How to make your very own AR filter for Instagram!

Note: This article or the filter discussed has not been sponsored or endorsed by the harry potter brand. It was made as an enthusiastic childhood fan!

What’s an AR filter?

Augmented reality (AR) filters are computer-generated effects layered over the image your camera displays. On Instagram, an AR filter modifies the image which your front or back camera displays.

For example, the puppy face filter superimposes the 3d model of a dog’s ear and nose on top of your face. Interestingly these filters are interactive and you can trigger animations with facial changes that the app can record. Like the same dog face filter would drop a dog’s tongue from your mouth when you open it — Magical right?!

Spark AR Studio

Facebook in 2019 released spark AR studio which lets you create and share augmented reality experiences that can reach billions of people using the Facebook family of apps and devices. You can build your filters using this free Software and upload them on Instagram and Facebook.

Spark AR studio empty project layout

It might seem a bit intimidating to someone who has not used a 3D software before but it’s actually very simple once you get a hang of it. If you are a complete beginner I’d recommend watching this video to get familiar with the interface.

Motivation

I got a chance to try my hands on the software during the makers week in my mater’s degree at NCAD. After watching a few tutorials I wanted to make something that would use glasses. As a childhood fan of harry potter, I decided to make an AR filter based on the character of Harry (played by Daniel Radcliff).

https://www.ea.com/en-ca/games/harry-potter/harry-potter-sorcerers-stone

The Build

The process of creating a Harry Potter filter is fairly simple — All you have to do is illustrate the glasses and the curse mark for the forehead using photoshop (or an alternative software of your choice). You can also download the face reference asset from here and start making a simple face tattoo filter!

To make the glasses I followed the tutorial given in this documentation provided by Spark AR studio itself. You can use their template and customize it the way you want to — imagination is your limit!

Testing

Once you are satisfied with your effect you can move onto the testing phase. This part includes a lot of back and forth as you try to fine-tune your assets based on user’s faces. Spark AR studio provides you with 7 inbuilt face animations and also an option to use your device’s camera to test it yourself. All seven faces have different expressions that try to cover the corner cases where your effect might not work — turban, glasses, bangs, baldness, skin tone, face size, etc.

The second phase of testing is a kind of beta testing round where you are given a limit of 50 shares to get feedback and make changes to your effect before you publish it permanently. This is done so that you can test your effect on different screens with different people in real life. I found it useful as a couple of my friends asked me to change the shape of the glass to make it look more like Harry’s famous glasses!

Publishing

In order to publish the effect, you have to write a brief description of the filter and create a cover image as well. Once you complete the application, Facebook sends it for review which usually takes about a week to get signed off. They send you an email saying that your effect was approved and is now available in the Instagram filter store!

Cover Image for Harry Potter’s Filter

Marketing and Analytics

Facebook has made a “Spark AR hub” for creators to keep a track of their effects and manage them. They have 3 metrics for recording the performance of the filters:

  1. Impressions — Number of times the effect has been opened on a screen.
  2. Captures — Numer of times someone took a photo or a video using your filter.
  3. Shares — Number of times a capture was shared in stories or direct messages on Instagram.
Screenshot of my filter’s stats when it crossed 300k impressions

Everyone has their own way of promoting their effect. My personal strategy was to share the effect on social media, groups, and ask people to do it further. Generally, people will share the effect on their Instagram stories but it’s rare that they forward your effect’s link with their friend on groups. I was lucky to have a group of friends who were kind enough to share my effect with their other social circles. However, my filter got over 330k impressions in less than 4 months which was pretty cool given it was my first attempt at making an AR-based filter!

Overall it was a great learning experience and I enjoyed every bit of it. Since then I have got a lot of requests to make different ones and I hope to make more exciting AR filters in the future!

If you want to order a personal filter for a special occasion contact me at paurush14151@iiitd.ac.in

Thanks for your time. I hope you enjoyed reading it!