Crafting AR Filters: Behind the Scenes with Balint Gruik

September 7, 2023
In the world of social media, AR filters are all the rage, offering captivating visuals and interactive fun. Ever wondered how they're made? We chatted with AR filter enthusiast Balint Gruik to uncover the secrets behind his creations and explore the world of augmented reality.

Balint Gruik, 3d designer
Balint, you are working as a 3d designer. How did you get started with creating AR filters for Instagram?

One of our clients approached us with a request to create a social media AR filter. Upon exploring the requirements, it became evident that it's not as challenging as it might seem. If you're familiar with design, 3D animation, and development, creating your own filter becomes quite accessible. We researched several platforms for this task, including Spark AR, 8th Wall, and BlippAR. The most popular choice is Spark AR Studio, a user-friendly tool provided by Facebook that allowed me to bring my creative ideas to life.

Can you share a simple breakdown of how to create an AR filter, from idea to implementation?

Sure! You typically begin with an idea of what you want your filter to accomplish – whether it's adding virtual glasses or transforming someone's face. Next, you either create or source the necessary images or 3D models. Then, you assemble everything in Spark AR Studio and incorporate animations, interactions, and effects. Finally, you publish and test your filter on various devices, making adjustments until it's just perfect.

Example of AR filter
Could you share some technical details about the tools and software you use to develop the AR filter?

I use Photoshop for 2D visual design and Maya for 3D modeling and animation. As for the AR aspect, I extensively employ Spark AR Studio, which enables me to breathe life into the 3D elements and craft a seamless user experience. Also I use Unity for making standalone AR applications.

What are the biggest limitations you've encountered while creating an AR filter?

There are several AR platforms with their own features and limitations. Something can work for one platform and not work for another. The biggest limitation for most of the cases is interactions. In some platforms you cannot add custom 2d UI elements to the filter. On other platforms the AR part looks really good, but the user cannot interact with the filter - cannot click on it and scale it.

Another technical limitation that is worth mentioning is the limitation with  flat surface tracking in AR when you are not using a marker or anything to track the AR model. For most of the platforms and devices this flat surface tracking is not that accurate. This limitation of the users devices is something you should consider when developing AR filters.

What are some best practices you've adopted to overcome these limitations?

I don't have a secret solution here. I always try to use the best platform for the project goals. Despite the limitations, there is always a solution. For example there is a size limitations for every platform - you cannot generate heavy filters as for users it will take ages to download. There is always a way to optimize the AR part. Sometimes it can be challenging.

How do you maintain organization and optimization throughout your AR filter projects?

I’m pretty bad at organizing things to be honest, and when I’m working on a project, it’s a mess :). But I keep in mind everything that happens in the project. And when the work is done, and I upload the project to the server, I clean up the files, organize names, folders notes, and tidy up logic and at the end of the day the project files are well-organized.

Another part of optimization is a 3d modeling clearance. I’m trying to avoid triangles, and when working with textures, I use very small textures and sort the small files in different channels if it’s possible. These tricks help a lot to overcome project complexity.

SparkAR Editor
What are the key areas of knowledge you should focus on when you're starting to create an AR filter?

I have a 3d design background and know some 2d design and software development. When diving into AR filter creation, it's useful to know something about 2d design, 3d design and development. But if you want to make your own filter it is mandatory, you can upload existing images and use software tools like Spark AR Studio for building the filter.

What I usually see in the popular filters, that it’s not about design, animations or complexity of development. It is mostly about the idea. This is what sells AR face filters. If you have an original idea, it may have a simple design, weird stupid filter, but it will be used by millions of people.

What impact did the AR filter have in terms of user engagement and reach? Any interesting insights from its usage?

The AR filter generated a significant amount of user engagement and reached a wide audience on Instagram. Many users embraced the filter and shared their experiences, contributing to a substantial increase in brand visibility.

The most significant results from my practice was when the face filter I created reached a quarter million people and counting. We can track usage data in Spark AR Hub. We see how many people used and saved the filter, from what countries. For example we can notice that the filter was popular in unexpected locations, indicating its effectiveness in driving local campaigns and promoting the brand globally.

By the way, for business there are different ways to run a campaign with filters. You can share the filter in social media, and also you can place QR core in printed materials, products, shops, restaurants to invite customers to use the filter and grow the loyalty and brand visibility.

AR filter Statistics Example
Which AR filter are you most proud of, and why? What sets it apart from others, and what challenges did you overcome during its creation?

I don’t have one, they are all my favorite. For example, I like the Vapiano Slurp Game, because that was funny. I just really like when I do something differently. For example for a car racing filter I made doors that jiggle, open and close depending on the movement of the car. I was happy with the technical solutions I implemented.

Vapiano Slurp Filter
Can you share your aspirations for the future, and do you have a dream AR filter that you'd like to create?

Sure, that is a good question. I really love the BBC series Doctor Who. There is this old blue police box, and when you open it, it is actually a really big spaceship which can travel through time and do other things. I am working on the filter, so when you are placing this police box in front of you, and if you walk towards it, the door opens and you can see a really big spaceship, because it’s bigger inside than on the outside. This requires quite a lot of time to develop all these textures and things inside, but I really like this kind of challenge.

What advice would you give to someone who's new to designing AR filters?

Good question! I just can say something cliche: just do it! Everyone starts somewhere. And I think it’s easy to start with an AR filter, because technically it’s quite easy if you have a great idea. Everyone can draw. Someone can draw better, but anyone can. It takes time to practice of course, but it’s free and there are so many resources and people to learn from.

How do you see the future of AR technology?

I cannot wait for the time when we all will have our AR and VR devices that are so small that you can have them anytime like glasses and keys. I think that’s gonna change a lot. Now you can use AR with your phone, but it is not the same. I cannot wait for this AR/VR headset to be affordable worldwide.

As AR technology continues to evolve and become more accessible, the creative possibilities for AR filters are bound to expand. Whether you're an aspiring AR filter designer or a business looking to leverage this engaging tool, the world of augmented reality holds exciting opportunities.
So, stay tuned, keep exploring, and be ready to embrace the future where AR and VR seamlessly integrate into your business needs, making customer interactions with brands more immersive and enjoyable than ever before.


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