In this digital age we still love the tactile quality of beautiful print media. Admittedly the only time I buy magazines now is at the airport bookshop just before I get on a long haul flight... but I still love them. Print media has been struggling for some time now and looking for innovative ways to connect in a relevant way to our digital consumption. This goes beyoind magazines though, this is a look at one way you can bring your videos to life on any form of physical 2D surface be it paper, packaging or apparel!
So before we go any further give it a try... download the free Zappar app for iOS or Android and point it's viewer at the image above. Obviously if you're reading this on mobile that's not going to work for this example so load the article on desktop and give it a try.
Coming back to magazines, one of the beautiful things about them is their collectable nature... that good feeling you get placing one on your coffee table occasionally flipping through it, or... perhaps just a statement of style to guests! Arguably the best magazines are not printed weekly or even monthly but perhaps quarterly and less. They are packed with inspiring content and beautiful images. However they're static and the information can become dated quick and you're often left wanting to know more, what happened next? How did they make that? I want to learn more about that guy!
So what if you could point your phone at the article and the still photo came to life as a video starting on that very frame as if you pushed play on the page. Well you can. No I'm not talking nanotechnology and paper screens yet but Augmented Reality and the ability to see that content come to life on your phone. It's not new anymore and many magazines have dabbles with this but the platforms to create and manage this content and workflow have been limited until more recently. Now even the novice content creator can start building this capability for ourselves.
Why would we need to? Well let's start with your business card... on the back place a still frame from your showreel or a featured cinemagraph, include on the bottom right text saying "Download Zappar for iOS & Android, point the viewer at this image to see it come to life". People can right there watch your showreel in the palm of their hands. They're not having to type in an address or follow a QR code to Youtube. Sure they're having to download an app first but once they've done that they're equipped to quickly use it for future content too.
I've experimented a little with other AR platforms in the past such as Aurasma (from HP) and LifePrint. However this week I discovered Zappar and the suite of creation tools available for creating AR content through to the ease of install and use for the end user is impressive. The issue I had with Aurasma is the interface for creating AR content felt clunky and incomplete. LifePrint is too tied in with the small Bluetooth printer they sell as part of their package... although you can create AR content without needing the printer it's too confusing if you were tell people to install their free viewer app and then they're asked to connect to the printer they don't have.
One of the main differences with Zappar is that your print media or target content needs to have a Zappar symbol or as they call it a marker to trigger the viewer app to load the AR content. At first I was disappointed to learn this as the other platforms use only image recognition so your printed content remains free of any badges etc. But after reading their reasoning it actually makes more sense. I won't list all the reasons but for example you might want to use the same image to load different sets of content in different campaigns... if only the image triggers the AR that becomes difficult, so with Zappar you simply add a different marker symbol to load the other content. It also helps to identify that there's something actionable to the still image.
The symbols are not as universally recognised as QR codes but if Zappar can really popularize their 'Zaps' then that would be a welcome move away from QR codes which I've never liked much. They just need to get the reader into other apps so it becomes the 'go to' format. You can choose from different looking zapcodes to suit your content and what's really cool is that they can be as small as 6mm wide on the printed content or positioned to the side of the image and still trigger the media content.
My first 'Zap' is a cinemagraph I'm featuring in an upcoming Live Workshop collaboration between Flixel.com & 500px.com. 500px is fantastic for still photography but I wanted to create a gallery of my cinemagraph work. They don't allow video content so I posted stills from a collection of cinemagraphs and linked them in the description to my Flixel gallery. That's all good but I thought it would also be cool if people viewing my 500px gallery could simply point their phone at the screen and see them come to life right there.
For cinemagraphs it's perfect with the options shown above to 'play on start' and to 'Loop Video'. That's means you only need to upload a short clip making load times quicker and lighter for mobile users.
It works really well... even posted to Facebook the viewer was able to recognise the little marker even when the image was in it's smaller timeline view. If I print it on my home printer and stick it on the wall it look fantastic.
Of course you're not limited to just video, as you can see in the screenshot above you can load images, sounds, calendar events, contact forms, links and buttons. But take it a step further through their dedicated AR Studio and you can fully build 3D models to spring out of images! I've seen examples where people have used this for real estate, pointing the viewer at the flat 2D plans in a brochure brings out a 3D model of the building like a popup book which you can spin around and explore into. Amazing stuff.
OTHER WAYS TO USE THIS
The imagination goes wild! Dare I say it the adult magazine industry could really use this if they're not already... I'll say no more! ;)
Bring your business cards to life, Moo.com do great runs where you can vary the images on your cards so print a series with say 10 different cinemagraph/video stills that you give out to people.
If you always wanted to hold an exhibition of your video work but rigging multiple screens just isn't in the budget or practicle for a certain space... print a beautiful still from them and on a little plaque to the side show the marker symbol with a brief description of how people can see them come alive.
Print your own little coffee table magazine! Making books online nowadays is not too expensive so print a book of your cinemagraph stills intended to be viewed with the app to see pages come to life.
Sell products direct from the AR content, see how easily it was done from this wall poster where you're given video content and a link to buy tickets right there while people are engaged...
Offer the above as a service to create these for clients!
If you've got money to spend and want to have your own branded app that your customers or fans can download then Zappar will license their viewer technology to simply insert into your own app for about $8000 a year! Sounds like a lot but I'm guessing that's not much compared to building and managing ongoing updates and development of your own dedicated AR app. I wish I could! ;)