Apr 19, 2017

Why 3D animators should start working in augmented reality

I spoke with Tyler Gibbons, a ZapWorks Studio user and owner of ModelWorks3D, a 3D modelling and animated graphics agency in South Dakota, USA. We discussed how his background in 3D modelling for video games led him to discover augmented reality; the transition to learning ZapWorks Studio and importing 3D models from 3rd party tools; and how the interactivity with his 3D models that AR allows for means he is confident this technology will be adopted by businesses more widely over the coming years.  

By Chris Holton, Product Manager - ZapWorks



CH: Hey Tyler, would you start by giving an overview of yourself and your business?

TG: My name is Tyler Gibbons, and for the past year I’ve been running a small business called ModelWorks, which specializes in creating 3D models and animated graphics for promotional videos and entertainment. My background is in 3D modeling for video games, so I bring a fresh creative perspective in my partnerships with video producers and graphic designers. On the side I also continue to develop video game content for the Unreal Marketplace, which sells models and video game content to developers.


 How do you like the avatar Tyler made of himself?


CH: When did augmented reality first start to appear on your radar?

TG: I’ve seen demonstration videos pop up every once in a while as the technology has developed in the last decade, but my first personal encounter with AR was with the Nintendo 3DS. The 3DS camera scans a card, and then a scene or a character can pop up like a 3D hologram on top of the card. It was fun to play around with, but I didn’t begin to realize there was a practical use for it until I recently started exploring the Zappar app and connected with some advertising companies who have been looking for ways to get more out of their existing marketing materials like business cards, emails, and promotional flyers. I think AR has a huge potential to help marketers pack in more information and connectivity specifically for customers who are interested in finding out more.

"As soon as you find out how to export 3D animations into ZapWorks and learn how to script some basic interactivity in Studio, it’s almost impossible not to have a flood of ideas for what you could do with it!"

CH: What is the main problem AR helps you to solve in your role as a 3D animator?

TG: As a 3D animator, the feature that draws me to AR is that viewers can interact with my content by clicking on it, and I can publish new content in minutes. Pre-rendered video isn’t interactive, and custom apps and video games are time-consuming and sometimes complicated to publish. By using ZapWorks I can create interactive experiences that link to websites, images, and information any way I like in a very short time, and with only a few clicks the information is live online.

Along with how AR helps me as a 3D animator, I think the most practical use for AR is that we can create a new generation of business cards, print ads, and emails that automatically accommodate the viewer’s level of interest. People who have little to no interest in the product can still scan the card and enjoy tinkering with a fun interactive experience of some sort, which gives them a little positive brand experience even if they throw the card away after trying it out. But the real benefit is that people who have an actual interest in the product will then have immediate access right at their fingertips to websites, sales, and information that they actually want and will take action to discover and likely purchase. There are countless applications for 3D characters and information in AR, but I think this is an area where marketers and customers are both ready and eager to begin using AR.

"There are countless applications for 3D characters and information in AR."

CH: What type of work have you been doing recently that included both 3D animation and augmented reality?

TG: Mainly I’ve been developing samples to demonstrate what AR can do for potential clients. The word hasn’t got out yet that Augmented Reality is an amazing and low-cost way to exponentially expand existing marketing practices! When I show ZapWorks to my colleagues and friends, it is received with excitement and anticipation, and they not only see the value in it, but they also start buzzing with more ideas! One friend took a look at it, handed me his business card, and said, “I want that. Make it happen.” But companies haven’t shown much interest yet because they don’t know what AR is or what it can do beyond just being a fun little time-waster on your phone. I’ve been working to demonstrate that being a fun little time-waster on your phone can be exactly what makes AR successful and incredibly useful for connecting people with the information they want, right when they want it.


Print this image and scan to get the best experience of Tyler's zap!



CH: How long did it take you to learn how to use ZapWorks?

TG: I went from knowing absolutely nothing about it to confidently being able to create an AR business card that linked to my website, contact info, and my company demo video in a single afternoon by following the excellent tutorials online. The ability to choose an appropriate ZapWorks tool (Widgets, Designer, or Studio) for each job is incredibly helpful. Using Widgets, I’ve been able to create personalized demonstrations for potential clients in minutes, and I’m confident that with either Designer or Studio I can produce almost anything they could request in terms of interactivity and user experience.

For 3D animation I use 3D Studio Max (2014) and the recommended POD format to move my animated content into ZapWorks Studio, and I’m really impressed by how simple and well-documented the process is (Although when I left the Zappar documentation to install the POD exporter and place the plugins into the right system folders it took some lucky guessing before it worked correctly). In 3ds Max I could animate fairly complex scenes with hundreds of objects including a skinned character using 3ds Max’s built-in CAT rig and some MassFX physics simulation, and everything worked perfectly in ZapWorks Studio. The Zappar app does not currently support real-time lighting, specularity, or reflections, so my background in video game art has been especially helpful in baking details and lighting from complex models into low-poly meshes and also to paint textures using powerful tools like Substance Painter.

"As a 3D animator, the feature that draws me to AR is that viewers can interact with my content by clicking on it, and I can publish new content in minutes."


CH: What advice would you give to other 3D animators that were considering working with augmented reality?

TG: My advice for 3D animators who are considering working with AR is to just jump in and try it! As soon as you find out how to export 3D animations into ZapWorks and learn how to script some basic interactivity in Studio, it’s almost impossible not to have a flood of ideas for what you could do with it! Give it a try, and show it off! Businesses don’t know yet how or why to use AR, and we need more real-world success stories to educate them and get everyone on board!


Want to start creating your own AR experiences with 3D models? 

If, like Tyler, you want to start bringing your 3D models to life with Augmented Reality, then sign up for a 30 day free trial of ZapWorks today.