In October 2019, we were looking for professionals to create an Instagram mask dedicated to the annual Red Shoes Christmas Dance ball. The search for the best always begins with the recommendations of acquaintances and friends. Surprisingly, the same name flashed among the tips all the time – the Studio Aеyes.
Four guys got together in May 2019, and after a couple of months literally everyone started talking about them, and the studio's portfolio already had work for brands such as Ukrainian Fashion Week, Brave Factory, TSUM, Hardkiss and others.
We decided to meet with the founders to find out how they managed to become popular so quickly, why masks are so popular among instagram users, and how the industry of AR and VR technologies will develop in the future.
Alexander Surnin, 28 years old
What did you do before and why did you decide to establish your own studio?
Specifically, the topic of 3D, I started, while still a schoolboy, 15 years ago. For 8 years I worked as a 3D artist in the game industry, of which about 1.5 years as a lead artist (this is something like a senior artist who controls the creative process on a specific project). During this time, I was lucky to do projects for such foreign companies as Wargaming, Google, Activision, Microsoft, EA Games, Ubisoft, Gearbox, Otherside Ent, and many others.
There were opportunities to continue to develop myself as a lead artist and even move to permanent residence in another country, getting a job in some top-level gaming company, but, to be honest, this story did not appeal to me much. In the same period, Instagram began testing AR-effects technology in closed beta mode. In March 2019, I received the status of a beta tester and began to publish my first ideas on Instagram.
A little later, my brother Alexei suggested porting our little game for mobile phones (which we developed in our free time with two more guys) right on Instagram. The idea turned out to be very successful, and soon a huge number of people in the community of developers and just users drew attention to this game. The first major customers began to appear: bloggers, musicians.
At that time, I already had an idea about why Instagram is introducing all this technology and how it will be applied literally in six months. And we decided to take our place in this niche. A little later, Sergey and Ivan joined the project, because we needed partners from related areas and industries who were versed in sales, PR and the right strategic planning for the development of the company.
Tell us how does the creative process go?
The first thing we do is analyze the task set for us, conduct a review, paint a strategy, collect guidebooks and only after that proceed directly to the creative. This approach, of course, is used for long-playing serious stories from which the client wants to get a certain result. Of course, there are many tasks that are easier to solve, and there we are already mainly creative in terms of art. But most often the chain looks something like this: text description – search for references – development of sketches of future AR products by the efforts of our 2D artists – approval – development.
As a chief artist, I somehow have to control the visual of all projects, but the final revision is carried out by a “non-clogged” eye – often this is just Sergey, Ivan, Alexey. Sometimes, on especially important tasks, we even create focus groups, conduct surveys among the target audience and measure a number of indicators that we need to understand in order to produce a quality product.
How long does it take to develop one project?
If this is a large project with a series of various filters and a lot of unique unique user interactions sewn, then it can take weeks to develop the concepts themselves. At the same time, we are constantly working on process optimization: some of the things that we used to do for 2-3 weeks now take several days.
Of course, simple filters, such as a florist or placing an image on the face, even take a layman several hours. But we approach the process carefully and spend a lot of time working on details. The whole secret is hidden in the details – most of the filters in the instagram are created “on the forehead”, based on the capabilities of the technology that lie on the surface.
Tell us about the future of the company, what is your main goal?
You know, they say "whatever you call a ship, it will sail." This is generally about our company. Areyes is a combination of the words AR and EYES, which means that we primarily focus on augmented reality (in any of its manifestations) and visual communication in general. We do not focus only on the Facebook / Instagram platform, we have great competence and a lot of groundwork in related fields: from creating 3D video visual content to writing our internal products; From developing a visual communication strategy for brands to integrating modern technology into fashion shows and art exhibitions.
Therefore, our main goal is to be the one who sets the visual trends, works with the largest global brands.
Sergey Krygin, 31 years old
What projects are you proud of today?
To all. (Smiles.) All our customers are very cool guys.
