ARvengers assemble. Augmented reality offers agencies and freelancers a huge opportunity to establish their niche in what is predicted to be a $83bn industry by 2020. Putting together the right team is essential if you want to grow your capabilities for producing professional quality augmented reality experiences. Getting hiring and staffing wrong can be an expensive mistake, and often we are asked by our ZapWorks users what specific skills they should be looking for when hiring new people.
If you are looking to hire permanent or freelance staff, it is vital that you know what questions to ask and what answers to look out for. This post should serve as a guide for what we have learned to be the “AR dream team”.
By Paul Spittlehouse, Studio Head - Zappar
Anyone that has ever attempted to design their own website from scratch knows that a good designer is worth their weight in gold. A great one is priceless.
Working in augmented reality adds another layer of complexity for a designer, as your new hire will be creating an experience that incorporates both print and digital techniques. It is really important therefore that when interviewing designers, to make sure that they can demonstrate examples in their portfolio of creating for both. The designer will also be working within a 3D space which changes the nature of UI design. Additionally, being able to demonstrate passion for animation will be incredibly useful for any designer who is going to be working in AR as this is key to building an engaging experience.
Having a strong call-to-action forms an integral part of the user experience of AR. A good designer will need to be able to effectively communicate the value to the end user pulling their phone out of their pocket and scanning the target image with an app. If they are unable to do this, the digital content that you have worked so hard to produce goes wasted.
Along with working in print and digital, the ability to design within brand guidelines is particularly important in AR. If you are an agency pitching projects to brands, then the client is still going to expect the experience to maintain the identity that they have worked over the years to craft. Just because it is a new medium, standards are not allowed to drop.
If they have any video editing experience, then that is also a great plus point. Examples of good design work can be found on creative platforms such as Behance.
- Print experience
- Digital experience
- Working to brand guidelines
- Adobe Suite - Photoshop, Illustrator
Augmented reality is all about creating bite-size entertainment / infotainment for mobile. When creating experiences that are going to be consumed on mobile, you need to take into account the constraints of the technology and the environment.
3D artists that are looking to work in AR need to have an appreciation of poly-counts, and be able to create art that looks great, but with a low data payload. When you are speaking to potential 3D staff, find out whether they have experience in taking a high-poly model (1,000,000+) and retopologizing it down to say 15k - 30k. This type of work is really common for our internal 3D team, who often receive very complex models from the brands we are working with which need to be optimized for AR.
In terms of software, you are looking for people who are familiar with tools such as Maya, 3DS Max, Blender, ZBrush and Substance Painter. These some of the most common software for making AR-ready assets, so expect any artist to be proficient in at least one of them and have opinions on the rest.
If you are fairly unfamiliar with 3D yourself, there are a few key components that make up the creation pipeline:
1) Modelling - Modelling is the process of creating a representation of an object by manipulating polygons, edges and vertices in 3D space.
2) Texturing - UV texture mapping is the process of defining surface texture on a 3D model, turning your monochrome model into something true to the real world.
3) Rigging - This is the process of creating a skeleton (Joints) & controllers that will allow the model to move.
4) Animating - The fun part. A static 3D model can get pretty dull pretty quickly. Make your character move with some simple or complex animation sets and you have a far richer experience for the end user.
Many experienced 3D artists will choose to specialise later in their career in one of these fields, although if you are looking for your first hire then it probably makes sense to find a generalist who can do all of these. The go-to place for 3D portfolios is Artstation, so you will want to check out examples of their work before making an offer.
- Appreciation of the constraints of mobile experiences
- Geometry & Polygon counts
- Maya / Blender / 3DS Max
- Fbx, Obj, POD
- Creating / working with game assets
- Animation / Reference
- Rigging / Skin Weights
- Texturing / Baking
- Modelling / Sculpting
Developer / “Scene Assembler”
When hiring a developer for ZapWorks, you are looking for a person with a combination of creative and technical skills. ZapWorks Studio enables developers to manipulate assets using timelines in a graphical user interface while also giving them the ability to implement more sophisticated features using the scripting engine.
As with any developer role, you will want to find someone that is a natural problem solver, and importantly has the dedication required to see projects to fruition. Strong creative skills including animation and UX implementation are “must-haves”, as well as a familiarity of 2D and 3D assets and software packages.
Projects in ZapWorks can range from simple instructional animations to mini-games and now even mixed reality, so there is a ton of great functionality for your new developer to work on.
- Creating gameplay mechanics
- Game development
- Object oriented programming
- User experience design
- Dedication required to see projects to fruition
- Problem solving
- Bug fixing
A final word must go to the producer. In the early days you might be able to crowd-source the role, potentially with management or business development fulfilling the responsibilities, but as your agency grows, hiring a great producer will be well worth the investment.
Working with clients is all about communication and managing expectations to ensure that you deliver a great finished product on time and on budget. Having a skilled producer will make sure that your creative guys are able to concentrate on getting the work done (and of course working on the right thing).
A good producer will have experience working on multiple projects at once, will be highly organised, as well as cool headed in a crisis. It is said that retaining customers is far cheaper than acquiring new one, and a good producer will be your point person with the client making sure they keep commissioning projects time and again.
- Highly organised
- Cool headed
- Experience working on multiple projects at once
- Managing stakeholders and clients
- Understanding the needs of the team
- Good knowledge of standard software packages
Of course, lots of our ZapWorks community is made up of people who fulfil all these roles by themselves (hats off to them!). For those that are building a business, or evolving an existing one, to meet the market demand for increasing amounts of augmented reality content, we hope you’ve found this post helpful.
Ambitious to assemble your own AR dream team?
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