A small feature with big potential for customer experience

Matt Greenhalgh, Executive Technical Director

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iPhone 12 Pro LiDAR Sensor [Image credit: Apple]

If you were following along with Apple’s recent announcements you may not have picked up on the significance of one of the new features of the iPhone Pro. Billed as primarily an enhancement to photographic capabilities, LiDAR will also dramatically enhance Augmented Reality capabilities on devices.

LiDAR stands for ‘Light Detection And Ranging’. It is a sensor that detects the time it takes for light rays to be transmitted from the device and reflected back to the sensor. …


By Mark Pytlik, CEO

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Stink Studios is a predominantly white company that operates in a predominantly white industry, but the shameful truth is that we have not done nearly enough to change either of those facts.

It’s not enough to stop at hiring thoughtful, progressive-minded people with good intentions. Our entire organization, from the top down, needs to be fundamentally bought into a more equitable vision of the future, and it needs to be prepared to do the difficult work to make that vision a reality.

In the past, we have ignored actionable recommendations and calls to change from our Black and Brown employees. We have ignored actionable recommendations and calls to change from our white employees. We have allowed the myth that there’s a lack of available Black talent to influence some recruitment conversations. We have traded on the excellence of Black culture without paying anything back to the Black experience. And we have done so under a veneer of well-intentioned allyship that, in the absence of real and full-throated commitment across the entirety of our leadership team, has only served as a smokescreen to meaningful progress. We would like to apologize to those employees and to the Black community for those mistakes. …


A technical deep-dive on how Stink Studios worked with premium sneaker brand Auxiliary in partnership with Selfridges to create a first-of-its-kind retail experience using Spark AR

Matt Greenhalgh, Technical Director

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If you haven’t seen the experience you can watch the film.

Just as the High Street seeks to respond to its much-publicised decline, so the new-wave of AR technologies seek usage models that will take them out of their current niche as fun, pervasive but often frivolous face filters. The paring represents a potentially lucrative marriage that could re-engage jaded high-street shoppers and Gen Z digital natives.

Augmented Reality, previously written off as a fun but high-barrier-to-entry novelty, is enjoying a renaissance. This is thanks, in no small part, to the Spark AR platform from Facebook. It is available on any device with either Instagram or Facebook installed, which makes it almost ubiquitous. Suddenly AR experiences can be initialised and experienced in a matter of seconds by pretty much anyone with a phone in their hand. Added to which, its IDE abstracts much of the complexity of face and target tracking leaving developers to concentrate on the creative process rather than wrestling with engineering fundamentals. …


Making an economic case for on-demand, cloud-based solutions.

Arpad Ray, Executive Technical Director

At Stink Studios, one of our most popular products is RITA, our cloud-based video rendering platform.

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RITA stands for ‘render in the air,’ and was designed from the outset to live in the cloud. We’ve used it on dozens of projects running on Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform, and Alibaba Cloud, where it can automatically scale itself between one server and hundreds of servers depending on customer demand.

In computing terms, on-demand video rendering is a relatively expensive operation. You typically want to use the fastest computers with the most processing cores so that videos can be generated and served to users as quickly as possible. This translates directly into financial expense. Faster “servers” (even cloud-based ones) cost proportionately more per hour than slower servers. For example, one server that would be appropriate for one of our larger projects costs around $500 per month on AWS. We also usually run at least one spare server so there’s extra capacity available in the case of a sudden spike in demand. But even that spare server usually needs a minute or two to get started once its called into duty. Therefore, there’s always been a certain minimum size / budget of projects for which on-demand video rendering is practical. …


A type specimen meets a realtime renderer
to make a meme generator

By Steven Olimpio, Sr. Art Director & Will Kent-Daggett, Creative Developer

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In 2014, Stink Studios made a website where users could upload a selfie to be mapped in 3D, in real-time, into a music video of a singing kitten — appropriately called Sing It Kitty. Using our learnings from the process, we developed our own video compositing platform for future projects, in order to be able to seamlessly generate dynamic videos in real-time, or, in other words, to Render In The Air. This is how Stink Studios’ proprietary technology RITA was born.

