In the wide world of television production, the use of in-show graphics or episodic explainers has become increasingly popular.  Why is that? Obviously, graphics add style and flair to a show, but when you’re trying to tell a story about the realities of decision making during a home renovation in a span of an hour or less, you need the viewer to understand what they’re seeing, otherwise, they’ll look elsewhere, to a much clearer and enjoyable show. So before we fire up the latest Adobe app, the conversation inevitably ends with: 2D or 3D?

Does it matter? Unless you want to roll out the blueprints or do a video speed run through the house, it does. I assume you know the dimensions of space, so we won’t bore (patronize) you there. In this instance, detailed 2D graphics, often the domain of illustrators, come to life on television through the use of the ubiquitous write-on technique. The entire scene is drawn, and then the “after effects” are reverse engineered to appear as if they are being created from a blank sheet of digital paper on the screen. This technique can allow for a visually clear and detailed presentation of the renovation process, like on HGTV’s No Demo Reno.

On the other hand, spacious 3D graphics (also known as not 2D) offer a semi-virtual view of the design at hand and all of its angles. This technique provides the closest experience to actually witnessing the renovation in a live action Sorcerer’s Apprentice kind of way, like seeing chairs and plants sliding and spinning into place, cabinets jumping through walls, and backsplash tiles delicately and quickly placing themselves one by one. The subtle lighting and details can be indistinguishable from reality(except for the flying objects), like HGTV’s Barbie Dreamhouse Challenge, making the graphics for the titular abode look as if they were made of plastic.  

Not to complicate matters, but just as 2D illustrations can be rendered by hand in immaculate detail to generally mimic the real world, 3D graphics can also be rendered in a nonphotorealistic (NPR) style that looks like they are hand drawn, like A&E’s 24 Hour Flip. You get all of the depth and animation of a 3D world with more flat, organic texture. Also, because photorealistic 3D could spoil the real reveal, putting some creative distance between CGI and video could keep the audience from feeling like they’re experiencing deja vu. 

When it comes to roads to take in animation technique, the 2.5D “compromise” between 2D and 3D is generally “the one…less traveled,” but like Robert Frost said, “[it can make] all the difference.” Not because it’s better or easier, but because there’s this technovisual experience not quite like cel animation but more so between flat and spacious: there’s untapped interdimensional potential there! This can most commonly be thought of as a cardboard cutout or a popup book, like the maps for HGTV’s Buy It or Build It.

Creating in-show graphics can require significant effort, whether it’s photorealistic drawing or rendering, animated write-ons or Mograph build-ons. While 2D graphics offer a potentially clearer approach, 3D graphics provide a visually stunning experience that brings the renovation process to life, and the 2.5D technique can offer a unique visual aesthetic. Ultimately, the choice between dimensions in graphics matters because the show’s tone, brand and viewership depend on it.

2D, 2.5D or 3D? That is the question. 

Radical Point Media can help you find the answer.