Working on each new project, we improve ourselves, begin to better understand market demands, improve service, communication with customers and production. When we decided to create a studio, we had a clear idea of who our client is and with whom we want to cooperate. Most likely, while this material is being prepared for publication, we will close some more cool cases, so I don’t want to offend anyone, ignoring them.
Instagram masks are a trend. How long will it last and what will be next, in your opinion?
Augmented reality is the trend. And masks are a separate facet of this huge world, a world that will soon capture all sectors and niches, complementing and bringing our usual interaction with the physical world to a definitely new level. Thanks to augmented reality, we can better understand the world we are accustomed to and, as a result, interact with it, improving it. In scale, this can be compared with the advent of electricity and the Internet.
It's only the beginning. Now the active, preparatory phase is underway. Various publishing platforms are being created and toolkit for cryers is being developed. For the first time, corporations are so aggressively sowing technology to the masses by integrating it into their social networks. People need to be accustomed, interested, encouraged by their interest in technology in general, and, of course, to collect more data, how users interact with AR, study this data and better understand which step to take next.
Every month or two, Facebook lays out new and new functionality for creating objects in augmented reality. If such a comparison is appropriate, then we are now taught to read and stack words from cubes, and we will go to first grade only in the coming year. And then – only more fun. And we are talking only about social networks, there are no less important and large players on the market who will soon declare themselves on a large scale. Soon, each social network and application on your phone will support augmented reality, giving users their unique communication experience.
What are the difficulties with working with celebrities?
I would not distinguish celebrities and push them into a separate group of clients. The client is first and foremost a person, and, as with any person, it is important to correctly determine the boundaries of communication, highlight respect and be attentive. Everyone should be comfortable. The customer wants a cool product that works. But not all clients have ready-made ideas and a vision of how it should be. But that is our concern.
It doesn’t matter who the client is: artist, musician, actor, blogger, clothing store, carbonated drinks company or TV channel. It’s hard with everyone. But difficult – does not mean bad, difficult = interesting. And with all this "difficult" is different. For us, it is always a positive challenge – to unravel the client and, as a result, make a cool product. Although … I can highlight one point. Sometimes intermediaries exist between us and the client. This is where a broken phone can happen. Any mistake of a third party leads to the fact that both we and the client suffer. But we try to avoid such schemes, and it's cool that we almost always work directly with the customer, without intermediaries.
Alexey Surnin, 20 years old
How much is virtual and augmented reality in demand among online users now?
It is predicted that in the coming years the global industry of augmented (AR) and virtual (VR) reality will develop at a rapid pace. For example, the global AR market, which was estimated at $ 3.33 billion in 2015, according to research, should grow to about $ 133.78 billion by 2021. And this, for a minute, is more than 40 times higher.
If we consider VR and AR separately, then among online users augmented reality is more in demand. That's because VR glasses are an expensive and rare tool that needs space and time. And augmented reality – in each of you in your pocket. At any moment, even now. And this is your phone.
Tell us about interesting cases. Which project was the most difficult from a technical point of view?
Our products are the result of our developments over a long time. We conduct a review not only technical, but also social – we study how users interact with games.
The most difficult and interesting project was HeadBoard, a game that we made as part of the Facebook Developer Сircles hackathon (we participated in it on our own behalf, not on behalf of the company). We were encouraged by the positive feedback from the audience, including the developers, about our 3D runners, and we decided to go further. This time we decided to turn to the underground culture of megacities, in particular to the culture of skateboarding. During development, we were inspired by the Tony Hawk pro skater.
In this game you need to play as a skateboarder who glides along the ramp. The player needs to keep balance by tilting his head, bouncing along the way, to collect bonus items. After winning the first round, we were asked to update the game, and we added a bonus level at which a skateboarder rode around the face of a user and collected falling skateboards. Thanks to which we took third place in the world!
And another interesting thing: now we are preparing a lot of our exclusive internal solutions that will allow us to literally turn the market in this niche!
This will help us set a new standard in quality and radically change the development process.
What masks are now the most popular among users?
There is always a huge demand for a number of genres, it can be a beauty theme, humor, storytelling, art.
