 3D is the novelty of seeing 3D without glasses, and high-quality content that actually has audiences extremely engaged. More importantly, it has active consumers excited and stopping to watch advertising — much like they once did with the advent of color ads in the days of black and white-only TVs. In that sense, glasses-free 3D could be a priceless marketing tool that enables advertising messages to be regarded more as entertainment than an intrusion into one's personal space — and one that extends dwell time with a brand, allowing marketers to deliver their complete message and truly connect. It appears as if history once again repeats itself with glasses-free 3D.
Connecting with content
Color became an exciting and new way for marketers to connect with their audiences and changed their thought processes on creating ads, giving rise to the brilliant and almost cinematic commercials that we have today. In much the same way, glasses-free 3D once again brings back memories of exploring new creative possibilities that are offered by the advent of a new visual medium.
The first tool needed to exploit the benefits of glasses-free 3D is really imagination, the ability to leave the 2D palette behind and start thinking about content development in a 3D world. Creators must have a technical understanding for, and appreciation of, both the possibilities and the limitations of glasses-free 3D to achieve the maximum effectiveness while staying within the boundaries of the technology.
In the same way 3D motion pictures have created a new way to experience movies, glasses-free 3D presents the opportunity for digital signage content developers to create new experiences for advertisers that consumers are actually excited to view. After all, I think we can all agree that an important factor in communication is delivering an experience that the viewer finds relevant or entertaining — in fact, that may be the only way to graduate to a level of unparalleled consumer engagement.
However, to get the most out of what autostereo has to offer, developers need to be trained on elements of glasses-free 3D creative direction, new 3D composing tools and autostereo 3D, or AS3D, workflow from qualified professionals with experience using these platforms. Developers should also be experts in 3D content development programs such as 3D Max or Maya because they are the most widely used in the 3D production industry and a prerequisite for delivering quality 3D content to the screen.
More importantly — and perhaps the most striking difference from developing traditional 2D content for digital signage — is that 3D content development requires a team effort from specialists in the focus areas of lighting, shading, animation and modeling, the major components to creating photo-realistic 3D computer-generated images. This is a major departure from the "faster, better, cheaper" method of creating motion graphics in Flash or AfterEffects which has allowed digital signage to plaster the walls with content, whether relevant or not. In the advancement of every visual medium, there is always a way to push the envelope with creativity and quality to achieve a more effective solution. In that regard, glasses-free 3D may be the natural evolution of digital signage to an elevated and more engaging end-user experience by way of dynamic 3D visuals.
As with any new trade, practice makes perfect, and for developers to become skilled at the art of glasses-free 3D, they need to have the right training and the right tools. They will need to modify their creative vision to take into account the new ability to play to the audience instead of thinking of the viewer as a passive spectator to the scene. With glasses-free 3D displays, the audience is now an active member of the cast and can be part of the action. The first tool that creative directors and developers need to understand and appreciate this new capability is a quality glasses-free 3D monitor.
If the strength of a network is its ability to engage with the audience, then it's not about the hardware. It is all about the power of the content to capture the audience, and from that perspective, the importance of glasses-free 3D in the tomorrow's digital signage network takes on a whole new meaning.
(NEXT: Part II of the series will take a look at how hardware and content are inextricably intertwined in 3D digital signage, and why there's a need for best practices for 3D digital signage content.)
Zerega is the founder and CEO of Magnetic 3D, a glasses-free 3D display technology and media provider based in New York City. His roots are in broadcast, where he worked for nearly 20 years with major networks such as CBS, NBC and ABC/Disney prior to launching the Magnetic 3D brand and Enabl3D Technology in 2007.
Read more about 3D digital signage.