Snap AR and Lens Studio: Guide to Snapchat Lens Experiences

August 29 2022

Snap AR is the software platform for AR creators and one of the contenders in the AR scene. Made by social media company Snap Inc — the platform allows creators to build their own face filters, effects, and shaders which are used in mobile AR experiences — in this case Snap.

If you’re curious about other AR platforms, check out our articles on TikTok’s Effect House, Meta’s Spark AR, and Unity’s extension Niantic’s Lightship ARDK.

Table of contents

Introduction

Snapchat has more than 347 million daily active users. But about 250 million users engage with AR daily, playing with Snapchat’s AR Lenses six billion times daily.

The platform has 2.5 million Lenses created by 250,000 Lens creators. That’s an average of 24,000 engagements per creator per day or 8.7 million engagements per year.

That’s massive.

Considering that Snapchat has captured only a fraction of its market and is growing—only 6% worldwide, 15% in Europe, and 25% in North America—this data becomes more interesting.

If 24,000 average daily engagement accounts for only 6% of potential users, what would happen if the platform grew by a factor of five?

So, there’s no better time to join the action than today when Snap AR is still growing. This article will help you get started.

What are Snap AR and Lens Studio

This image is a placeholder for this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ag1DGpKm2x4

Snap AR is Snap Inc.’s augmented reality platform that allows distribution on both major mobile operating systems: iOS and Android. Snap AR features all of its seven business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) augmented reality experiences and solutions:

  • Lens Web Builder
  • Camera Kit
  • AR Shopping
  • Creator Marketplace
  • Scan
  • Spectacles
  • Ghost

The platform also provides resources to help developers and creators learn how to build a business and consumer solutions and explore their creative interests.

Snapchat’s Lens Studio is one of Snap AR’s top tools, so we’ll explore it in detail in this article and highlight the other six tools.

Snap Lens Studio lets users create real-time Snapchat Lenses and the Snap Camera desktop app. In addition, the tool lets you create augmented reality objects for users’ bodies and the physical world.

You can create experiences for snapchatters to explore on their front and rear cameras.

3D professionals, hobbyist animators, digital creators, and graphic artists can create and launch custom Lens experiences.

Lens Studio comes with an assortment of templates to reduce the effort you’ll need to create lenses. The tool has front and back camera templates so creators can jump straight to creating their Lens experiences.

Let’s discuss the tools you’ll need to create your AR Snapchat Lens experiences—the Lens Studio and its panels and templates.

Lens Studio App

Download and launch your app. You’ll need to log in with your Snapchat credentials.

The Lens Studio app is a simple and intuitive AR development platform. So you can navigate it with little or no hand-holding.

The Home tab shows you recommended templates and Snap AR tools. The Template tab shows you all Lens Studio’s preset templates.

You can learn more about Snap AR and Lens Studio by clicking Documentation. The Project tab takes you to your saved projects, and if you have any recent projects, you’ll find them under Recent Projects.

Click the Go to My Lenses button at the top right-hand side of your screen to access your published Lenses. The app also provides a link to report issues and access the Snap AR forum.

Lens Studio has an analytics dashboard you can access by clicking Go to My Lenses. These features allow users to see their audience engagement data with all or specific Lenses.

Lens Insights grants you access to these engagement and audience data:

  • Demographics
  • OS Breakdown
  • Top Countries
  • Top Interests
  • Lens Views and Plays
  • Sessions, Events, and Object Interactions
  • Snap Camera
  • Funnel Analysis

You can filter your data by time—seven days, 28 days, or all time.

My Lenses lets you access each Lens’s details:

  • Lens ID
  • Downloadable Snapcode
  • Lens Insights summary

You can also view and edit the Lens description or even delete it.

Let’s explore the tools you’ll use to create your Lenses.

Lens Studio Panels

Open a recent project or launch a new project.

Lens Studio panels let creators and developers build the AR elements that make up their Lens experiences. The Lens Studio consists of modular panels which the builder can move around and alter as they wish.

You can always find your way back if you lose track when building in Lens Studio.

Reset your Project window in the menu bar of your Lens Studio by following this path Window > Panels > Default Layout.

Let’s explore each panel.

Scene Panel

The Scene panel lets you interact with 2D or 3D objects in your project’s scene. You can move, scale, and rotate objects in the Scene panel and access camera controls in the Scene’s toolbar.

If you’re working with 2D objects like Post Effects, Face Effects, or Screen Images, the Scene panel automatically transitions to 2D Scene mode.

