3-D: Best Practices and Trends

  |  February 20, 2009   |  Comments

A look at brands and sectors that have deployed the format.

In the column, "Using 3-D Photography Online," I talked about using 3-D images and movies in e-commerce. Because I got a lot of responses about it, I thought I'd follow up with some best practices. Unfortunately, no one is really using 3-D yet, so "best practices" is probably not the right term. I did, however, seek out an expert in the field to shed some light on the state of 3-D on the Internet.

A recent episode of "Chuck" aired in 3-D was done using an updated (and copyrighted) process called ColorCode3-D. While traditional 3-D glasses are red and cyan (or blue), the glasses distributed for the viewing of "Chuck" (and the 3-D Super Bowl ads) had dark blue and amber glasses. The differences are more than just what colors are used, however.

I interviewed Andreas Krona, international sales manager of ColorCode3-D, on his recent trip to the States (the company is based in Denmark) and asked him his thoughts about 3-D in general and how it applies to the Web. On a personal note, Krona is a terrific guy and has been extremely generous with his time, as I have been asking him a million questions about this technology.

Here are some of the highlights of my conversations with him.

Jack Aaronson: Why now, why 3-D? Is this just a gimmick that will come and go like it has in the past?

Andreas Krona: Technology has developed to make it possible to both produce and view 3-D in better quality to lower cost than...in earlier 3-D eras. 3-D gives up to 400 percent better visual perception than similar 2-D content, so any industry using visual communication could definitely benefit from it if used in the right way. This does not mean that any project will be better just because you add 3-D to it.

Industries we have worked with are medicine, architecture, and automotive, as well as the entertainment industry (e.g., movies, TV, and games). It could be anything, from attention [for] marketing campaigns to added value in information material and education. One typical scenario could be to have a printed 3-D ad in a magazine together with a pair of 3-D glasses. On the 3-D glasses there is a Web site address, and the Web site in 3-D is an invitation to an event where the participants get a discount if they bring the glasses. At the event, 3-D is used on large-screen projections to introduce a new product. This ties a number of different communication channels together using 3-D all the way through, which also makes the extra cost...for a 3-D production much easier to justify.

JA: What Internet companies are currently using 3-D?

AK: 3-D is being used in the "Monsters vs. Aliens" Web site, and HP [Hewlett-Packard] is also using 3-D in a current campaign. We as a 3-D production company and technology provider have, of course, produced a number of sample...3-D sites for inspiration. [See here and here. --JA]

JA: At CES this year, 3-D monitors were very popular. Do you think the current convention of having to wear glasses to view 3-D will go away? Certainly, this will solve the color problems current 3-D techniques have, right?

AK: Autostereoscopic monitors (where you do not need glasses) will become more and more common. And they have become better and better in the last few years, even though they are still quite limited in...that you have to be positioned in certain places in front of the screen to see 3-D. You will first see these screens (and already do) in digital signage, meaning shopping malls, airports, etcetera, to draw people's attention when they pass by, but I think there is a long way [to go] before people will enjoy these screens at home.

JA: One of the biggest problems with any kind of 3-D glasses is that you lose or change certain colors. This is a problem for selling products when color is important. Whereas 3-D displays will overcome that problem, what are some solutions?

AK: Colors is an interesting subject. For example, the color of the couch will vary depending on which light conditions you look at it in, and the impression of the color will change depending of the color of the surroundings. When looking at monitors, it is very hard to get the exact same colors from two monitors even though they are the same brand and even harder if they are different brands and in different surroundings.

With ColorCode 3-D you will see full-color images, and the colors you see with the glasses on will be more or less the same as the colors when you are looking at the equivalent 2-D image without glasses. There are some color hues that will change slightly, but that is usually not more than the variations between any two screens. Another advantage with ColorCode 3-D is that the image will look very close to the original colors even without the use of the glasses.

Conclusions

I can't thank Krona enough for his time in answering my questions and going back and forth, explaining them all.

Do I think 3-D is the end-all be-all? No, of course not. But one of the most common complaints about buying clothing and other merchandise online has been that a 2-D image can't really convey all the information about how the product is shaped. Virtual models, multiple-angle photos, and other solutions have been invented to solve this problem, but it's still not the same as actually seeing a product in person.

Three-D photos and videos, on the other hand, aren't much more expensive than their 2-D counterparts, and they are extremely effective at conveying this kind of information. ColorCode3D has downloadable software on its Web site that will let you get started making 3-D images for free. Additionally, there are several freeware programs that use the traditional anaglyph (red/cyan) method to create images.

Stop thinking 3-D is a gimmick. While the end game is probably 3-D LCD monitors that don't require glasses, we should start thinking about how to best use 3-D now so once it hits mainstream, we already have a plan in place.

Questions, thoughts, comments? Leave a message below.

Until next time...

Jack

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jack Aaronson

Jack Aaronson, CEO of The Aaronson Group and corporate lecturer, is a sought-after expert on enhanced user experiences, customer conversion, retention, and loyalty. If only a small percentage of people who arrive at your home page transact with your company (and even fewer return to transact again), Jack and his company can help. He also publishes a newsletter about multichannel marketing, personalization, user experience, and other related issues. He has keynoted most major marketing conferences around the world and regularly speaks at Shop.org and other major industry shows. You can learn more about Jack through his LinkedIn profile.

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