Creators on the Rise: Eddy Adams is the man beehind one of TikTok’s most viral effects

By 05/31/2023
Creators on the Rise: Eddy Adams is the man beehind one of TikTok’s most viral effects

Welcome to Creators on the Rise, where we find and profile breakout creators who are in the midst of extraordinary growth.

One very small bee changed things for Eddy Adams.

Adams is, in his own words, “a little bit older than the demographic of the new social media in general.” But not being Gen Z doesn’t mean he’s not computer savvy. He was “barely just out of diapers when I was starting to play around in 3D,” he says. His dad was the one who introduced him to three-dimensional design, and by the time Adams was ready for a career, he’d become an expert at 3D modeling and motion graphics. He did a decade of design work at an ad agency in Seattle, and when that shut down, he went freelance. One of his first solo clients was the Seattle Seahawks.


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Then he found TikTok.

At the time, TikTok had just launched Effect House, its augmented reality development studio, and was looking for designers who’d be part of the first wave of AR effect creators. Adams joined in, and while looking for inspiration for effects to make, he stumbled across an original painting of an extremely rotund bumblebee with tiny wings, tiny feet, and a perpetually unimpressed expression. He decided to try turning the bee in the painting (which the original artist, Murvyn, later sent to Adams, and which now hangs in Adams’ office) into an effect TikTok’s users could put in their videos.

And a lot of people used it. Like, more than 3 million people.

Adams has since made around 30 more effects, some for himself and some for freelance clients. He’s also building up his own TikTok account, where he shows people behind-the-scenes glimpses of a day in the life as an AR creator.

Check out our chat with him below.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

@eddyin3d Learn how Tiny Bee was designed. Thanks @murvynlowe for the inspiration! #tinybee #noonecanstopme #effecthouse #tutorial #tiktokeffect #bumblebee ♬ Sunny Day – Ted Fresco

Tubefilter: It’s great to meet you, Eddy. For this series, so far we’ve mostly done creators who’ve built their entire platforms on video, people who are center stage. But I’ve been really interested lately in getting to know people who are behind the scenes, building tools for creators to use to make those videos. You may not have typical platform that people would assume when I say “creator,” but the fact that you’re making these things that so many people on TikTok are using is fascinating to me.

Eddy Adams: I’m happy to talk about it. It’s a very fun field to be in right now.

Tubefilter: I’d love to hear some background about you, like where you’re from and your career path that took you here.

Eddy Adams: Sure. Totally. Well, I was born and raised in Wenatchee, which is a tiny little town in eastern Washington. I think there’s about 30,000 people that live there. Even though it was a small town, my dad introduced me into 3D design at a really young age. I was maybe barely just out of diapers when I was starting to play around in 3D.

Back then the 3D programs were a little bit rudimentary, but it at least got me using 3D and understanding just that paradigm in general. Then after that, I moved over to Seattle, went to college there for a few years, and continued studying 3D. That’s when I really started coming into my own, really learning different 3D programs and packages. Then started freelancing at this place called Luster Communications. That was an ad agency where we worked on TV commercials for a lot of Seattle-based tech companies or other companies like Amazon and Microsoft, and I ended up doing that for a decade in Seattle.

That company eventually shut down, which pushed me into the world of freelance, which I am still freelance and I’m loving it. I was still doing 3D motion design at the time, though, so hadn’t yet dipped into augmented reality as the technology didn’t even exist yet. Eventually, I was working with this one agency called We Are Royal. They’re an ad agency as well. They had a few different jobs they were working on, one of which was for some AR effects for a big client. They asked me if I wanted to build some 3D assets for it. I’d never worked in AR before, I’d only done 3D before that but by the end of this job, I’d learned enough augmented reality skills that I instantly, after that job, started doing direct-to-client work in Seattle, working with a few different brands.

My very first client was Nuun, which makes a little hydration tablet, and my second client was the Seattle Seahawks, the football team.

Tubefilter: Oh, wow.

Eddy Adams: Very quickly I went from just a lowly 3D motion designer at an agency, basically, to working with really big clients, and because I had this decade of experience in the agency world, I knew how to write client emails, I knew how to structure everything and make a deck and do all the agency work on top of knowing how to build in 3D, and then now in AR. That went really well. I quickly made a name for myself in the AR community and eventually moved down to Los Angeles where I’m at now. I’m in Santa Monica, and that was about a year and a half ago, and so I left my entire world behind.

