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AR Talks | Helen Breznik – Queen of Full Body Tracking

Helen Breznik is an AR Creator from Toronto, but to call her “just” an AR Creator would be a misunderstanding. She’s a multidisciplinary artist, combining photography with graphic design and turning it all digital. In terms of social media AR, she’s definitely one of the most inspiring Creators out there, constantly experimenting and utilizing all of the most advanced features in Lens Studio. Without further ado, here’s our full conversation with Helen Breznik – Queen of Full Body Tracking Lenses 👑💃

First things first – Helen, please tell us a little about yourself – where are you from, what is your background and how did your journey with Lens Studio start?

I live and work in Toronto, Canada. My early studies included graphic design, traditional painting and illustration. I then discovered vintage Polaroid cameras and shifted my focus to photography, using a type of film that allowed me to manipulate the images. When smartphones came along I took image manipulation a step further by using apps. (I probably have more than 200 apps on my device!) In early shoots I used models, but I eventually turned the camera on myself so I could shoot spur of the moment and it was just easier to capture what I envisioned. I discovered AR Lenses a couple of years ago and started incorporating them into my self-portraits always wishing I could create my own.

When I was presented with the opportunity to submit some of my designs for consideration in the Snapchat OLC (Official Lens Creator) Program it gave me the incentive to really push and learn Lens Studio and after a couple of months I submitted my Lenses and was so happy to be accepted into the program.

Now let’s talk about features – you’ve been experimenting a lot with Full Body Tracking, I’ve also seen your LiDAR-powered Lens and another one with Hand Tracking. You seem very keen to explore all new possibilities – what Lens Studio features or maybe other capabilities (I know you’ve been learning Blender for example) are you going to explore more in 2021?

Yes I’m always very interested in trying out new features. Right now I’m exploring style transfers using machine learning in Fritz.ai. It produces a style based on an image you plug in and it can then be applied to a Lens. Another area I’m trying to develop is my sculpting skills with apps like Forger and Nomad on my iPad. Eventually it would be nice to try out some of those virtual sculpting tools like Gravity Sketch and Tilt Brush but I still need to get a vr headset!

Hand Track WOW
by helen breznik

Lidar Spheres
by helen breznik

Coming back to the Full Body Tracking again – why are you so much into FBT Lenses? There aren’t many Creators, who focus on this feature as much as you do. What do you think is the reason for it?

This is probably the one feature I was most interested in right from the start, so I was so thrilled when it finally became available in Lens Studio. I think we’ve all seen videos of those cool fuzzy creatures dancing around with their hair flowing as they move. I always thought wouldn’t it be great to be able to use something like this live because then you could see the effect in real time and adjust your movements accordingly. Especially if you are moving a string of objects, because you could move them through space trying to create a pleasing composition, just like a brushstroke on a canvass.

cyber branches
by helen breznik

reena the traveler
by helen breznik

You often use objects and textures resembling real-life materials like metal, crystals or glass – what is the reason or inspiration behind it?

Working with 3d software you become very aware of different materials and how you can control every aspect. Anything with reflection or transparency just has so many nuances that you can play around with. You can even control what the objects reflect and changing those images can really create very different moods. I recently discovered HDRI Haven where you can access lots of free HDRI panoramas but ultimately I think this year I’m going to work on creating some of my own.

You also seem to be inspired by futuristic and sci-fi ideas, especially looking at your Lenses like Reena the Traveler, Cyber Branches or Crystal Alien – are you actually a sci-fi geek or do you just like the esthetic?

As I have gotten more immersed in augmented reality I seem to have adopted a more futuristic feel in my work. In the past “the future” always seemed like something that was far off in the distance… but lately it really feels like it is here now. Virtual worlds are being built and they are no longer just games but places with real economies where people are making huge investments.

I think we are going to interact more and more in these spaces so I recently decided to take part in a Gallery Building Competition in the metaverse Decentraland. I am now a part of a group of 80 galleries who have been awarded land rent free for the next year. Work can be displayed and sold and I have been working on some Lenses that will become art hanging on the walls. (Visit “Ube Art” in Decentraland at position: -131/99)

If you could have a magic wand steering the Lens Studio team – what would you add to the software?

I love 3d physics simulations that incorporate things like gravity and momentum. It would be great to see more of these types of capabilities built right into Lens Studio. Liquids that can be poured into different shapes, moving fabrics or objects that collide and break apart.

As an experienced Graphic Designer and AR Creator, what is your advice for somebody who wants to start their own AR journey?

Don’t be afraid. It may seem daunting in the beginning but just start by watching a few tutorials. Don’t try to learn everything at once. You will gradually figure out which areas you want to specialize in and just focus on those. Then try a few templates. They are already set up and you can go in and customize them with your own assets. And don’t worry if you can’t code – there is so much you can do without coding. You don’t have to be super technical… just use your imagination.

crystal alien
by helen breznik

Puffy Style
by helen breznik

Please share with us your favorite Lenses from your portfolio and let us in on your inspiration behind them :))

My favorite Lenses are a combination of Body Tracking and chain physics. When using these I would highly recommend using the front facing camera so you can see how your movements affect the objects. This way you can create extra momentum and make the shapes bounce around even more. It’s like you’re a puppeteer bringing these objects to life.

To shoot a video of yourself handsfree in Snapchat simply hold down the camera button and slide over to the padlock symbol when it appears. Now you can step away and it will keep recording. Make sure you record for more than 10 seconds as this will give you the option to trim your video afterwards and you can remove the beginning part where you were setting up the shot.

rainbow cape
by helen breznik

jellyfish cape
by helen breznik

Rainbow Cape – after creating some dangly earrings that responded to head movement I was curious to see what would happen if I attached something similar to the arms. I was glad to discover that the linked rainbow colored objects responded to arm movement to an even greater extent… making for a really fun Lens to dance with!

Jellyfish Cape – I’ve always loved watching jellyfish… they look like aliens floating through space. This Lens tries to capture their flowy, translucent quality and the feeling of buoyancy. Squiggly shapes hang from the arms and layered transparent round discs hover over the head creating a mysterious otherworldly creature.

Rainbow Springs – this Lens is like a big fun pinball machine. Bold colorful shapes that fly around, springy rings and shiny blue and silver pinballs bouncing back and forth. Just stand back so nobody gets hurt 😉

rainbow springs
by helen breznik

Purple Monster
by helen breznik

Huge thanks to Helen for taking the time to answer our questions and constantly inspiring us and the whole AR Community to try new features and capabilities. Hope we’ll see more Full Body Tracking Lenses after posting this article!

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