AR Talks | Irem & Elli from Cinehackers on Lens Studio Residency Program

Irem Harnak and Elli Raynai collaborate together as Cinehackers, creating immersive experiences and combining film, VR and AR in their projects. Recently, they’ve started to create Snapchat Lenses, after entering the Lens Studio Residency with Storytelling as the main subject. AR Creator Residency Program is a global initiative for artists, developers and designers to explore the software together with the Lens Studio team. We wanted to learn firsthand about their experience and the Storytelling Lens they’d made, so let’s hear it from Irem & Elli!

Hi, guys! Tell us more about yourself – Where are you from? How did your AR journey start?

Irem: I am an interaction designer with a background in photography. My design journey started in 2018 where I co-created with Elli an interactive VR experience that premiered in Venice Film Festival and travelled the world. After that I worked in various web and mobile & XR projects. I jumped into AR with the Storytelling Lens Studio Residency Program and now we are OLC’s working on various interactive Lenses. We are partnering up with Fritz AI to create engaging experiences with ML.

Elli: I am a designer as well and have a passion for developing immersive experiences. My first degree was in filmmaking and I transitioned to working in VR in 2014, around the time the DK1 came out. I was fascinated by the technology and continued to work on projects most centered around VR. In late 2018 I started playing around Lens Studio but only made one or two projects. However, in October I got an email from Kaleidoscope – an organization that’s focused on finding ways for artists to get grants to make projects. They publicized Snapchat’s call for creators to make an AR experience focused on storytelling.

You were both selected for the Storytelling Lens Studio Residency Program – Please tell us how did you find out about this opportunity and how did the selection process look like?

The selection criteria was very broad – Snap wanted to know the concept, some visuals, and some links to our portfolio and previous background.

How long have you been using Lens Studio? What do you think about the software and which features excite you the most?

I haven’t used Lens Studio before the Residency [Irem]. So we had to learn the software while we were designing the experience. We were creating quite a complicated Lens with linear storytelling, ML, various animations triggered by objects being scanned and found. After getting over the initial challenges, I started enjoying the software more. We didn’t use any template during our residency. Now I really enjoy mixing various templates to create our vision. Visual scripting, hand segmentation, full body triggers are quite exciting for me to try.

What do you think of storytelling in terms of AR Lenses? Why is it important?

AR has the power to reach more audiences than any other medium currently.

It offers immediate access to stories because it’s on everyone’s phone, extremely accessible. There is also a big power in telling stories in XR with visuals, sounds incorporated into the real world. It may feel ephemeral but the right way of telling the story would stay with the audience for a long time.

Could you tell us more about your Storytelling Lens?

During the pandemic lockdowns we were all feeling isolated, unmotivated and lonely. We wanted to offer an AR experience that can be motivational and uplifting during these hard times. The purpose of the project was to create a Lens that would help people to initiate or maintain healthy habits.

The way the Nourish Lens works is the user is able to scan three separate objects in their environment – pillow, bowl and running shoes. Once the camera recognizes them, the characters appear and form a motivational word and dance before disappearing. The worlds we chose were “Rise”, “Run” and “Sense”.

How did the collaboration with Lens Studio Team work?

The collaboration with Lens Studio Team was a great experience. We had a dedicated interactive developer that we were meeting with every week. He was super helpful and insightful. We also had access to other developers who would help us with various aspects of the project building the models for ML etc. Overall it was a great opportunity where we experimented and learned from the industry’s best.

What have you learned during this experience and would you recommend the Residency Program to other Creators?

We learned about the capabilities of Lens Studio. It was really exciting to be at the forefront of art & technology R&D. They fully supported our vision and were helpful at every step of the process. We would definitely recommend it to creators who love experimenting and finding new ways of expressions.