According to our observation, masks are now in demand that tell stories or allow the user to create their own unique story.
What advice would you give to novice guys who want to make masks for instagram?
First of all, to master some kind of 3D modeling software, for example Blender, it is quite easy to learn, and also try to use non-standard solutions and constantly review what other developers are doing and experiment more.
Ivan Pavlyuchenko, 24 years old
Tell us about the most interesting cases that Areyes already had. Which of them are you proud of?
One of the most interesting cases was the work on the project of a symphony orchestra from Hamburg (together with the ISD Group agency), which performed Vivaldi's Four Seasons with digital adaptation. The project was dedicated to climate change.
What was its essence? The collected climate data and an algorithm that made adjustments during the orchestra playing were used. Using this data during the performance, the algorithm changed the sound of music, which created a completely new sounding symphony for the listener, thus demonstrating that our climate and seasons are no longer in balance and harmony. In the spirit of this idea, we created a Glitch filter, which transmitted the negative effect of climate change and in which the main message of the project was laid out – #LISTENUP (“Listen”).
I also really like our case for the 80th anniversary of the Central Department Store. We have created two unique AR filters. The first is a cute mask using geometry, neon and brand elements. The second is a filter mask, based on the symbolic art of the updated TSUM packages, which was specially developed by New York-based illustrator Spiros Halaris.
Another great case is an interactive mask game for the TV series "Kitchen" produced by STS. In it, users must knock down vegetables flying around them with a knife – "under the scrutiny of Chef Barinov" (the character of the series). Subscribers are invited to record their stories with the game and break a record among other players to get a unique bonus prize.
How much is digital design in demand now and, in your opinion, will it become more popular in the future?
Over the past 10-15 years, digital has deeply penetrated almost all areas. In the era of the Internet and smartphones, digital design is at the forefront of user interaction. It doesn’t matter if it’s a service or product, in almost 50% of cases the first thing a user does is press a button on his computer or smartphone. And this percentage will only increase. Therefore, when we say “whether digital design will be popular”, it will not just “be” it is already popular, and this popularity is growing exponentially from year to year.
If we talk about AR in the context of digital design, you need to understand that the evolution of communication is ongoing and continuous. And augmented reality is not just a new “branch” in the development of design, it is its next stage of evolution. This means that AR will be everywhere and there will be a “must-have” for any brands, as Instagram, Facebook once became.
Based on the foregoing, it is easy to conclude that AR is already becoming a powerful trend and will be woven into visual communication forever, approximately how once (relatively recently) video content won its place in the sun, and before it – color illustrations.
What do print publications need to do in order to survive among digital?
Go to digital! Just kidding. In a new era, print publications should focus primarily on the quality and uniqueness of content for their audience. After all, look at vinyl records, they are still popular, despite the dominant place of streaming services in the music industry and the virtual disappearance of all physical distributors. Vinyl is loved for its high-quality sound and primitive, so it is still popular among collectors and music lovers, and this is a huge "army".
Plus, in order to compete with digital editions, you need not only to create high-quality content, you should not be afraid to experiment, combine it with modern technologies like augmented reality. And thus create a unique, unforgettable visual experience for the reader.
Which celebrity would you like to work with?
I can’t single out one person with whom I would dream to work. I found 3 areas that are closely related to each other, in which I would like to do something cool in collaboration. This is music, art, fashion. In each of these areas, I can highlight several of the most prominent representatives, in my opinion.
Music: definitely Kanye West
The ability of Kanye (ed. – musician Kanye West) to accumulate creative people from different industries around himself and set global trends in both music and fashion cannot fail to amaze.
Art: Kaws, Banksy
Pop and street art and art have never been as close as they are today. So close that it’s now difficult to determine where one ends and the other begins. These two are some of the best examples of this.
Fashion: Virgil Abloh, Iris Van Herpen
The first is a universal designer who blurs the line between streetwire and high fashion, the idol of the millennials. The second is a young futurist designer from the Netherlands, whose things are glued from nanomaterials, printed on a 3D printer, cut out from cellulose (like sculptures) or processed by a laser.