Oct 26, 2017

Using video and motion graphics in your augmented reality experiences

Building motion graphics and video content into an augmented reality experience can be a really effective way for agencies and brands to utilise the content and internal resources that they already have. Unlike formats with a higher barrier to entry, such as 3D, businesses can still push the envelope without reinventing their content wheel.

I spoke with Matt Scott, videographer and photographer at Zappar, to hear about how ZapWorks users should see the relationship between video and AR.


By Chris Holton, Product Manager - ZapWorks


CH: Hey Matt! Often when we talk about augmented reality these days, a lot of attention seems to be on 3D models and all the cool things you can do with them. What role do you think video & motion graphics have to play in AR over the next few years?

MS: Video and AR go hand in hand - one of the first and most common requests from clients is to have video as part of a zap. Video is an established storytelling and marketing tool that only has more impact in the age of social media. Companies spend thousands on professional videos to get across their key messages and entertain their audience. It makes total sense to leverage the multimedia capabilities of AR to showcase that valuable content. ZapWorks offers so many creative methods for featuring video and motion graphics content.


Follow along with this tutorial on using alpha video in Studio


CH: I know that for you personally, the introduction of alpha video earlier in the year as a feature in ZapWorks Studio was really exciting and something you helped document. What is it about alpha video that you think works so well in AR and what is the potential use for our partners who are building experiences in ZapWorks?

MS: The best thing about alpha video integration is that “wow factor” from users. Having somebody or something appear in the real world through a device is so captivating. It has that real life sci-fi element. The special effects we saw in films as kids now actually existing through devices we use every day. It’s like seeing Princess Leia’s message beamed from R2-D2!

The great thing is that it's as adaptable as video is. Along with 3D, parallaxing and tracking, I think alpha video is one of the most impressive features of ZapWorks and AR in general.

Instead of using green screen to add a background to a video, alpha video in AR allows the real world to be that background. Everchanging and dynamic, it allows for creative possibilities that simply aren't possible with video alone.

VFX can also be used to embellish existing interactive content. Stock sites like ProductionCrate and Videoblocks have lots of pre-keyed content that you can add right into your experience in ZapWorks Studio. Say you have a 3D model of a vampire, you could easily add lightning and bats flying around using alpha video content of those effects to really make the experience pop.

"The special effects we saw in films as kids now actually existing through devices we use every day. It’s like seeing Princess Leia’s message beamed from R2-D2!"


CH: Many users who are first coming to AR tell us that they are a little bit nervous about using ZapWorks Studio, which is one of the reasons why we have the Designer tool. Tell us a bit about how people can start making great experiences using video in Designer.

MS: Designer is an ideal starting point for building an AR experience, and it’s also excellent for video. If you’re familiar with video and effects editing software, you could build an impressive AR experience by constructing a motion graphics/video sequence in that software, and simply bringing that output video file into Designer.

One of my favourite use-cases for video in Designer is ‘Images that come to life.’ I believe this was inspired by the Harry Potter posters, in which photographs in newspapers and ‘wanted’ posters move as if video (check out the video below). Designer allows you to create a similarly magical effect by creating a poster which features the first frame of your video, so that when it’s zapped, the video starts and it appears to be coming to life from the still. It really has that “wow” factor.

A great thing to think about for more advanced users is integrating the design of motion graphics with the physical target. Bridging the transition between physical target and zap is one of the most important aspects to consider when making your experience as immersive, engaging and magical as possible. It’s a consideration unique to AR in the multimedia space. Masking that transition is when the user will be first captivated by your creation, so why not make it amazing?!


Check out the tutorial on bringing images to life in Designer


CH: Specifically thinking about people who work in motion graphics, what are the opportunities for them in using AR and how would you recommend they approach putting together their first project?

MS: Motion graphics are such an impressive and expressive tool. Building these into an AR experience can be really powerful. There’s lots to consider. Firstly, your audience will be watching your work on a mobile device. Second is whether the video will be tracked to a target. This affects the impact your work will have, and how the audience approaches and are engaged by it.

It is possible to use AE or Motion to create animations that would otherwise need to be built in ZapWorks Studio. This allows you to utilise your existing skills with those applications to create an entertaining and interesting AR experience.


CH: What are the common mistakes ZapWorks users should try to avoid when including video in their project?

MS: Like with all creative work, the content should enhance and be appropriate to the occasion. AR is a unique way of experiencing video, and this is important to bear in mind in pre-production. What might work on a huge screen may not be as effective when viewed on a mobile device in an AR experience.

The best advice for this is to experiment - there are no hard and fast rules. However, as I said earlier, the transition into and introduction of the video is just as important as its content, so be sure to consider this.

The team at Zappar HQ are looking at implementing video in MR experiences with ZapBox, which unlocks so much potential in terms of content and immersion. And it also poses another unique set of parameters to consider as video and motion graphics professionals. It's really exciting :-)


See more examples of experiences built by ZapWorks users on our Showcase


CH: You have been at Zappar for a number of years now, and have filmed a large number of projects. What to you makes the difference between a good experience and an incredible one?

MS: For me, AR is all about keeping that magic and sense of wonder, but also making sure the experience is engaging and enjoyable. Being aware of the transition between the real world that appears through the lens, and the moment augmented elements are introduced is key. When that’s done well, I’m still blown away.

I’m also a fan of the ‘coming to life’ experiences. I appreciate them on so many different levels. The thought process that has gone into the construction of the experience, the quality of the video content and target image, and that truly magical element to see something that was once static suddenly have life.



CH: Do you have any final words for videographers and / or motion designers who are interested in working in AR?

MS: Video has been around for decades but it still has huge value in this new digital realm. Multi-disciplined creative professionals are leading the way in these fields. AR can add an extra dimension to your work, be it your showreel appearing tracked in 3D space on your business card, or you delivering AR-ready content to clients. Working in AR and being familiar with it keeps you at the forefront of digital technology, which can only be a good thing! Just because we’re not 3D artists, coders or game developers doesn't mean we can’t jump on the AR train!

Oh, and remember to keep videos short, definitely under 60 seconds if you can.

Ready to start creating your own AR experiences?

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Related links:

ZapWorks Designer: How to make images come to life

How to prepare and import Alpha Video into ZapWorks Studio

Tutorial | Streaming video in the 3D view