Artist uses augmented reality to turn illustrations into charming animations

The old and the new don’t always agree, but sometimes they put aside their differences and create something beautiful.

Marc-O-Matic, aka Marco Ryan, is best described as a multidisciplinary immersive media artist. While his skillset includes everything from animation to interative design, he has a particular talent for combining artistic storytelling and technology – specifically augmented and virtual reality – to create some incredibly captivating and immersive artworks.

Check out an example of his work below:

We had a chat with Marc-O-Matic to find out where he came from, why he adopted mixed reality technology and where you can see his work in the flesh.

Can you give us a bit of background on life before you adopted the Marc-O-Matic moniker?

“I’m originally from a small country town in regional Gippsland, Victoria. Throughout my early life there I was constantly drawing, and I taught myself how to animate in high school – through some early recognition in the community, I started receiving commissions from the age of 13.

“I only got into immersive technologies about two years ago after receiving a scholarship to attend San Francisco’s annual Game Developer’s Conference, which was a pivotal point in my career as it gave me opportunities to network with developers over there and learn more about the processes and projects coming out of VR and AR studios.

“It’s also where I received some support from Oculus to help me take leap into Virtual Reality and from there I independently created my very first VR Animated Narrative ‘Before the Junk Age’.”

“Marc-O-Matic started off as a nickname in reference to those odd ‘O-Matic’ multi-tasking contraptions and machines from the early 20th century like the Wash-O-Matic and the Steam-O-Matic.”

Did you always know you’d pursue a career in the creative space?

“I never really expected to turn my hobbies into a career, especially working with immersive technologies. As much as I loved art, design and video games, there were a lot of family expectations to follow in my father’s footsteps: I’m from a culturally diverse Irish and Filipino family, and there was always that pressure to follow his path of being an engineer.

“To a degree, I’ve adopted his technical outlook on the world into my own creative practices as my creations require a lot of attention to detail as well as an understanding of the technologies used to execute them.”

When you realised you could complement your art and storytelling with technology, why did you choose to adopt AR and VR specifically?

“When you can transport yourself into a virtual world of your own making or bring your art and stories to life into your reality, it’s hard not to be curious about immersive technologies.

“I’ve been storytelling across a number of mediums from traditional picture book illustrations to motion graphics and animation. Through AR and VR that I’ve been able to take my storytelling processes to the next level, to push the boundaries and fuse these areas together to create some really unique and engaging work.

“The way I see it, AR and VR lets you to break through the convential screen, allowing audiences to interact and becoming an acting part in your stories.”

You describe the need to view your work both as an artist and a technologist. What’s the biggest challenge you face when merging these two fields?

“Being able to translate an idea, concept or story and build it onto an augmented or virtual experience requires a degree of planning, creative direction and understanding of certain technical and hardware limitations. Whilst you may be able to create a beautiful 3D virtual environment or a detailed augmented artwork, they’re of no use if they don’t run smoothly for your audience.

“The experiences I create are 3D and play in real-time (not recorded video), so one of the biggest challenges is dealing with scene and asset optimisation to ensure that the work runs smoothly.

“You can be ambitious, though. You can create a detailed augmented artwork with hundreds of things animating at once, but you still need to work within technical boundaries and be aware of how well existing devices can handle it before you start experiencing drops in performance.”

Out of everything you have ever created, what’s the one piece of work you are most proud of?

“I’m probably most proud of my Augmented Reality Art and Storytelling showcase, particularly the 3D works that come out of the canvas. It would have to be either the City of Melbourne piece OR The Melbourne Tram.

“Both of them start off as flat ordinary illustrations before surprising the audience by coming out of the paper and revealing a hidden layer of detail to the works.

“What I love about them is that they’re a unique fusion of a traditional hand-drawn illustrated aesthetic combined with modern 3D animation and they compliment each other very well.

“This visual aesthetic hasn’t been greatly explored with augmented reality technologies so I’ve been trying to push the boundaries in this direction and turn my stories into Interactive Augmented Picture Books.”

Marc-O-Matic is currently featuring an immersive AR exhibition titled ‘Moving Marvels‘ at Midsumma Festival in Melbourne, but you’ll have to be quick: the festival is only running until February 1.

Check out Midsumma’s description of ‘Moving Marvels’ below:

“Presented by Artboy Gallery, Marc-O-Matic’s ‘Moving Marvels’ exhibition aims to blur the boundaries between perception and experience as Marco’s artworks come to life through Augmented Reality technology. By viewing his artworks via phone or tablet, art appreciators can discover hidden animated stories as each piece comes alive right before you! Creatives from all backgrounds are highly encouraged to check out this unique gallery experience.”

If you miss out, don’t fret! He will also be making an appearance at Pause Fest in Melbourne’s Federation Square from February 8.

More examples of Marc-O-Matic’s work are available on his Facebook page.