Fast-forward to summer 2018 in our Los Angeles office, where we had yet to use RITA ourselves — Stink Studios New York and London had developed and refined the technology and its workflow, having produced all RITA projects to-date. So we set out to wrap our heads around it, too, to determine what was possible, how to structure our After Effects files, and how to set up a back-end environment that could scale efficiently. …


A look at the near-future developments for Augmented Reality announced at F8 2019

Matt Greenhalgh, Technical Director

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In 2018, Stink Studios was chosen as one of a handful of partners to build Instagram AR filters using Facebook’s Spark AR platform as part of its private beta program. We created pioneering AR filters on the platform, partnering with Disney to help Mickey and Minnie Mouse celebrate their 90th anniversary and with German influencers Lisa and Lena to drive engagement across 17 million followers.

As Instagram Beta matures, we were invited to this year’s F8 conference to hear what developments were in store for the platform, as well as for creators, agencies and brands.

To understand the potential of the Spark AR platform, it’s important to understand the context around augmented reality technologies in 2019. AR has long been seen as a sister technology to VR, and for many, it looked set to fall foul of the teething troubles that beset that platform — expensive hardware leading to low consumer uptake, resulting in indifference from brands unwilling to wait for the long tail to yield returns. One already significant difference, though, is that AR has solved its hardware distribution issue. Anyone with a modern smartphone already has everything they need to view AR content, and accessing it can require as little as a single tap of the screen. …


Stinkmoji was an internal project that started as a technical challenge: making animoji-like characters on the web, which are available on desktop and mobile to those without an iPhone X.

Introducing Dustink, Darkstink and Khaleestink, our three cute 3D companions

This project also celebrates some of pop culture’s most iconic characters. We chose our characters based on the team’s favorite shows and films from the past year — it was not an easy task!

The experience offers users the possibility to select and then play as one of the characters. …


A technical deep-dive on how Stink Studios worked with Google to deliver high-end Artworks created in VR to mobile devices

Matt Greenhalgh, Technical Director

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Each year, at the onset of Ramadan and for the festival of Eid al-Fitr at its conclusion, people send friends and families themed messages as greetings. To help them celebrate these occasions in 2018, Google Brand Studio conceived the ‘Qalam’ project: a series of artworks by renowned regional artists, created in VR, that could be customised and shared with friends and family. Google approached Stink Studios to build the project and help bring the experience to life.

The project began with a series of art capture sessions held in Dubai, London and Turkey. Here, a total of nine artists — whose backgrounds ranged from graffiti artist, through traditional calligraphers, to tattooists — created individual artworks in Tilt Brush, Google’s VR Painting application. These intricate and beautiful artworks then needed to be recreated and made available on mobile platforms for people to customise and share. …


How Stink Studios created John Lewis ‘Moz the Monster — Monster Maker’

Matt Greenhalgh, Technical Director

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Moz the Monster

Technical background

Bringing Moz the Monster, the star of John Lewis 2017 Christmas campaign, to life in a web page presented Stink Studios with a number of technical challenges:

  • First and foremost, we had to recreate the look and behaviour of the character as closely as possible.
  • Secondly, we wanted to allow children to create their own Monster and to be able to change its size, shape, colour and other aspects of its appearance.
  • Finally, we wanted to create an experience that could scale seamlessly from mid-range mobile devices all the way to high-powered desktop devices, taking advantage of the additional processing power to improve the look of the monster as it scaled. …

Stink will always be a creatively driven organization. When we’re at our best, our work is about eliciting an emotional response, and we don’t want that to change. But as we’ve increased the breadth of in-house expertise and scale of work visibility and impact, we’ve had to weave in a thin, foundational network of rudimentary financial KPIs. We rely on the comprehension of those KPIs throughout our teams, both across our disciplines, and up and down them, to balance our creative ambitions and keep the ecosystem healthy.

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Early in my career, I worked as a PM for a small design firm with a solid reputation and a steady stream of opportunities. Our founder was talented, with a sharp eye for design quality. Unfortunately, we were missing the right brain counter-balance. You know this story — a small, service-based business puts “creative opportunity” as the first and only filter of the funnel, and sooner or later, falters. That causes stress. Stress does not produce strong design or performative code. …

About

Stink Studios

A creative advertising and digital experience company.

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