The Future Is Now: “Oil painted portraits that come to life with AR” With Sara Riding of Studio Moshon
Our latest product is AR portraiture, bringing oil painted portraits to life. We’re used deep learning AI on an oil painted first frame of a video of the subject and letting the AI manipulate the painting to animate the subject following their video. People viewing the portrait in a gallery space can use the camera in the web browser to see the portrait come alive and speak their message. The combination of a medium with so much history, with technology which is bleeding edge helps add a new dimension to the established medium. The result can help communicate stories in an extremely memorable and clear way and help people get their message out there.
Sara Riding is the founder and CEO of Studio Moshon, a creative studio devoted to unique and innovative storytelling. Studio Moshon leverages what they have learned working in the Animation industry to create compelling animations and campaigns that truly engage audiences. Beginning her career in traditional animation, Sara soon found a love of digital innovation through her early work where she was able to combine those two worlds to create compelling animations and campaigns that truly engage the audience. Finding that most studios focus on either pure animation or digital creativity, Studio Moshon delves into the intersection of digital and animation to bring art to life and tell a unique, interesting narrative. Working with well-known studios and creators including Disney, Netsky and Facebook, Sara’s true passion lays in leveraging her work to draw attention to social causes. Most recently, Sara created ‘Women in Motion,’ an exhibit that showcases women in entertainment. Through the use of web-based augmented reality, participants are able to physically hear from industry veterans like Ava Duvernay, Dee Rees, Meredith Walker and Geena Davis about the entertainment industry and how women are essential components of its future.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I was always passionate about drawing and art growing up as a way to create fun universes, characters and stories. I originally leaned towards fine art until I discovered animation and realised it was a viable path which has a perfect mix of narrative and draftsmanship. From there I studied animation production at the Arts University Bournemouth and have worked with the medium ever since.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
You can learn unexpected lessons at random when starting out. You tend to take any project which comes your way and I had a brief come to me to illustrate maps, I passed the art test and headed to their studio to start the work
When arriving at the studio it turned out the brief had changed, they wanted flying credits in space using After Effects, which I didn’t know how to use at that time. Rather than reject the curve ball I dove in head first, they needed the motion graphics pieces and I wanted to help out.
I picked up the animation software and started figuring out how to apply my traditional hand drawn animation techniques to the software. It turned out great, and not only did I help deliver on the project but ended up with a whole new skillset.
The major lesson I learnt here is that software can be learnt, the principles of animation were the tricky bit. Software is just a tool and you can pick it up super fast. I also gained an outlook of rising to new challenges and accepting projects outside my comfort zone.
Can you tell us about the “Bleeding edge” technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?
Our latest product is AR portraiture, bringing oil painted portraits to life. We’re used deep learning AI on an oil painted first frame of a video of the subject and letting the AI manipulate the painting to animate the subject following their video. People viewing the portrait in a gallery space can use thecamera in the web browser to see the portrait come alive and speak their message.
The combination of a medium with so much history, with technology which is bleeding edge helps add a new dimension to the established medium. The result can help communicate stories in an extremely memorable and clear way and help people get their message out there.
How do you think this might change the world?
We exhibited the AR portraits at the Women In Entertainment summit last October displaying a number of portraits of the key speakers over the years and then at Infinity Festival in November. I hope that by using the technology breakthrough it will bring attention to their messages and communicate them in a clear and engaging manner.
The speakers have such amazing messages and if the project can shine a light on their ideas and get them further exposure I believe it can have a positive impact on the entertainment industry. Giving a louder voice to any positive subject has the opportunity to change the world for the better.
Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?
We’ll probably see more episodes soon about AI generated communication. AI is a powerful tool for creating what would take humans hundreds of hours to put together which creates a believability which is hard to falter. Deepfakes are already real but we are yet to see them put into practice at scale. Information can be communicated which alters your view of the past, makes you question the present and can shape the future by swaying peoples opinions.
