In August, Talenthouse partnered with Warner Records and Dua Lipa to produce the official AR camera effect celebrating Dua Lipa’s new single ‘Hallucinate’. We recently sat down with Ant Hagan, CEO and Founder of Aug-it!, an augmented reality design company based in Liverpool, UK and Marc Wakefield, the Owner of Augmented Reality Design Studio, an independent creative studio that he founded with his wife Susie Wakefield. Both Ant and Marc have built immersive experiences for the likes of Warner Music, Universal, Polydor and Sony and have worked with artists like 5 Seconds of Summer (5SOS), Ellie Goulding, and Liam Payne just to name a few.
The two collaborators took a break from their busy schedules to discuss how their artistic collaboration began and their creative process for the Dua Lipa lens, which has already received over 100M impressions.
Introduction to Augmented Reality
Marc: I originally started messing around with image tracking in Unity with Vuforia way before I discovered SparkAR. I was immediately drawn to putting digital objects in the real world. I started looking into all of the available SDK’s and experimenting with ideas. My younger brother was head of design at a retail interior design firm and asked if I could augment some of their designs on to CAD plans so they could be viewed in real-time on a table top. This became my first paid AR project and many more followed. I started working with other design firms, toy companies and brands. When Facebook opened up their initial beta, I dove in head first!
How long have you both been collaborating?
Ant: Marc and I met about 18 months ago through the Instagram Spark AR beta. Back then, there were probably only a few hundred of us around the world with access to the platform so many of us in that original line-up are still pretty tight. The first full project we delivered together was our Liam Payne Stack It Up project that consisted of an AR pinball game on Facebook and an AR effect campaign on Instagram. I think we launched in the first week of September 2019. Since then we have worked on another 3 projects together including our 5 Seconds Of Summer (5SOS) audio remix effect in April 2020 & of Course the Dua Lipa Hallucinate project.
How do you approach creative briefs working with music artists?
Ant: It depends on the project and what it is that the artist is promoting i.e an album, a tour, or a music video launch. What’s great about music artists compared to some other clients is they usually have a certain amount of the creative already done, whether it's a music video, album artwork, etc. More often than not, you have something to reference.
Marc: I totally agree with Ant. Music artists often have quite a clear direction based on the above factors. They have spent a long time defining their style along with their sound and it is important that their effects mirror this. That being said, it’s always nice when they are willing to experiment! Emulating iconic album artwork and music videos is always a lot of fun! I think the actual music should always be key to the experience. It’s easy to chuck in a loop but getting the user involved in the experience by allowing them to get creative with the audio is a very powerful thing. Ant and I have done some great stuff with this.
What was the creative process for the Dua Lipa Official camera effect?
Ant: The creative has to change from project to project and it's normally based on time. As an example with our 5SOS project, I was probably working on this with Polydor Records for about 4 weeks before I even spoke to Marc about the project. So I had already done initial 3D designs in C4D, chopped up all of the audio stems from the studio project, and built some of the patch bay based on some work I had done the previous year at a Facebook hackathon in London. When I brought Marc in to build out the final project, a lot was already done.
But, in total contrast for Dua Lipa we literally had about 6 days and had to just bounce back and forth as many ideas as quickly as possible until we pulled a few concepts together that we thought fit well with the vibe. Marc came up with these really awesome glass crystal star animations which acted like collider scopes for the hallucinate background that we thought were awesome.
Unfortunately, they never made it into the final effect. This is a common situation working with artists as it doesn’t matter how much work you do. The artist is often the last person to see the effect and when they do, if they don’t like it, they have the final word. It can be a very tricky process but at the end of the day the content is for their social media and they know their brand and audience best.
The effect has had more than 100M impressions, an incredible achievement - have you seen this level of engagement before?
Ant: Only with the Liam Payne project, but that’s been up for much longer.
Marc: I have seen other effects get quite high numbers, but a lot of the time they are from independent filter creators. This is an absolutely amazing number for a branded effect!
What’s the tip you want to share with creators starting to produce AR?
Ant: Build quality effects that have longevity. Stop chasing your own likes and follows and start chasing clients. Large brands generally don’t care about your personal profile and just want to work with someone with a professional attitude, an innovative mind who does great work. Put everything into each project and your main priority is client retention. If you get too caught up in your own ‘influencer status’, there is a good chance you might completely miss the point of what you actually set out to do.
Marc: I think Ant has a very good point here. Following AR trends by emulating popular effects and jumping on certain bandwagons can grow your audience. However, nobody will want to pay a premium for you to create something that has already been done countless times. Exposure is important and follower count can be seen as some kind of achievement to certain clients but nobody wants to work with a prima-donna. I also think that creating your own unique, high quality effects in your own style and gaining visibility can help you land clients that dig your style. There is no better feeling than working with a client who values your creativity and approach. Be humble, really listen to your clients needs and do each job to the best of your ability.