Ben Knutson, one of the first Official Lens Creators (OLC) for Snapchat’s Lens Studio sat down with us recently to talk about his passion for Augmented Reality and how this self-taught digital artist became one of Snap’s most sought after lens creators.

It all began at a very young age, when Ben discovered that he loved playing around with computers and was fascinated with how they work. In fact, the recent Information Technology Management graduate has built two PCs from scratch.

Ben’s transition to an OLC began with t-shirts (that’s right we said t-shirts) - when he started to create designs and sell them for a little extra cash. Once he discovered Lens Studio, an entire new world opened up for him and he started to learn as much as he could about Augmented Reality. He began mastering motion graphics, 3D modeling, animation, etc building his skills and confidence at every step. Now a very busy OLC, Ben says “I’m so happy that I get to work in a field that doesn’t actually feel like work to me. It’s always been my dream to be able to spend my day playing around on the computer and creating, well, stuff.”

Ben gave us a little more insight into what inspires him to create stunning and engaging AR lens as well as the skills essential to becoming a well rounded AR lens creator.

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TH: Can you share a little bit of background info about yourself and your journey to becoming a 3D/AR Lens Creator
BK:
I became a Lens Creator in January of 2018 when I saw that Snapchat released their Lens Studio software for free, and I had to give it a try myself! When I would see one of their cool lenses, I always found myself wondering “How do they do that?”, so I downloaded the software and started learning! I was also currently working in IT and going to school for a degree in IT so it seemed like it was right up my ally! Over the next two years, I learned more and more about everything Lens Studio has to offer! Today, I am an Official Lens Creator, Lens Creative Partner and I feel lucky enough to say most of my workday is playing around on my Computer in Lens Studio! 

TH: When you were learning about AR, what was your biggest “A-Ha” learning moment and why?
BK
: I think the moment where it really “clicked” for me was when I made my first lens from scratch. Before then, I utilized all the templates Lens Studio has to offer, and when I decided to start from scratch, it made me realize that the templates are a jumping off point, teaching me how to do everything myself! From there, I knew all I had to do when I was confused about something was check out the templates and when I felt comfortable enough with them, I could do it all myself!

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TH: What inspires you the most and finds its way into your artwork?
BK:
I absolutely love the math that goes into digital art, particularly, shader math. Shaders are amazing tools that let us create all sorts of amazing procedural effects, all using math! Sometimes it’s extremely simple math, sometimes it’s complex, but that’s the beauty of it! The possibilities of what you can do in shaders is pretty much limitless! 

TH: What was your creative process for creating real world AR experiences - does it start with a specific character or the style/mood or is it about pushing the boundaries of technology and art? 
BK:
A lot of the time when I get an idea for a lens, it comes when I’m doing something mundane like watching a movie or laying in bed, about to fall asleep. I’ll see a really cool effect or remember something cool that happened earlier and boom! Suddenly I think “I could make this into a lens!” I absolutely love pushing the boundaries of what we can do with art in augmented reality, and I absolutely love to try new things and see if they work!
Sometimes, I’m inspired by other people’s work! When I see some cool art or an interesting effect, my mind starts racing at all the possibilities! I find myself going throughout my day encountering things and thinking “I wonder if I can make that into a lens...”

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TH: What was the best advice or tip you ever received from a fellow artist or mentor and why?
BK:
 The best piece of advice I ever heard was to never stop learning. I started out college thinking there was an end in my learning path, but I quickly realized that the people who are most skilled at what they do never stop learning! Especially in the field of digital art and technology, there is always going to be some new and exciting skill that you can pick up!

TH: What’s your favorite creative trick or tool that you feel gives more nuance or impact to your artwork?
BK:
I think the biggest thing that has enabled me to create some awesome AR experiences was learning to code. Lens Studio uses JavaScript as it’s scripting platform and knowing even a little bit can really open up the range of possibilities for what you can create! It enables me to add lots of interactivity to my lenses that really give them that extra oomph! 

TH: What artist or creative do you follow and feel everyone should get to know and why?
BK:
Because I am so in love with all things that have to do with Shaders, I absolutely love the YouTube Channel “The Art of Code.” Martijn is the creator of the channel and he makes some amazing tutorials on how to create some really cool shader effects and the best of all, he explains the math behind it in a way that is easy to understand! 

TH: Artists always seem to be learning and evolving throughout their careers. What styles or formats are you experimenting with now as more digital art and technology within 3D, animation and AR continues to expand?
BK: I’m always looking to expand my knowledge base and try new things. I think right now I am continuing to learn more about 3D modeling and animation, as well as honing my skills in Shader math and coding. These things together can make for a very powerful AR creator and will make all my future ideas much easier to implement. Sometimes, I’ll have an idea for a lens but realize I don’t have the skills to create it. Learning these things more will most definitely make it so I can actually bring all my ideas into augmented reality. 

In case you missed it, Talenthouse hosted a Townhall with Ben where he shared some tips and tricks about creating world experiences using 3D in Lens Studio.

Want to see even more of Ben’s work? Follow him on Snapchat, visit his website, Ello or checkout his YouTube channel tutorials.