Lensathon & Lens Fest 2023 Recap: What Happened at Snap’s In-Person LA Event

To start off this article, we have to express the greatest gratitude to the Snap team, who invited us to co-host the 2023 Lensathon, an amazing event aimed at bringing together almost 80 Lens Creators from across the globe and challenging them to leverage the new features from the Lens Studio 5.0 Beta that was launching just days later at Lens Fest.

And speaking about the new Lens Studio version…

The Lens Studio 5.0 Beta is a full rewrite of the Editor–focused on innovation that unlocks your full creative potential, faster performance, and breakthrough Generative AI features. Early adopters are encouraged to test and provide feedback on the Beta to help enhance future releases. Education resources are available on the Snap AR Learn Hub and Lens Studio documentation.

Now let’s jump into the recap, highlighting the best moments from our LA adventure starting with the 3-day Lensathon and then Lens Fest being the big finale.

Day #1: Team Building & Announcing New Lens Studio Features!

The first day of the Lensathon started off with a mix of curiosity and excitement – this was the day Lens Creators were to learn about the newest Lens Studio updates and also…what will be their Lensathon task? We kickstarted the event with snacks, long-time-no-see reunions and some key announcements, one of them being the Lensathon prompt:

Create a Lens that lets Snapchatters explore and celebrate various aspects of culture from around the world, be it in the context of entertainment, food, holiday or traditions, clothing, dance, or play/games.

Then came what all Creators were waiting for – the Lens Studio team explaining and showcasing all the exciting features coming in the new version, with the focus on quality of life improvements, collaborative workflow and Gen AI game-changers.

Then, we jumped right into the Team Building session, led by our own Zuza and Jana. Our goal for this session was to ease the participants into connecting with each other, energize and motivate everybody to match based on complementary skills, know-how and experience. Then came some networking time, finished with successfully building 20 amazing teams, ready to ideate and create together the next day.

Day #2: Building, building and…more building!

Day number two started early and ended very late – Creators were working hard on their projects, trying to wow the judges not only with their Lenses, but also pitch decks. Walking around this huge space, filled with so much creativity and dozens of people being in their element was a once in a lifetime experience. And then hearing their ideas and going through the first drafts, tests and trials, was just so inspiring.

Throughout the day, Creators had full support from the Lens Studio team, who’s members were troubleshooting and aiding the participants every step of the way. Plus, there was also a friendship bracelets making station there to signify this team building experience!

Day #3: Last Call for Building & Judging Begins!

The last day of the Lensathon started off differently for everybody, depending on where they were with their projects. Some teams or team members were still working on their Lenses, some were practicing their pitches and polishing their decks, but all participants were anticipating what was about to happen next, meaning – the judging.

Lensathon 2023

The judging process was divided into 3 stages. First, all teams presented their projects to a group of judges made up from Snap’s employees and Lens Studio developers. Each team got 7 minutes to pitch and 3 minutes to answer questions, while judges were scoring their submissions.

The second round was judges’ deliberations – all judges met up together to discuss their favorite projects to then select the finalists, meaning top 5 teams, who were going to present their Lenses the next day, during the actual Lens Fest in-person event – the last and most exciting part of the judging process!

Day #4: It’s Lens Fest Time!

After wrapping up the building part of the Lensathon, came time for celebration – Lens Fest served us many ground-breaking technical announcements like Lens Studio 5.0 Beta and SnapML Kit, but also lots of advice, best practices and success stories pointing at all the opportunities Lens Creators can take advantage of.

Lensathon 2023

One of the most exciting parts of the in-person event in LA was announcing the Lensathon finalists, meaning top 5 teams and projects. What’s important to note is that all finalists received cash prizes, so no matter what happens during the final judging round, if your team name got called out here – you won already! And here are our finalists:

Lens with Benefits team including Meredith Binnette, Sallia Goldstein and Alex Doudnikov with a project called Paintings In Motion,

Hack Squat team featuring Balraj Bains, Lauren Cason, Sam Jones, Jacob Gerling and Sean Sarmiento, presenting a Lens called (also) Hack Squat,

LensCrafters team with Julia Roga, Paige Piskin, Eddy Adams, Jeferson Araujo and Alfred Ryvarden, who created the Tiny World Lens,

The Heaviest Snack team featuring Meg Drabbe, Marcin Polakowski, Sander Veenhof, Adrien Megueddem and Tom Geurts with a connected Lens called Pot Luck,

A Different Perspective team including Isabelle Udo, Arthur Bouffard, Nicolletta Rothschild, Aidan Wolf and Chiem Maris, who altogether created a Lens called Wise Pals.

Not long after announcing the top 5, came the final judging round – each team got 3 minutes to pitch their projects to the whole Lens Fest audience, and most importantly to the judging panel made up of high level Snap team members.

Lensathon 2023

Then came the final pitches with snappy feedback sessions known from talent shows. While watching it, we were all thinking – this should be made into a TV show! All Lens Creators did great showcasing their projects and once done with pitches, representatives from all teams took the stage to experience the audience vote, meaning multiple applause rounds from the Lens Fest audience – who received the most noise, took home an additional $5,000!

And now what everybody was waiting for – the winners announcement! Like we’ve mentioned before all finalists won cash prizes, but who took home the main prize? Take a guess before scrolling down any further!

That’s right! Team made up of received the first prize of $10,000 for their project called Tiny Worlds, allowing users to break cultural barriers with cute characters welcoming you to their islands and ready to answer all your questions about their cultural heritage thanks to the seamless integration with ChatGPT.

Now who took the 2nd prize home? (Guess first, scroll later!)

Congrats to Lens with Benefits, who created an artistic Lens allowing Snapchatters to literally dive into portals made of famous paintings.

Now the 3rd place AND the audience prize winners are…

A Different Perspective team, who enabled Snapchat users to discuss all more or less important matters with cultural heroes like Albert Einstein or Frida Kahlo, enriching their minds with one of a kind perspectives we can access and simulate with well-prompted ChatGPT chatbots.

And of course congrats to the 4th and 5th prize winnersHack Squat and The Heaviest Snack – your projects were truly fantastic! What amazed us while watching the pitches was that all teams focused on culture from totally different points of view. The variety of submitted projects is a living proof of the endless amounts of creativity generated by our community, and also the limitless possibilities provided by Lens Studio.

Once the awards were handed out, we all swiftly transitioned into the party mode, with the Lens Fest afterparty wrapping up our Lensathon & Lens Fest LA adventure. Once all the emotions and pitching stress let go, we were able to enjoy our last few hours together, talking about what happened, but also what’s next for us all – new collaborations, upcoming exciting projects and hopefully more opportunities to meet up again.

To end this recap, we have to go back to our opening sentiment and give the biggest thank you to the Snap team, who allowed us to be a part of this journey, to all Creators who came to the event and also to each and every Lens Creator, who’s an active member of our community. Events like this are an amazing reminder and proof of the impact all of you create with each next Lens published, so thank you and hopefully – we’ll all see each other IRL soon!