Those Popular ‘3D’ Signs Explained in Seven Easy Steps

If you frequent LinkedIn or YouTube and you’re into audiovisual tech, you’ve likely seen the videos of the signs on a street corner with a lion jumping out, a spaceship landing or a Jeep spinning brodies where the subjects of the video seem to escape the edges of the screen and break the fourth wall.

If you haven’t seen one — check it out:

These experiences look 3D but don’t use any traditional 3D technologies. They don’t require glasses, use lenticulars, employ light fields or require a second screen running an augmented reality app. In fact, the tech itself is all basic DVLED screens running 2D content.

So how do they make the images look 3D? Well, they utilize an optical illusion that relies on false framing coupled with forced perspective and some great content.

Want to see how to build one? See the steps below.

Step 1: Get a Building and Pick a Place for the Screen

The area above the storefront in between the windows here seems ideal.


Step 2: Install a DVLED Screen

Select the proper size screen at the appropriate pixel pitch to make an impact.


Step 3: Create a Faux Backdrop with Content

Use content to replicate the building’s architecture, screen framing materials, colors, etc. The image below shows replicating the brick on the screen with content.


Step 4: Create a Second, Smaller Layer of Content

Create a smaller window within the screen and define the border of this window visibly. This is where we create a “false frame” for later.


Step 5: Add Subject

You’ll need a realistic 3D asset created to maneuver around on the screen. Here I added a truck.


Step 6: Break the Frame

This is where the 2D image above starts to appear 3D. Move your subject out of the inner window and into the portions of the screen replicating the architecture. It seems like the subject escapes the screen boundaries, but it is an optical illusion facilitated by the false frame.


Step 7: Add Effects

Adding shadows, water that drips or sprays over the edges or dust clouds that accompany your subject outside of the false frame all help seal the 3D look and feel.



And that’s it. You can create a 3D effect with 2D tech and some great content (of course, you’ll need someone with skills better than my PowerPoint examples above.) These screens do have a sweet spot for viewing, but when you’re standing there, it can definitely create a wow moment.