Josh was a creative nomad: he did photography, illustration, design and game programming. One day, he discovered creative coding and, after a while, he landed a job in advertising. It was then when he discovered Spark AR and now he is the most productive tutorial man in the community.
Filtroo: How did you hear about AR, when you started to create filters?
Josh Beckwith: Somebody made me do it! I was working at Tool of North America, and one of the producers told me we were going to make a set of effects for PixarFest. I wasn’t really excited about it because back then, I hadn’t seen anything inspiring (just puppy face and stuff like that). Once I got into Spark, I realized how much potential there was, and I was hooked!
Filtroo: What does your working day consist of?
Josh Beckwith: I ask myself that every day! I’m freelancing right now, so it really varies. When I have work, that’s my main focus. When I have free time, I make Spark tutorials and build open-source patches.
Filtroo: What was the first filter you ever created?
Josh Beckwith: Surprisingly, it was the PixarFest filter! Not an easy one to start with! I made a bot, several filters, and a dynamic video generator service. I definitely grew a few gray hairs on this project.
Filtroo: Do you have a favorite filter (designed by you or other creators)?
Josh Beckwith: Tracer by Buck is my favorite. They have access to unreleased features in Spark, so don’t try making this at home! From my own filters, VOLATILE is my favorite, and it’s also the most popular. It’s a glitch effect that will glitch your voice too!
Filtroo: Can you describe(overview) of your filter creation process?
Josh Beckwith: Most of the filters that I make for fun come out of technical exploration. Once I understand something, I try to find a use for it. That’s how the Squinting Simulator 5000 was created. I just wanted to know how to apply blur in Spark AR, and ended up with a fun filter by binding the blur to eyelid openness. The idea is to squint your eyes to make things clearer. It also has some audio effects in it, so when things are blurry, the sound is muffled.
Filtroo: Can you tell us 2-3 brands you created filters for?
Josh Beckwith: VAYD (@vaydmusic): Chromatic super-sampler effect. Drag your finger around the screen to control effect parameters.
Disney / Pixarfest: Karaoke duet. You chat with a bot (Mr. Mike) and tell him who you want to sing with. Options were one of two celebrities or a friend. At the end, our servers generated a personalized video with you and your duet partner along with a number of Pixar characters. It’s not live anymore, but here’s a promo video for it.
The Emmy Awards (@televisionacad): Color grading and lots of particles!
Sadly, I can’t share the others yet, but there are 4 more in the queue!
Filtroo: How long does it take to complete a filter (average time)?
Josh Beckwith: Average time, maybe a week, but the range can be anywhere from a few days to a few months! Personal projects go much faster because there are no rounds of revision. I think Thermachromic only took a day.
Filtroo: Can you recommend a list of Youtube channels/resources for learning filter creation?
Josh Beckwith: I make tutorials on image processing, particles, and the patch graph: Spark AR Tutorials Playlist There are too many tutorial authors to mention, but Billy Ng has a great site for aggregating Spark tutorials. Check out Spark AR TV!
Filtroo: Where you take inspiration from?
Josh Beckwith: I really enjoy making tools for artists, so I’m inspired by finding new techniques and sharing them with the community. Also, surrealism and glitch art. SlinkyCheeks IG effect, pictured below.
Filtroo: When you are not creating filters, you have a hobby?
Josh Beckwith: I run Lightpaint Live, an app for realtime light painting. I also make hot sauce and like to experiment in the kitchen. I recently made a webapp called Temporalis, a slit-scan camera effect.
Filtroo: What was the biggest challenge you were facing a project?
Josh Beckwith: The bouncing ball and animated lyrics for the PixarFest filter were incredibly difficult. It had to be responsive to fit in various screen sizes, which took a lot of head-scratching. The bigger challenge was getting the animation from After Effects into spark (no fbx animation support, back then). Lots of hacks, but it worked nicely in the end.
Filtroo: What would be your advice for a new filter creator?
Josh Beckwith: When I was learning, I would spend an hour every morning in spark. It’s like going to the gym. You don’t have to accomplish big goals every single day, but you will notice a difference in your abilities over time.
When you start out, it’s great to have an idea for a filter in mind, but it’s also good to take time and just play around with features that you are unfamiliar with. Knowing the possibilities of Spark will inform how you come up with ideas for new effects.
There are a lot of skills involved in making a filter! You can use programming, illustration, 3d modeling, animation, sound design, photo manipulation… the list goes on! My point is that much of Spark effect creation actually happens outside of Spark. Learning the principles of animation will help you add some extra zing to your effects. Going through shader school will give you the knowledge needed to make complex visual shaders.
If you want to learn some of the techniques I developed, head over to the Spark AR Tutorials Playlist. My goal isn’t necessarily to give you a complete effect, but to give tools and techniques that will help you build your own unique effects.