Let’s explore Scene panel controls.

Scene Screen Mode

Allows you to toggle between 2D and 3D scene modes and control switching scene modes when you select objects.

Toggle on the 2D mode by clicking the View 2D Scene button on the Scene view. Here’s what it looks like:

Toggle on the 3D mode by clicking the same button, but it’ll have View 3D Scene on it:

Scene Object Selection

Click the Selector tool.

You can then click an Object in the Scene Panel to select it in the 3D or 2D Scene.

Scene Camera Orientation

You’ll find the camera orientation cube in the top right-hand corner of your Scene view.

Click and drag the camera orientation cube to direct your scene camera. You can use these orientations:

  • Front
  • Back
  • Top
  • Bottom
  • Right
  • Left

Notice the Home and Setting buttons beside the camera orientation cube? Click that Home button to return to your default camera orientation.

Click the Setting button to give you more visualization options.

Objects Panel

You can see all the objects in your Scene in a hierarchy on the Object Panel. You can parent and un-parent objects and change their hierarchy by holding down the Left Mouse and dragging them up or down.

The Objects panel controls the render order of Screen Image and Post Effect and other 2D effects. The order in which objects will render is set to Auto by default. But you can disable it in the Inspection Panel, so you’d have to set your render order manually.

3D objects follow a render order based on other 3D objects’ depths. But when 2D objects are involved, 3D objects render based on all objects’ order in the Objects panel.

Add New Object

You can add new objects to scenes by clicking the button with a Plus sign.

Select Scene Object to add an empty object. Choose Child Scene Object to add an empty object as a child to a parent object you selected.

With the Add New Object button, you can add objects with preset components like Image, Light, Camera, Mesh Visuals, Post Effect, Liquify, and Screen Image objects.

Filter

The Filter function lets you filter the Objects and Texts you’re using in your project currently. Click the Filter icon and choose the Object you want to see in your Object Panel to isolate that object in the Object Panel.

Search

You can use the search button to find specific keywords from items in your Object hierarchy. Just enter the search term in the search box to find a match.

Enabled and Disabled Objects

You can enable or disable objects by ticking the checkbox at the side of the object in the hierarchy. Disabled objects disappear from the hierarchy and don’t execute their scripts.

Display Mode

You can change render orders or layers by changing the display mode in your Object Panel.

Inspector Panel

You can change or add components to an object using the Inspector Panel. Objects consist of components. An object’s component dictates its functions and visualization experiences.

Apart from adding components to objects, the Inspector Panel lets you change component settings and parameters.

The Transform component must be in all objects because it lets developers set an object’s Scale, Position, and Rotation.

Key features of the Inspector Panel:

Render Order

Automatically applies to all visual objects like MeshVisual. These features render 3D objects by their depth and 2D objects based on the order in which they appear in the Object Panel. This component sets to Auto by default, but you can switch it to manual control.

Render Layers

The Render Layer feature helps you group objects to the render layers you want them to belong to. Camera Objects let you set the render layer the camera can see. You can set Leyers to default. You don’t have to change it unless you’re working with multiple cameras.

More Inspector Panel Component

You can control other parts of the Inspector Panel, including these:

Enable and disable components: Click any component’s checkbox to enable it or uncheck it to disable it.

Collapse components: You can collapse components to unclutter your editor. Click a component’s name to collapse it.

Copy, Remove or Reset components: Click the cog icon on any component to reset, disable or delete it.

Add components: You can add components to your desired objects by clicking the Add Component button.

Resources Panel

The Resource Panel shows you all the resources you’re using in a project, including these:

  • Textures
  • Meshes
  • Sounds
  • Materials
  • Scripts

And others. Drag and drop resources to the Resource Panel to add new resources to projects. Learn more about managing resources on Snap AR’s website.

Add New Resources

Click the add button to add new resources to your project on Lens Studio. You can import custom files from your device and add them to the project.

Filter Resources

Filter the Resource Panel by resource type with this feature. When you select a resource, you filter out other resources.

Resource Search

You can find resources by entering keywords into the Resource Panel’s search box.

Logger Panel

This Panel helps you know your Lens status as well as the state of the Lens Studio. See the Debugging Guide here for help.

Previewer Panel

You can see what your Lens would look like on Snapchat through the Preview Panel. This panel makes real-time updates as you alter your scene. Learn more about the Preview Panel from Snap AR’s website.

