As part of our ongoing interview series with Spark AR creators, we recently caught up with Mitsuko Ono, a Manila, Philippines-based multimedia designer to talk about how she got into AR creation, her rapidly growing gallery of 40+ ‘weird’ effects, and some of the experience and advice she has for new creators and those working with brands. We learned a ton from this talented creator, we hope you will too.
Tell us a little about your career (so far)?
I currently work full time as a creative director for an AR agency called Popul-AR Experience. It’s a company based in Brussels, Belgium. Before working in AR, I was working as a multimedia designer. I did motion graphics, video editing, 3D, photo, and video shoots and even produced music way back.
What got you interested in AR creation?
I’ve always been interested in AR. I tried researching it, but it seemed so difficult to do at that time so I gave up. Then I saw my friend posted an Instagram story using Caio Vita’s Instameat. After that I started following a lot of creators such as Noland Chaliha and I’m glad I did because it’s through him that I found Spark AR.
How long have you been working on Spark AR projects?
I started working on my own Spark AR projects late last year, so only about 10 months now. My very first effect was called The Matrix, and I’ve since published 42 more across Facebook and Instagram (note: some are no longer available).
And what’s your favorite effect, so far?
A little difficult to choose but maybe I’ll go with my Gachapon effect. A Gachapon is like a random toy vending machine from Japan. I really love collecting weird toys from Gachapon machines. The thrill of not knowing what toy you will get is already a thrilling experience for me, so I decided to turn it into an AR experience. I had fun thinking of what silly toys I could put inside. I also enjoy seeing people use it. I especially find it really funny when little kids get the cockroach!
How did you learn (initially) to create AR effects?
First thing I did was go through the Spark AR tutorials, then I joined the Spark AR community where I found so many amazing creators that are generous with their knowledge like Maru, Josh Beckwith, Noland, and many others. I watched their tutorials and learned a lot from them. Billy Ng also compiles Spark AR tutorials on Github, so I regularly check that as well.
Where do you find inspiration for your effects?
I find inspiration from everywhere. From the weird toys I collect to my favorite movies to some random weird thought I had and even from other artists. I write down or draw my ideas in a notebook, then I just choose which one I’m in the mood to make.
When you're in Spark AR Studio, what features do you use most?
I like that I can animate 3D objects, especially joints in Spark AR. It’s a bit of a challenge but I still enjoy doing it. I hope one day an animation timeline will be available. I enjoy using the particle emitter too and I’d also like to be able to have more options to animate its behavior or characteristics.
How do brands find you for AR projects?
Brands find me through Instagram.
What are some common AR needs or interests you’re hearing from brands?
In my experience, most brands want what’s trending. If a certain type of effect becomes popular, they want to do it for their brand as well — to get in on the hype. So for me, it’s the creator’s job to lead and show brands what’s possible and how creative we can get with AR.
What types of effects or use cases do you see brands investing in? I think AR for shopping online will be big. Especially with the situation now. It’s a way for consumers to try out something like jewelry or sunglasses or makeup without going to a physical store and having to risk your health.
Artists now are also keen to create AR effects that get them more connected with their fans. For example, my agency recently made a world effect for a DJ which enables users to put him in their homes to watch and listen to him play some songs. I think world effects are better to use to showcase products, but some brands don’t even know what AR even is and what it can do. I think AR is the next big thing in advertising because it’s experiential. It allows consumers to actually engage with a brand instead of just watching a video about it. Consumers are more likely to share an effect rather than a video or photo advertisement. It’s cost effective, easier to produce and it has a wide reach.
Do you have any advice for new AR creators?
I’m not an expert in marketing but in my experience, sharing your effects is the first way to go about it. Share it everywhere. In the Spark community group, on your Facebook profile, on your Instagram Feed and Stories, your LinkedIn, everywhere. There are also filter influencers that review effects so tagging them really helps widen your reach as well.
What advice would you give to other creators aspiring to do more AR work with brands?
My advice is to practice a lot first before jumping into client projects. Practice not only levels up your skill, but it improves your portfolio too. Working with brands is serious business, but one point of advice: Once you think you’re ready, don’t undervalue your work. Price yourself decently. Don’t kill the industry by pricing yourself dirt cheap. You’ll just burn yourself out sooner.
Do you have a favorite Spark AR creator? Or effect?
My favorite creator right now is @iamcraiglewis2. Not only can he make silly effects, but also very complicated ones. I am also always amazed by the works of Mate Steinforth, Josh Beckwith, Noland Chaliha, Patrick Cabral, Marc Wakefield, Kym Fiala, Ommy Akhe, Eddy Adams, Matt Greenhalgh and many more.
Do you have any advice for new AR creators?
My advice to new AR creators is if you want to be a good creator, don’t do it for reasons other than creating and learning. Don’t focus on the numbers. Don’t stress on what your views and shares are, or that you’re not getting followers. Focus on how to level up your skill. Focus on making creative and fun effects. Just create and create because it’s good practice. The more you create the more you learn, the better you become and the wider your portfolio gets. The views and followers will follow.
On creativity, you can’t be creative and be racist at the same time. The more you get exposed to and learn about different cultures, the more you get ideas to create unique and amazing effects that spread positivity. Don’t make effects that incite and attract hate. Those are the kind that are quickly forgotten.
What are you excited about when you think about the future of AR?
The future of AR seems bright! There are many possibilities to explore and lots of creative and mind-blowing ideas for each of those possibilities! Like maybe the ability to track the sky, track the walls around you, track the whole human body and its movements, track clothing and so on — but for now, please give us the pet face tracker!
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