Masks for Instagram – a new tool for self-expression. Now anyone can do them, but it’s not so easy.

To create something original, you will have to master the basics of 3D, programming and animation.

On August 13, Facebook opened access to creating masks for the “Stories” on Instagram for everyone. Prior to this, only approved developers could add them, and the platform and tools were closed.

A gallery of masks was also launched in the application: earlier they could be found only manually or in the “histories” of other users. And to help users, Facebook published video tutorials and instructions. TJ studied what AR masks users do and how difficult it is to create them yourself.

Creating a mask is not easy, especially if you don’t know anything about 3D

Work with masks for Instagram is organized through the Facebook platform Spark AR. To create your own mask, you need to download the Spark AR Studio tool on the website : it is available for free for macOS and Windows.

The application is a cross between a video editor and a program for working with 3D. Some users are likely to encounter problems immediately after installation: the Spark AR Studio interface is not intuitive – this is not a constructor that allows you to assemble a mask in two clicks.

It would seem that an elementary mask with glasses and a color filter actually consists of dozens of objects, materials and textures

The program is divided into several parts: on the left there are panels for managing layers, a scene and textures, in the center – a preview of the mask in 3D, on the right – a panel with the properties of objects. When using animation, a separate panel opens at the bottom.

The Spark AR website says that to create your own mask you do not need special knowledge, but this is only partly true. On an elementary mask that changes complexion, it really does not take much time and effort. But to implement something more complex, you will have to learn the basics of 3D, programming or creating animations.

At best, learning all the instructions and lessons will require a few hours of free time. 

Graphic designer Aliya Ataulova in a comment on Facebook claims that she did not know anything about 3D and did not understand how AR effects work, and then she discovered Spark AR and made 7 masks. However, in fact, even creating a simple mask at least for the first time will require a monotonous study of lessons, instructions and examples.

The program has ready-made templates that you can change for yourself, a library of free 3D models and a convenient preview to immediately see the result. But without understanding what and how it works, you will have to do everything at random, so it’s better to study the instructions, which are only in English.

Templates can be changed for yourself, but this does not greatly simplify the work.

It is unlikely that in the near future the creation of masks will become popular among ordinary users, no matter how much Facebook claims about the simplicity of the process. The threshold for entering Spark AR Studio is still too high, and to understand the program, you need a lot of free time and attention.

This is still more a tool for developers and those who are “in the know” than for ordinary users.

However, the creators of the tool did everything to simplify the program: to use it, you need some training, but not as complicated and long as in the case of professional software like Cinema 4D or 3ds Max. Most likely, the creation of masks will be popular among bloggers, designers, brands and programmers, and if ordinary users will do the effects, then some elementary.

There is no single trend among authors yet

Along with the launch of the public beta version of Spark AR, Facebook also added a gallery with all user masks to Instagram. The exact number of masks already published is difficult to calculate, but there are at least several thousand of them.

Apparently, the authors of the masks do not yet have a single trend. In the gallery you can find absurd, comic, simple and complex options. Some use facial animation, others attach text. The authors apply an example to each work, which can be viewed as “stories”.

Masks can be sorted into categories like Selfie, Humor, Science Fiction, Fans, and more. Separately, you can see the options from Instagram or from the authors that the user is subscribed to. At the same time, the application does not show how popular this or that mask is, and the principle of their sorting is unknown: it is likely that the tape is formed randomly.

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