At Banuba, we know firsthand that designing quality Face AR experiences takes time, effort, a dose of creativity and a proven process. Here, we share steps that help you develop engaging custom video filters for you app.
What are face filters?
Face filters are augmented reality effects enabled with face recognition technology. It overlays 3D objects and animation on the face in real-time, so you can capture engaging videos and photos. Introduced by Snapchat back in 2015 as a fun way to edress-up your selfie, today AR filters have become a meaningful communicational tool.
Augmented reality lets users transform themselves into anyone or anything they please, turning selfies into a storytelling adventure. You can superimpose 3D objects onto the face or backgrounds, animate facial expressions, try on virtual products, add AR makeup and much more.
AR filter with 3D animationSnapchat-like face filter Face morphing effectBeauty and face touch up filterCartoon-like AR filter
Augmented reality filters are used in:
- Social networking apps
- Video conferencing and video chat apps
- Photo and video editing apps
- Live streaming
- AR commerce and product try on
- Virtual makeup sampling
Why create custom AR filters
Face filters are a powerful engagement tool that brings numerous benefits for developers. Using AR filters, you can capture attention to you app or product, let users self-express creatively, create and share marvellous photos and videos on social networks. They can help you bring organic traffic and drastically boost the enjoyment of using your app.
Brands develop custom filters to:
- Increase awareness with filters that reflect its values, idea or products.
- Reach out to millennials on mobile and social networks with innovative AR experiences.
- Promote products with AR letting consumers try them virtually.
- Reduce returns and personalize the shopping experience.
- Сreate effective AR ad campaigns on any channel - web, mobile and outdoor.
- Inspire consumers to take and share photos with branded filters and spread the word.
Developers use face filters in their apps to:
- Boost user engagement and content sharing.
- Increase user sessions in the app using animations and Face AR games.
- Bring organic traffic and inspire user-generated content (UGC).
- Improve retention keeping users engaged with new filters.
- Improve video communication in their apps through engaging AR features.
AR creators make filters to:
- Self-express on social media.
- Expand follower base in a short period of time and few efforts.
- Monetize followers and partner with brands.
- Gain social recognition and attention, become influencers.
Steps to create a quality face filter
Individual AR creators who want to make a custom Instagram face filter opt for the Spark AR Studio. The platform makes AR effect production available to anyone. However, with Spark AR you can create masks for Instagram only.
If you want to develop your custom face filters and integrate them into your app, you need a Face Filter SDK and its Studio tools.
Among its advantages, you can
- Add filters to any app or website
- Build new face filter app from scratch
- Launch filters on all platforms
- Create any type of AR effects
- Get full content ownership
- License effects from our Filter Catalog
Here are the basic steps which you as a designer or product manager need to follow when developing AR content for your app.
Step 1. Research your audience and persona
Target your audience based on the traits that make them unique. Segment your audience to deliver AR content that resonates with their interests.
- Favorite apps
When you understand your potential users, you can target them with better content, so try to describe your persona profiles in detail. Define 3-6 key personas and the type of effects that may catch their fancy. Here’s an example of a persona profile.
Example of the target persona profile
Step 2. Describe the context and USP
Define the context of when and how users will interact with your AR effects. They may animate faces to have fun, gain social recognition among peers or for self-expression. Think of the USP (unique selling points) and the value you aim to add to your app when integrating face filters.
- Why and when would people use your effects?
- What value do they bring to users?
- Which problems do they solve?
- Have people seen something similar before? Where?
- How does your AR content differ from competitors?
- Why would people share an effect?
Step 3. Monitor trends and competitors
Gain more insights about your audience by researching trending topics in your domain or globally. From there, you can get additional inspiration and ideas for your AR filters.
How to monitor:
- Social media monitoring
- Social listening
- Trending challenges
- Keyword and tag research
- News and influencers
Check popular face filter apps and steal away ideas and the best practices for effects design. Modify and customize to make them unique.
Key app providing face filter functionality
Step 4. Filter design workflow
You can make different types of face filters, from simple 2D stickers to complex face filters with triggers and animation. Some filters are more complex to implement, and they require coding. The general workflow looks as follows.
- Design filter assets. You may design effects in any 3D graphical editor like MAYA. Generally, a 3D filter consists of materials, textures and geometry which you export in .fbx format.
- Upload assets to Filter Editor. The Filter Editor tool converts files into supporting formats compatible with Face AR SDK.
- Configure effect properties. Then you can set the draw order, add beautification, audio and ect.
- Construct effect. The 'Construct' button generates the effect file which you later upload to the app.
- Preview in real-time. You can test your effects on desktop before sending it to production using the Viewer component.
The vide below provides an overview of the face filter creation process. Check more in-depth examples on how to make a specific type of effect.
Step 4. Develop and optimize
To make sure your face tracking filters perform well on a broad range of devices, you need to keep them lightweight.
Read More: How To Optimize 3D Face Filters For Mobile
- Reduce and optimize filter textures
- Use the most optimal set of 4 textures: Base color, Normal, Roughness, Metallic
- Minify polygons
- Optimize skin files and video files
- Consider the effect performance on different devices — both powerful and low-end ones.
- Develop 2 versions of a complex effect — the full one and optimized.
Step 5. Test your effect
Low-quality filter performance disappoints users and can lead to negative reviews. Make sure to test your AR effects properly before uploading them to the app.
Your Checklist to Test Effects:Performance iOS, Android
- Real-time AR face filter — at least 30 FPS on iPhone 5s, 6, 6plus | Samsung s8/Huawei P10/Mi6 and higher
- AR mask and video recording — at least 30 FPS on iPhone 5s, 6, 6plus | Samsung s8/Huawei P10/Mi6 and higher
- You can take a photo or/and video with the effect.
- The effect works stably on the front and rear camera.
- The effect works stably with face in the camera, no face, and disappearing face.
- Effects with a trigger, tap, swipe or voice changer have a hint about it.
- Effects are stable at different angles (90 /180 degrees rotation, upside down)
- Masks stretch on the face with wide-open mouth, grimacing and no elements overlap one another
- Check effects on Xsmax for crashes (some effects fall on Xsmax)
- Check effects on Xsmax for incomplete filling of the screen (sometimes the effect does not fill the entire screen with high resolution)
Step 6. Measure engagement
Measuring user engagement with your effects helps you better understand your audience and deliver a successful app. Track how users interact with your filters to see which filters perform best and which one needs a redesign.
What to monitor:
- Taps and swipes on the screen
- User session duration
- Share ration
- Video- and photo-taking ration
- Users by country
- User retention
- Feedback and reviews
Step 7. Iterate and improve
To maintain a successful user involvement, you need to develop and test hypotheses on new effects, optimize and iterate them to reach your target in terms of acquisition, retention, engagement and revenues.
Your next steps:
- Research, develop and test the hypothesis
- Update effects regularly: daily, weekly or monthly depending on your app concept
- Keep track of user satisfaction
- Use in-app feedback forms
- Engage users in poles on social networks
- Read and gather insights from app ratings and reviews
- Promote new effects with push notifications
Face filters are powerful viral content that can spread across the entire web and grab the attention of millions of users in a matter of days.
Primitive face masks fall short to surprise or engage the audience. Today, the AR industry embraces unique and creative ideas, and this is where the right Face AR software is needed.