Posted 16 September 2019
Interview by Ayla Angelos

Ines Alpha on becoming a 3D make-up artist and creating bewitching face filters

We’re all familiar with Snapchat and Instagram’s AR filters – from zombies, animal ears and ones that swap your face with your friend’s. But now, there’s a new kind of filter: a make-up filter from the future that lets you apply cyborg-inspired 3D effects in an instant. At the helm of this new revelation is Ines Marzat (AKA Ines Alpha), a former art director turned 3D digital artist. By completely thrashing all preconceptions of what make-up is and how it’s used, Ines collaborates with various artists, musicians and models to produce her own fantastical versions of reality. Here, she tells us how she transitioned into the industry and developed new, self-taught skills, before walking us through her recent filter project, Future Gloss.

Ines in her studio

Getting into AR

Finding the gateway into 3D
I am originally an art director with a background in advertising, specialising in luxury, fashion and beauty. I actually started my 3D art career years after school, while I was working at an advertising company in Paris.

Now, I also like to call myself a 3D make-up artist – which means working with digital 3D tools. I’m freelance and work from home a lot, except at times when I’m working on bigger projects with post-production companies – I like to go and work hand-in-hand with the team. My usual types of clients are fashion or beauty brands, plus music groups or singers. I work mostly on videos and increasingly more so on filters.

Learning the software
I first started experimenting with 3D while working on still lives for HD cosmetics [see gallery below]. I watched a million video tutorials on how to make organic iridescent blobs and weird creatures. I realised I could create anything with my imagination, patience and 3D software. I learnt everything by myself; there are so many tutorials and tools on the web – particularly YouTube (big thanks to all of those people that upload tutorials for free there!).

“I realised I could create anything with my imagination, patience and 3D softwares.”

Early experiments with AR
My first notable 3D work was the Baby F-16 videoclip [below] – an AR experiment I directed with Panteros666, an electronic music producer and DJ. In our last video collaboration, Meteocielan experimental travel vlog in a more Youtube-creative-DIY-spirit – we imagined an unexpected encounter with a digital pet.

I’ve always been drawn to making reality more fantastic, and after many years of getting to grips with 3D, I found my own way to do that – adding digital elements onto human faces and uniting two of my favourite things in this world: 3D and make-up.

Baby F-16 videoclip – an AR experiment I directed with [musical artist] Panteros666

Developing a new skill
When I started doing 3D make-up, my main goal was to make the work look real. I wanted to share my vision of the future of make-up and beauty. That’s why I began doing 3D make-up only in post-production, adding 3D to a normal video that was shot separately.

3D software allows me to have total aesthetic freedom and it gives life to things that don’t and cannot exist. Then I wondered how I could technically make other people wear my art. Now that I have developed a new skill using AR software, like Spark AR or Lens Studio, the possibilities have expanded! It plays a big part in democratising my work.

“I want the filters to stay as part of my artistic career and not to be used as a marketing tool.”

Although my AR and filter work has turned into client projects, I’m not sure I want to be a filter developer for brands. I’m looking for more artistic collaborations, meaning that I would still own the designs. Some brands are open and interested in working in this way, including Nike, who I did a recent project for – but others aren’t. I want the filters to stay as part of my artistic career and not to be used as a marketing tool.

Making the ‘Future Gloss’ filter

How the opportunity came about
I ended up creating my first ever lens on Snapchat thanks to Korean actress Asung Ko. We had just finished a video collaboration together, and at the time, I was also discussing socials with Clara Bacou – she’s a lens creator and 3D artist too. She really pushed me to try to make my own filters, she was so sweet and helpful!

The brief I set was to reproduce the 3D make-up that I did for Asung Ko’s video. The process involved a lot of following tutorials that you can find on Snapchat’s lens studio website.

Deciding on software
The 3D make-up was already modelled in my 3D software, I just had to figure out how to export the animation and make the texture look similar in AR. I also had to figure out how to add sound design, because it definitely gives another dimension to it.

I used a basic 3D software like Cinema 4D for modelling, animating and exporting the textures. Then I exported the files and opened them in Lens Studio or Spark AR, which are the software programmes I’m using to make the filters. That’s also where I create the interactivity, sometimes using a little bit of coding (however I’m definitely not a coder, so I often get help from the online community).

“I like it when the sound illustrates the movement of the animation, making it more alive and real.”

Ines in her studio

Overcoming challenges and adding sound
As I was learning a totally new software, I experienced many challenges. I guess the most difficult part was finding the best way to export the animation. Thankfully the community of filter and lens creators are really helpful, and Snapchat’s support team is a lifesaver.

I often work with Panteros666 on the sound design for my projects. We get along perfectly in terms of style; he understands where I want to go and very quickly finds the sounds that I’m looking for, despite my poor skills at mimicking a sound! I like it when the sound illustrates the movement of the animation, making it more alive and real.

How it was received
The filter got a lot of what we call ‘impressions’. I received a ton of videos of people trying it out and tagging me, and that was just amazing.

HD still lives of the filter

Advice for creating face filters

To anyone interested in doing something similar, I would say experiment, keep trying, fail, try again and show your tests to the world or keep it to yourself. You might not get the ‘likes’ but it doesn’t matter, just keep doing what you like doing – block other peoples’ toxic opinions! If you’re inspired by someone’s work, talk to them, ask for a collaboration and credit them.

Head to Ines’ Instagram page or Snapchat to try some of the filters for yourself!

Mention Ines Alpha
Interview by Ayla Angelos