I’m excited to use the technology for positive change and disseminating truth, but the technology is out there and public and eventually someone else will definitely use it for negativity spreading false information for their agenda.
My work focuses on adding the power of portraiture and communicating through art with the powerful voices of positive people, if anything in the future perhaps it will be balanced in how the technology grows and inspires more people to use it for good.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?
After studying fine art and portraiture I would create oil portraits in my spare time, I’ve even created an oil painting of my persian cat called Nolly. In fact, it’s the cat portrait which inspired the combination of these technologies. It hangs on our wall in Silverlake, Los Angeles and it paints the picture of Nolly’s personality quite well. What was missing though, was motion, and seeing the oil painting on the wall each day with Nolly moving around below it made me realise that bringing it to life could add further depth to what’s communicated. It sounds so silly talking about helping a cat communicate, but if I can bring Nolly to life and help convey what she’s all about, then just imagine the technology being employed to help convey an important message from someone who wants more than a tin of tuna.
What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?
The Women In Entertainment Summit is a great starting point, if we can revitalise the interest in portraiture as a medium then it can be adopted in the industry. Imagine movie posters which come to life with messages from the actors, or if any painting or piece of art could have another layer of interactivity and meaning.
The platforms which host the AR interactivity on your phone currently control distribution of effects, and there’s a step the user has to make to load the effect on their phone. If the native phone camera could detect images natively then it saves the user the step of accessing the effect.
The companies controlling the time of people on their phones currently have the power to decide which technology and media is effective. They decide if video performs better than images, and they decide if AR is something easily accessible or something you have to pay to distribute and get reach.
What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?
We’re currently a finalist at this year’s SXSW Innovation awards in the Visual Experience category. It’s going to be an amazing opportunity to show the exhibit again, sharing the messages and experience with people in the industry. I’m looking forward to taking some of the most inspiring women in the entertainment industry and touring their message to festivals, conferences and events. It’s like taking the speakers on tour the conferences and getting the attendees to not only care, but have the opportunity to share the message on social.
If they like the technology, the application of it, the oil portraits, the message of the speaker then they’re likely to share it to show their friends. I’m hoping that by doing this project enough people will see the concept to want their own portrait, or want to do similar exhibits for positive causes. I could imagine an AR gallery to help with the changes in the environment where the paintings show a sped up version of landscapes being destroyed and changing forever.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Studio Moshon has collaborated closely with Powster over the years, doing animations on music videos and helping with AR projects. Our latest collaboration was for Facebook themselves where we made the official #FacebookBeach Cannes Lions filter. Pointing your Facebook camera at the Cannes Lions logo showed 3 different AR messages; Creativity is Diverse, Creativity is Female, Creativity is Proud. Working on innovative projects with Powster has helped Studio Moshon use the most cutting edge technology.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Many of the successful projects of Studio Moshon have helped good causes. From positioning the AR community to look at helping the three key messages mentioned previously, to a penguin animation encouraging the elderly to adjust their thermostats keeping them safe. We’re a studio which cares about what we’re putting out there and wanting to push good causes.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- It can be done
- Go outside your comfort zone
- Don’t let your assumptions decide your path
- Visas can take a very long time
- Knock backs are inevitable and are part of the journey
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
The projects I’ve worked on over the last year have had the message of inclusion, representation and equality. I would encourage everyone to create art for the communities they care about and share it with the world.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
‘To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.’ Oscar Wilde. It’s not about what you ‘have’, it’s having an awareness of your surroundings and putting things into perspective.
Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them
At Studio Moshon we create innovative ways to convey narratives, engaging audiences in new ways and spreading positive messages of change. We aren’t currently looking for funding but investing in Studio Moshon by having us involved with your ventures could lead to positive impact, draw awareness to your core values and demonstrate innovative thinking.
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The Future Is Now: “Oil painted portraits that come to life with AR” With Sara Riding of Studio… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.