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Unmasking the Watchmen Contest Winners

By: Spark AR Team
October 25, 2019
Spark AR

Unmasking the Watchmen Contest Winners

By: Spark AR Team
October 25, 2019

Our thanks to all of the talented creators who participated in the HBO Watchmen Mask Off Challenge. We had a hunch this contest would inspire some creative entries, and the Spark AR community did not disappoint. We tracked hundreds of effects tagged with #WatchmenMaskOffContest, each one showcasing in its own unique way how augmented reality could be used to bring the “Watchmen” series to life.

Ultimately, our contest judges picked three winning effects, and today we’re extending a big congrats to the following creators who will each take home the $10,000 grand prize: Hannah Schilsky for Watchmen, Chris-Joy Quiamco for Static Mask and Wesley Cathon for Watchmen Comic.

We caught up with each of our winning creators to learn a little more about them, their entry and their creative process for this contest, here’s what they shared:

Wesley Cathon

Creator of Watchmen Comic

How long have you been using Spark AR?
“It's only been about 2-3 months, but I feel like I've been learning it so fast. Every feature feels like a whole, potential effect, and there's never really a shortage of things to try.”

How did you create this effect with Spark AR Studio?
“The pages had to be animated with an armature, which I thought was kind of funny. Using [the available capabilities] of Spark AR Studio, I had to figure out what the ‘bones’ of a page turning would look like.”

Another challenge was the need to have all of these layers and textures appearing on one single page. I think it's easier when you can have different canvases, or at least separate the effects into different materials, but having all of these illustrations, camera feeds, and segmentation textures multiplying each other, and feeding into one single material looked like the work of an insane person. I also had the flu during my last week of working on this, so [the creation process] felt like a weird fever dream.”

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AR almost networks itself. You make the initial effect, other people use it, make it their own, and then even more people see that, and it just keeps going.
— Wesley Cathon

What “Watchmen” themes did you want to bring to life?
“Initially I wanted to play with the idea of having it be a newspaper of the in-show "American Hero Story", but I really wanted people to be able to look at it and immediately recognize what I was doing. I still wanted that meta feel though, which is why it's sort of a 3D world, and not just a flat comic overlay.”

What advice would you give to other creators who want to build AR effects?
“Keep your ideas concise. [Spark AR Studio] is an amazing tool, but there's a playfulness that gets lost when the effects get super high-concept and have tons of content. Obviously the Spark AR Community group on Facebook is great; searching for your questions will yield thread upon thread of people solving the same things. And as always, you can learn literally anything on Youtube.”

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Chris-Joy Quiamco

Creator of Static Mask

How long have you been using Spark AR?
“This is my first effect using Spark AR. It took me 3 days to complete.”

How did you create this effect with Spark AR Studio?
“I 3D modeled the mask, created the clock and other assets in Photoshop. I also animated the mask opening and closing in Photoshop. The biggest challenge I faced was 3D modeling the blood mask. This was my first time 3D modeling, so it took some time figuring out how to shape things the way I wanted them to look.”

What “Watchmen” themes did you want to bring to life?
“The [symbolism] of blood in the comics and the show was my main inspiration. The upper hard piece, that covers the forehead and eyes, is red and can be seen dripping down the bottom in a blood-like effect.

I like the idea of mixing the digital world with the real world. AR is a new tool I can use to bring my digital art into the world.
— Chris-Joy Quiamco

The upper mask also opens up to a clock which was inspired by the iconic doomsday clock in Watchmen. Lastly, the TV static was inspired by Rorschach’s mask. I wanted to the pattern to be random and always changing, similar to Rorshach’s mask, so I thought TV static fit my idea perfectly.”

Do you see AR as a way to amplify your creativity?
“I love making things that personally interests me. Having that connection powers my creativity because it is ultimately something I would want to use for myself. AR allows me to bridge my personal interests and actually put it on myself in a camera effect. For example, if I watch a movie or play a video game, I can create something inspired by those visuals and place myself in that world. In this Watchmen challenge, I was able to design my own mask as if I was a vigilante in the Watchmen universe. And not only was I able to just imagine what I would look like in the mask, the AR experience allowed me to wear my mask! That part is such a cool experience.”

Hannah Schilsky

Creator of Watchmen

How long have you been using Spark AR?
“I have been using Spark AR Studio for about a year and a half. I was first introduced to it at my job, because a client wanted to augment their wine bottle. The first thing I did was learn that I could make my eyes tiny and place them far down next to my lips which was not a very useful or professional thing to do in this situation, but really speaks to the amount of features that the Spark AR team have automated so that any user regardless of their programming abilities can engage with this tool and create fun content to share.”

How did you create this effect with Spark AR Studio?
“One of the methods I used in the Watchmen effect that I love doing was mapping the UVs of the camera lenses to line up with the eyes and mouth of the face texture. I also used the mouth and eye openness, as well as the head rotation to drive the animation procedurally.

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Your best resource is your own curiosity and how far you are willing to go for your passion. I’ve never sat down and said to myself, ‘I’m going to learn how to program today.’ I would have been very bored had I done so.
— Hannah Schilsky

One difficulty I encountered was that originally I had a segmentation mask so the user’s background was keyed out and Watchmen yellow, but having large objects on your head doesn’t work well with the segmentation masking. After messing with it for an hour I decided to cut it and go with the cleaner look.”

What “Watchmen” themes did you want to bring to life?
“‘Who watches the watchmen?’ [a meta theme from the original comic book] worked as both a pun and an inspiration to me. As I interpret it, the Watchmen HBO series is touching on some real topical points of global conflict. We live in a world where anyone’s actions may be caught on camera and go viral, where they are then subject to the mob mentality and judgement by their peers. Depending on the situation this can be a huge threat to a person’s life and well being. but it can also be used as a check for those who are corrupt and in positions of power.”

What advice would you give to other creators who want to build AR effects?
“I am constantly searching and going back through the Spark AR Community for bits of information that brilliant people have left there to help us all level up. If you are having a problem that is not yet on there, there is a chance you are doing something so creative that 40,000 people have not yet encountered this, so put it up there.”

Congrats again to Hannah, Chris-Joy and Wesley! You’ll see their effects showcased @Watchmen, and if you’d like to see more of the Watchmen contest entries, check out #WatchmenMaskOffContest on Instagram.

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