Meet the next professional creator – Shannelle Athlan 💜 She was one of the Panel’s Choice Winners in the Spark AR “Get Superpowered!” competition and her work was exhibited at Digital Art Month Paris in 2021. Shanelle currently specializes in social media filter creation but as she loves learning she constantly expands her skill set to other digital art forms and XR platforms. “I’m passionate about creating fun and engaging AR experiences and I love making reels to showcase my filters or other filters I love”. Shannelle tells us about her experience and shares interesting tips for other creators.
How did you start your AR journey? How did you discover Augmented Reality? What motivated you to start the creaton of AR?
My first experience with AR was with the Nintendo 3DS AR games. I remember one in particular that made you take a photo of someone’s face and turned that face into enemies flying around your house. The game would even deform the faces to make them look angry or sad and you had to move the DS to look around and shoot the enemies down. That was back in 2011.
After graduating from university, I worked in the film industry and I have also always had an interest in game design and immersive experience design. When the pandemic hit, I decided to learn a bunch of skills in digital art, like graphic design and 3D modeling and decided to also give filter creation a go, so I downloaded Spark AR. I dove headfirst into the software without reading much of the documentation beforehand, just trying to figure out how everything worked because I already had an idea of what I wanted to create. At the time, Lirika Matoshi’s strawberry dress was all over the Internet, so I wanted to attempt making a cute glitter strawberry makeup filter with lots of sparkles. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t quick, but I loved the process so I kept learning and creating.
What Is AR for you?
Augmented reality is like an extra layer to life. At the moment, it’s pretty limited because it is mostly stuck in our phones, so it’s stuck in our hands with a relatively small screen. But I think that when AR glasses become mainstream, they will become as useful as our phones, if not more so. However, even now, it’s an amazing tool for story-telling, entertainment, and education, and it is constantly evolving. For me, it’s a great tool to express myself.
When did you realize that you had reached a turning point in successfully creating augmented reality? What helped you with this?
I was one of the Panel’s Choice Winners in the Spark AR “Get Superpowered!” competition, and that was a real confidence booster because it was the first time my work got recognized on a larger scale. Additionally, with every new project for which I have to learn a completely new skill or technique, I feel like I unlock a whole new level for AR creation. Every small detail really elevates the augmented reality experience. The biggest turning point so far was when I learned to use render pass in Spark AR. That in itself unlocked a whole new range of possibilities for me.
There are many skills needed to create a professional AR project, which of them is a must, and which of them helps you the most?
There are so many different platforms and different uses for AR, and they each come with their own set of technical skills. However, something I would definitely recommend learning is the principles of good design. It’s really the key to making something easy to use and enjoyable. I would also advise learning the design rules specific to what kind of AR experience you are creating. If you make game filters, look into what makes an engaging game; if you make beauty filters, learn about the different contour placements or different eye makeup styles and how they change the face.
How would you describe your work, do you have a specific style? direction? Does it change over time?
I really want people to have fun with what I make. For my own filters, I really like being a little over the top and adding a lot of ways to interact with the filters or a lot of customizable options. I see what I do as a sort of virtual “cosplay”; I want the users to feel like they’ve transformed into a new version of themselves, so I try to make it as immersive as possible and I really only use face deformation if it adds to the effect. I don’t stick to a specific theme, I just make whatever I feel like at the moment, but I do think that I have kept a consistent style since the beginning.
What or who is your inspiration? what would be your advice for other creators?
I get my inspiration from so many different places. Anything I really like, I try to think about how I could bring it into AR. It can be from pop culture or art, fashion, or even a mood.
There are also so many amazing fellow creators constantly raising the bar, and it really pushes me to create outside of my comfort zone. If anyone is facing art block, I advise them to look at what other people are creating (there are plenty of online groups of creators from different platforms sharing their work and willing to help) or look at stuff outside of AR that they really enjoy.
Tell me about the projects you’re most proud of. What makes them special? What assets were used to build that project?
I only publish projects I love and feel proud of, so it’s a hard pick. I recently made a filter in collaboration with cybr.grl and it’s a really fun one. It’s based on the Japanese fashion style decora, so it’s super colorful. I was able to add a lot of accessories, customization options, and animated instructions. Another one I am proud of is a game filter I made for the World Surf League. It really feels like a complete game, with power-ups, a top score tracker, different character options, and all custom animation. I’m also really proud of how I got the water to look in that one.
Describe your working process. Do you follow the work spontaneously or do you have a plan that you follow?
If it is client work, I approach it with a clear idea of the steps I will take, because if I promise something to the client, I need to make sure beforehand that I can deliver on that promise. But when it comes to personal projects, it really depends. I could start with an already clear idea of what the finished project will look like and what I need to do to get there. Or it could begin with a simple experiment to see how something will look in AR, and then I could build on that until I have something that feels like a complete experience.
How do you deal with clients’ feedback?
I love working with clients and taking their feedback to create the best product possible that answers their needs for AR. Getting positive feedback after having put a lot of thought and effort into a project is really rewarding, and negative feedback is only there to make the end product better. Good communication from the start is really important for a smooth process and to create good and lasting relationships with clients. As the creator, and the expert, we have to educate the clients about platform limitations as well as the best design choices. It’s always best to determine from the start how many revisions the client will get so they can be decisive and concise with their feedback each round.
What is your dream in terms of AR creation?
I would love to do something on a big scale for an event, like a fashion show, a concert, or a festival. Something that a lot of people could experience in real-time and that would truly elevate the overall experience into something exceptional.
What is your definition of Metaverse? What does it mean to you?
I think the metaverse is like a new branch of the internet, a new way to interact and be a part of the online world. And AR will be the halfway between the real world and our digital world.
We are grateful to Shannelle for an inspiring interview and wish her big success through her augmented reality journey! 💜