Scene Config Panel

You can readjust the camera render order using the Scene Config panel and also set the Capture Target and Live Target with this panel. See the Camera and Layout guide for more information.

Lens Studio Templates

Lens Studio templates help you jump-start your Lens development journey. Templates can help you understand new features better and learn how to use them.

Lens Studio Template Examples and Categories

You can find templates to use by common attributes, categories, and skill levels.

Template common attribute grouping includes:

  • Published dates
  • A to Z
  • Z to A
  • Complex to simple
  • Simple to complex

Feature-based categories:

  • 2D
  • 3D
  • Audio
  • Face
  • Interactive
  • Landmarker
  • Machine Learning
  • Marker
  • Object
  • Revised
  • Spectacles
  • VFX
  • World

Templates based on Skill levels:

  • Beginner
  • Medium
  • Advanced

So how do you add these templates and use them?

Let’s find out.

How to Add a Template

Go to your app dashboard and click the Templates tab.

Browse the templates and choose one of them. You can use the filters to choose the specific templates that match your needs.

You can find recent projects or templates using the app’s search box.

The search box lets you see some basic information on the recently used items:

  • Date you created the template
  • Complexity of an Object
  • Object dimension, whether it’s 2D or 3D
  • Object category, whether it’s Face or others
  • Divides by recent templates and recent projects

Click on your desired template, and it’ll instantly load on your Lens Studio editor.

Lens Studio Asset Library

Like templates, the Lens Studio asset library lowers development complexity, time, and cost for the platform’s AR developers.

So they can access features and add effects to their creations without creating those features from scratch.

However, unlike the online-based Unity Hub’s asset library, the Lense Studio asset library is hosted right on the app.

You’ll find the asset library right inside the Lens Studio editor.

Click the Asset Library button.

You’ll get a popup filled with different asset types you can use to enhance your Objects and project.

You can select from 14 asset groups, including:

  • Essentials
  • 3D
  • 2D
  • Materials
  • Tools
  • VFX
  • SnapML
  • Sounds
  • Audios
  • References
  • Spectacles
  • APIs
  • Custom Components
  • Script Modules

Featured assets include assets from all categories.

When you hover over an asset, you’ll get some information about its best use cases and what it will add to your project, and it might even contain tutorial links.

For example, the Bunny Pack provides information about the asset and links to tutorials.

Click the Import button to bring the asset into your project.

Getting Started with Lens Studio

Go to the Snap Lens Studio web page and click the download button.

Ensure your computer meets the system requirement for Lens Studio and you’ve installed your device's newest graphics card driver. You can access older Lens Studio versions if you ever need them.

Choose your operating system—macOS or Windows. And continue with the download.

Launch your app once you’ve downloaded it.

If it’s your first time, click the Create Now button you’ll see on an Interactive tour prompt. This action would give you a quick platform overview and lead you to create your first Lens.

Typically, you’ll follow these steps:

  • Customizing settings of a Countdown Controller
  • Adding new objects (Face Stretch effect)
  • Previewing your lens using a webcam
  • Publishing your lens

Here’s how it works:

When you launch the Lens Studio on your computer, you’ll find a welcome page like the one below. You’ll need a Snapchat account to log in and create Lenses.

When you click the Snapchat login button, it’ll take you to a browser where you’ll enter your login details.

Next, you’ll see a page to connect your Snapchat account to Lens Studio.

Review the request and click Continue. The page should now display Authentication successful.

You’ll now see a prompt to create your first Snap Lens. For this example, we’ll create a Birthday Lens.

Click the Create Now button. You may skip this activity, but you’ll find it useful if this is your first attempt at creating in Lens Studio.

You should complete the steps in under three minutes.

Once the page loads, the tour starts. You can exit the tour anytime by pressing CTRL + W on Windows or using CMD + W on Mac.

First, you’ll select an Object from the Objects Panel. For this demonstration, we’ll select My Birthday Controller Object.

Customize the Object in the Inspector Panel. In our example, we’d customize the Countdown settings, including birth date, message, color, and Lens image.

Return to the Objects Panel to add Face Stretch to your Lens.

Click the plus sign to access the Face Stretch Object.

Click the Face Stretch Object to access a 3D Scene where you’d drag points on the face to start creating your Lens experience.

Drag points on the face to create your face effect. And then turn on the Camera; choose your preferred camera app if you have more than one running on your computer.

You should now see your Lens experience on the Preview Panel.

