Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok: how your favorite filters are created

Filters and Lenses are popular on social networks // Source: Idroid / Atomic Digital Design

Nestled in the heart of Paris, in a building at the back of the courtyard, it is bubbling with creativity, 3D modeling and reflection in the offices spread over two floors. On screens, unexpected Snapchat or Instagram-style filters come to life.

Welcome to Atomic Digital Design, a Spanish startup specializing in augmented reality. It was created in 2012 thanks to two former animators and video game players who worked for Illumination (Me, ugly and bad) as well as Ubisoft. Atomic Digital Design is one of its shadow players whose creations for Snapchat, Instagram or even Facebook are often on the front of the stage and on the screens of your smartphones, sometimes in very viral proportions.

Source : Atomic Digital Design

You may have tried the Adidas try-on experience by putting the brand's future sneakers at your feet, bringing Spain's football players to life on your can of Coca-Cola, or trying this magnificent Dior bag. Unless you have tried the virtual reality experience of Snapchat for the Jardin d'Acclimatation or the filters developed for brands as prestigious as Lancôme and Piaget or even Samsung for its Galaxy S21.

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The iPad 2 and the desire for gamification at the origin of the filters

Here, we especially create filters and "Lenses" among the most popular on the flagship applications of your smartphones. More than a hundred saw the light of day last year and this year should be as rich if it is not anymore as the company is overflowing with projects.

It was the iPad 2 in 2011 that gave the idea to two former school friends to do animation and set up their company. “For the first time, we had access to hybrid content between the computer and the smartphone. We said to ourselves that we had to create with that, ”remembers Antoine Vu, one of the co-founders of the company with his sidekick Gabriel Picard. “It was interactive, we could add video game behaviors to it. We said to ourselves: we are going to make interactive cartoons while trying to anticipate the behaviors of tomorrow ”. Thus, their first mobile applications saw the light of day with gamification for companies or even National Education and edutainment apps.

The co-founders Antoine Vu on the left and Gabriel Picard on the right // Source: Atomic Digital Design

They then explore new avenues thanks to the gradual deployment of augmented reality, "this power to superimpose digital on reality", seeing it above all as an added value that will reinforce a point. “It creates a stronger connection with a user and that's why brands quickly adopted it to get their messages across,” he adds. "We are an actor in what we watch, we experience what we are transmitted". The arrival of the Story format on Snapchat will be the detonator and "a real change in the uses of social networks" as well as in the life of the company.

By opening its technology in 2018, Snapchat is thus launching a market for new creators who will enrich its platform and Atomic Digital then switches all of its activity towards “social augmented reality”. "This is how we became the first partner of Snapchat, then of Facebook, Instagram and TikTok thereafter", welcomes Antoine Vu. It must be said that large-scale projects are rare, especially in France, which escapes the Parisian company which has developed a technology and know-how that brands, especially those of luxury, are snapping up ( Gucci, North Face, Nike, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Lacoste…).

Create filters that make sense while being fun

“We give users tools that appeal to them thanks to augmented reality and brands are seeking this audience with a novel approach. We are just here to offer both parties experiences that make sense, ”says Atomic Digital, which also knows how to perform AR filters to explain the correct gestures of palpation to detect breast cancer for the Pink October or many other words.

A filter designed for Euro 2020 // Source: Atomic Digital Design

"We are betting on social augmented reality," insists the boss of the startup. “Each filter must tell something, offer a different experience to the user. It's interactive content to make it more than just a spectator. And this is reflected in the design of the filters. From the virtual model made by a 3D artist, you have to be able to think about how it will be animated on the smartphone, depending on the person, the moment, his availability. “It has to be fun and playful above all,” he says. Two keywords to also attract the young generation who are the target market for in-house products and their customers who often use filters as a new advertising engine.

Even if they rely on Lens Studio, Snapchat's open-source creation tool that brings filters to life in augmented reality before making them available on the application, the Atomic Digital Studio teams are working on very early on in their project. A few seconds of use for you, days or even weeks of preparation for them between the discussion with a brand until the publication in the application.

Lenses more realistic than ever

After having defined the project with the brand, sometimes avoiding ideas that are too far-fetched, utopian or inconceivable, it is time to "play the directors", because the best experiences are those which feature the user and you have to so that it is as realistic as possible. To succeed in its mission, Atomic Digital Design has equipped itself with a strange machine called GenARation. Placed on its base and on rails like a camera for horizontal and vertical traveling, it is the absolute weapon of the company and a first in Spain. “There are only five-six in the world,” says Antoine Vu with satisfaction. "It is an investment, but it is also a real added value compared to the competition".

The scanner photogrammetry genARation d'Atomic Digital Design //

This is a device for making the photogrammetric scanner. An object is placed on a base and the camera will take some 350 shots to digitize it from all possible angles to make a 3D creation by then compiling everything by computer with maximum detail and definition . A technology that greatly appeals to the luxury industry when it comes to digitizing a bag, shoes or expensive outfits. Once the file has been created, it will then be easier to reproduce the object in augmented reality by the graphic designers and developers in order to make, for example, virtual shoes to try on or an evening dress to put on, whatever your size or size. your color desires. There is only one condition for this future filter: obtain a file that is not too large (less than 4 MB) and then upload it to the Snapchat, TikTok or Instagram platform.

AR eyes on Apple and Facebook

In the future, at Atomic Digital Design, we are focusing on increasing the number of try-on experiences. That is, brands will want you to try their product without touching them. Snapchat has also announced multiple innovations for its Lenses in this sense and Apple, one of the players in augmented reality thanks to the LiDAR of its iPhone Pro, is also betting a lot on it.

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"It's not yet perfect when it comes to rendering with current tools, but there is something better and brands know that this can already encourage people to buy," predicts Antoine Vu, who also dreams of his business as an effects supplier. augmented reality for cinema or television, or even as a content partner for future AR products from Apple, Google or Facebook. From dream to real reality who knows.

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