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Spark AR | Facebook Opens the Door to Bespoke Instagram Face Filters

Fueled by a new generation of AR creators, their filters - or rather ‘effects’ - are breaking the mould of how the everyday user can create content.

Closed Becomes Open

As of the 13th August, all Instagram users can create and publish their own Spark AR effects on their feeds. This means that anyone who uses the platform can now access the creation studio, and can create personal AR imagery.

The free tool, Spark AR Studio, was only previously available for approved content creators following its introduction in May 2018. It was originally announced during Facebook’s Developer Conference, F8, earlier this year that the tool has moved from closed beta to open beta.

The surreal design filters have helped significantly boost innovative AR Creators following. This is due to their ‘effects’ only being available to platform users in-app camera once they have followed the specific creator producing the filters. Once the creator has been followed, their bespoke filters will automatically appear in the stories camera effect tray.

Anyone can ‘try out’ others effect, but it can only be done via other creators profiles. Once you follow them, their ‘effects’ becomes directly available to users as they are updated. Chris Higa’s (@chriseditingofficial) tutorial was shared by Tech@facebook during a break down of the new features.

Due to the influx of original content, Instagram has also added the “Browse Effects” option at the end of the effects tray. This allows for platform users to find niche creators and innovative effects outside the mainstream creative movements; championing the narrative that fresh creativity appears in all regions of the Instagram community, both large and small.

What Does This Mean for Influencer Marketing?

This update and focus on AR arrives at a key time for creators and marketers alike. AR changes the perception and brings new depth to how we create, curate and instantly share our content.

Reducing steps - Augmented reality has the potential to reduce friction between how we interact with mobile content. For instance, how it could affect retail. With AR, Facebook is opening the door to being able to try on colours, styles, trends without needing to step into the dressing room. How we experience content could fundamentally shift; from simply viewing content, we can instead begin to experience it beyond ‘engagement’ through AR. Brands can now seize this opportunity to tap into this collision of technology and creativity via creators who are leading this trend.

For influencers, this is a particularly pinnacle moment. On the creative spectrum, universal free access to a content development platform is a progressive and inclusive statement from Facebook. However, building an AR effect isn’t as easy as simply dragging and dropping content. Developers and designers will be the ones who can immediately take advantage of the update. Although many will be able to have a go, the higher barrier of creative entry has allowed more experienced creators to flourish early on. That being said, there are tutorials and this industry was built on fast learners and self-taught content creators.

If time is taken to learn the new tool, the potential ‘effects’ become far more immersive to your style. Creators can add their own sound files and 3D objects into the mix, as well as being granted access to Facebook’s free library of assets. In addition, creators can import high-fidelity models into AR Studio via Facebook’s partnership with Sketchfab.

Once the desired filter / effect / lense (we’ve been hearing a few different terms) has been created, you can push them out onto your social network. In terms of the ‘inclusivity’ element, this means any user can now access your filters - even if they are not making any themselves. However, as mentioned, those creating independently will see the benefits as not only does it prompt users to follow the AR creator to get the in-camera benefit of their filters and instantly see their updates, but it also allows the AR creator to track how many people are using the filter.

This move of transparency from Facebook will ultimately help brands and influencers; specifically, if a creator is directly collaborating with a brand when creating a new filter. Firstly, filters reflect a cultural moment, creating for instant relevant aesthetics designed only for digital platforms. Secondly, the tracking element allows for the AR creator to be shared across multiple communities without losing credit for their work. This move allows brands to see who, where and how many users have interacted with the filters.

AR Creators Setting the Standard

Johanna’s artistic approach to filters has gained interest from the traditional platform in recognition of her creativity. Fresh from an interview with Vogue, Johanna’s work is symptomatic of how this method of creativity will be a major influence in mainstream culture. Recently collaborating with Facebook for filters, her following has seen a major boost as her fans see her filters as the pinnacle of how effects and beauty are becoming one. Speaking in an interview by Vice, she explained, “Beauty plays a huge role in augmented reality filters. But beauty doesn’t automatically mean make-up. I’ve been really influenced by photography, cinema, and futuristic things. If you think about photography, for example, it’s the perfect lighting that makes the model more beautiful. With AR you can fake that light.”

An Art Director as @livewall, Chris has received recognition for the diversity of filters he is pushing out. His filters have since gone viral and, due to AR tracking, he can see that his “Love Emoji effect’ is being used by over 400 million people (Lenslist). Other filters such as “Revolution”, the ability to turn yourself into a crowd, has also garnered global interest. He describes Instagram as the ideal space for AR as “it’s more oriented towards art and it’s the perfect channel for abstract effects.”

AR Creators Building Momentum

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Improvement// Day 1455

A post shared by FVCKRENDER (@fvckrender) on

Futuristic and tech-digital, Fvckrender is a self-taught creative that beckons a new era of content creation. His sharp geometry and glittering future landscapes warp our perception of existence and show as a possible image of the future. Having diversified into face filters, we can only expect cutting edge innovation from a creator who is gaining significant momentum through this shift. His following has grown exponentially these past few months as more and more creators desire content that breaks the mould. For inspiration, just head to his feed.

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A post shared by Franco Verrascina (@frenetikvoid) on

Frenetik’s is an artist whose subversive creations are finding their way into mainstream popularity as this AR movement grows. Although his work is steeped in science-fiction, this content examines human emotion and behaviour through surreal environments. His unique style is being translated to his filters, which are growing in popularity alongside his main artwork.

The Value of Zero Cost

Earlier this week, Mark Ronson released a music video for his song "Pieces of Us" featuring singer King Princess entirely on Instagram stories. The video was shot only using graph AR and captured all on set via mobile phones. In terms of budget, this meant the entire video had zero costs in post production due to Facebook’s free service.

The video has since been pinned to Mark Ronson’s stories. The creator turned director who developed the effects and was behind the production was ‘Digital Artist’, @danmollervfx. Due to the interactive nature of stories, the video has continued to evolve over the past few days with “polls” being incorporated into the stories so fans can choose how the video plays out (did anyone say Bandersnatch??).

This also opens the door to incorporating fan generated content, the music industry’s version of UGC, to give the music video a further interactive pulse. In the past these videos have been created for the fans, but exclude their influence. This progressive method of production is a statement of intimacy between the artist and fan that we have yet to see in this arena.

The video articulates how AR artists have the potential to bridge the gap between real and digital worlds. The blend of retro and futuristic style within the video itself reflects the collision of these two worlds.

The first of its time? Certainly not the last.

To get started with producing original AR, you simply need to download the Spark AR Studio for free on either Windows or Mac. This trend is taking off right now and cross-pollinating media as we enter this new phase of digital content creation - what are you waiting for?

For any more information about AR, influencer marketing or our unique platform model, please contact studio@whalar.com

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