Preview your Lens.

And publish it.

Your Lens will open automatically in your browser after you publish it for you to upload it to My Lenses.

Time to make your Lenses findable on Snapchat. Click Go to My Lenses on the dialog box that follows after you’ve published your Lens.

Here’s a gif to summarize these steps.

You can also access your Lenses, New Projects, and Existing Projects from your menu bar.

Fill out the Lens Details form to help Snapchat users find your Lens.

You can create and add a Lens Preview image or video. Keep an aspect ratio of 9:16, a maximum 10MB image, and a 32MB ten-seconds video.

Make your Lens Preview attractive. Keep the preview short and to the point. Ensure the scene is nicely lit and avoid busy backgrounds.

Click the Submit Lens button and wait for the approval.

Snapchat mods will review your Lens and notify you when it’s ready.

Want to restart the tutorial? Click Help on the editor, and you can initiate it a gain.

Lens Studio lets you edit or submit a new Lens after you publish your Lens. You can also access these features from the menu bar.

Typically, you’ll get an email notification in only a few minutes. Here’s what the notification looks like:

You can access your Lenses in your online Lens Studio and edit them on the app.

Summary of How to Create and Publish on the Lens Studio

You can go from creating to launching your Lens on Snapchat in three quick steps:

  1. Import your AR creations to the Lens Studio editor
  2. Develop your AR experience in Lens Studio
  3. Publish and promote your AR project on Snapchat and Snap Camera desktop

Snap AR Tools and Platforms

Although the Lens Studio is a key AR experience maker for Snapchat Lenses and the Snap Camera desktop, Snap AR has other tools and platforms.

These other tools and platforms enable developers to improve their work, target consumers with their Lenses, build other AR experiences, or provide AR solutions to businesses.

Lens Web Builder

The Lens Web Builder enables users to build AR Lens campaigns in the Snapchat Ads Manager. In addition, you can access shopping templates, assets, and paid or organic Lens distribution.

Camera Kit

Camera Kit is Snap AR’s software developer (SDK) that empowers developers to build AR experiences into their mobile applications. Developers can distribute their creations through Snapchat.

This feature is in beta at the time of this writing, and interested persons will need to request access to Snap AR’s closed better program.

AR Shopping

AR Shopping lets shoppers visualize, test drive, and experience products or services before buying them. It works on Snapchat and in third-party applications. As a result, retailers can improve their conversions and lower product returns.

Target users can be small businesses or enterprises selling simple products to complex solutions—fashion to auto manufacturing. Brands like Goodr, Puma, and American Eagle already use this tool to drive sales.

Creator Marketplace

Creator Marketplace is home to Snap AR developers who can work on AR experience projects for businesses. The platform features talented, skilled, and ready-for-hire developers, creators, agencies, and teams from across the globe.

Scan

Scan intuitively provides contextually relevant information from interacting with the physical world, objects, or situations. This AR experience senses, improves, and alters our perception of the physical world.

This technology blends entertainment, utility, and information. Scan has commercial applications in allowing users to find products and buy them, learn about physical objects, play, and more.

Spectacles

Spectacles aim to provide AR immersive that fuses fun and utility into the physical world. This device is not for sale. Instead, Snap intends to avail it to developers with innovative ideas for AR experiences.

If you’re a creator pushing the AR envelope, Snap Spectacles welcomes you to fill out a form.

Ghost

As Snap’s AR Innovation Lab, Ghost is geared to help birth future augmented reality products that drive commercial value, helping users learn, play, shop, and address daily challenges.

The Snap AR Lens Challenge

Snap runs AR challenges to help beginners learn about AR development on Lens Studio and other Snapchat platforms. Experienced developers can also improve their skills during these events.

Lenses from creators who join the challenge will be judged based on originality, quality, and creativity. Top creators win:

  • Cash prizes
  • Professional development opportunities with real clients, and
  • Selection to Snap Lens Academy

Past winners also get a Lens showcase on the challenge website, and some of these Lenses become Lens Studio templates.

Learn How to Create AR Experiences

Whether you plan to win the next Snap AR Lens Challenge or simply grow your AR development career, Circuit Stream can help.

Having trained AR developers from some of the world’s most prestigious companies, you can rest easy knowing you’re in safe hands. Click here to jump-start your AR development career with Circuit Stream.

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Interested in Circuit Stream courses?


WRITTEN BY

Dejan Gajsek

Content Marketing

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