Project Name: Enchant Santa Calls
Solution: real-time character pipeline creation and facial animation combined with in-engine physics lighting and visual effects delivered over a video call
Interviewee Name: Hassaan Rahim – Producer of Enchant Santa Calls and Director at Enchant Labs
What did you want to achieve with Santa Calls?
By using cutting-edge 3D animation technology and advanced facial recognition to turn users into Santa Claus himself, we hope that Santa Calls can provide an easy, safe way to bring people together and help create magical memories, no matter the distance.
In order to achieve this goal, we needed to have a thorough understanding of the technology and the medium to deliver those experiences, which the CounterPunch team brought to the table.
What made you decide to work with CounterPunch and Virtuos by extension? How have we helped you?
Enchant Christmas has been a live event and experience company. Last March, we were in the midst of scaling our team from 40 full-time magic makers to ~140, as we were busy planning 6 events in 2020 and aiming for 10 events in 2021. Then Covid hit and we had to change our business model, quickly.
When we landed on the concept for Santa Calls, we knew it was a stretch in terms of the time and technology available to us. Therefore, we needed a partner that had the skills, experience, and most importantly the aptitude to handle the project with so many technical limitations and uncertainties. CounterPunch was exactly just that!
Can you describe your partnership with CounterPunch Studios?
The partnership with CounterPunch has been amazing; we accomplished so much in such little time that it feels like we have been partners forever. The communication, processes, and collaboration when working together on any problems or features were fantastic.
How helpful was CounterPunch in this regard?
CounterPunch was very helpful in this space, as they had prior experience delivering innovative real-time facial recognition experiences. We wanted to push the envelope a bit further by tackling the accessibility challenge by bringing the experience on mobile, to which Counter Punch was game and excited about. They took ownership of the experience we wanted to deliver, along with the overall success of the project.
Any opinions, predictions or hopes about what technology (engine/facial recognition) can do for live animation apps in the future?
The technology is still in its early stages and is only going to take off from here once the experience becomes available for everyone to use on mobile devices. Accessibility has been one of the biggest hurdles for this technology as it mostly has been available to use on high-end PCs and Desktops.
Once the accessibility is there, the sky would be the limit in terms of what could be done to create unique curated experiences, and what uses people come up with on their own. It could very well become the standard for all video calls and/or online interactions. We have already seen a huge uptake of video calling platforms since COVID.
The technology and experience we’ve developed can also easily be expanded into live animation games with 3D characters for mobile users. Not just that, this tech can also allow us to create interactive games where controls can be based on user expressions rather than touch interactions.
Enchant Santa Calls requires iPhone 10 and above to make video calls as Santa as we require the true depth front facing camera for the facial tracking, but the receivers can accept calls on any iPhone with the app. The same app can be used for making and receiving calls.