I was born and raised in Washington and so this was the first time I’ve lived outside of Washington State. It’s been lovely being in such a sunny environment. Obviously, Los Angeles is the worldwide hub for entertainment. Record labels are here, movie studios are here, and plenty of brands and other types of clients. I’ve been really flourishing down here and I’m excited to keep growing here. That’s been my journey up until this point.

Tubefilter: It really was a quick ascent to go straight to working with the Seahawks.

Eddy Adams: Yes, that was a very exciting jump. While their concept wasn’t one that was especially fun, I made the most of it and then it was only up from there.

Tubefilter: How did you end up on TikTok? How did you come to this side of things?

Eddy Adams: I’m a little bit older than the demographic of just, I don’t know, the new social media in general. I was a little bit late getting into TikTok in general, but I was invited to be on the beta program for Effect House, which is their augmented reality platform. That’s where all the effects are made. Creators from anywhere in the world can create on it for free. I was invited to the beta and I started building in it right away, and because it was still in beta, the creator pool was really small. It was I’m guessing a few hundred people maybe in this beta, and so I made a couple of effects that went properly viral on TikTok. My first two effects both hit a billion views.

My most famous or most well-known effect was called Tiny Bee and it’s this spherical bee. I actually have a painting, you can see it there. [points beside him]

Tubefilter: Yes!

Eddy Adams: This effect went viral on TikTok and I think it’s been used by or posted videos by 3 million users across TikTok, which got up to a billion views across those millions of videos. Right away, I saw the potential for building on TikTok, building these AR effects because TikTok’s algorithm, I don’t know how they did it but they just built it in a way where it pushes content out, and if the content is good and resonates, it can rise to the top. You don’t necessarily need a big follower base or you don’t need to be an influencer or have a celebrity endorsement. You can just make content and really just blast off.

With the thrill of having a couple of things go viral, I committed myself to the platform and kept building and I was doing a lot of fun community effects for myself at first. Community effects being free effects that I make for fun and anyone in the world can use, which is a little bit different than branded effects, which are more like for clients. There’s branding and logos involved in those. I was building a lot of community effects and seeing a lot of positive reinforcement and engagement from the TikTok community. Some of those people have since followed me and have been following my journey and have been using my effects.

Tubefilter: How have things changed for you? How have you evolved on TikTok since joining the Effect House beta? Where are you between then and now?

Eddy Adams: Earlier, when I was making effects, I would make the effect, post a video of myself using it, and call it a day. My content was really just using these effects. I’m not necessarily the greatest improv artist or I’m not on camera that much, so I didn’t really shine through with my own personal content, but then I discovered that making of videos on TikTok was more what people were resonating with. I would build something like that Tiny Bee effect and then I would make maybe a 15-second or a minute-long tutorial video, but it’s more just the highlights of my creation process.

Maybe I would show how to build the model in Blender, how to texture it in a program called Substance Painter, and how to build and assemble all of that in TikTok Effect House. Showing this whole making-of process really resonated with people and they were excited to see how these things were made when you open up TikTok, you play around with these effects but you might not really understand the work and craft that goes into them.

Over time, I’ve evolved my content to better fit with what people want to see based on my skillset. I hope to carry on doing this and making more in-depth tutorials. I’ve also made a handful of long-form tutorials as well which I’ve sold in a course in the past and have had some success with that. I’m both giving to the community as an AR creator but also as an educator, which is a really satisfying place to be in because I get paid but I also get to help other people out.

Tubefilter: I’d like to understand a little bit more of the process behind AR. For example, take Tiny Bee. How did your design process work, from conception to getting it done?

Eddy Adams: Certainly. For Tiny Bee, I had been browsing the internet, I think maybe I was on Reddit for a little bit, and I saw a painting, which I showed you, of this perfectly spherical bumblebee with the tiniest of little wings, tiny little feet, and two dots and a straight line for its eyes and mouth. I just thought it was the cutest thing and because it was such a simple shape, it would be really easy to make in a 3D program because it’s basically just a sphere, a couple of stretched-out spheres, and then the dots in line for the face.

I had saved that file as reference, the image, and then I opened up Blender, which is a 3D modeling program, and I built the Tiny Bee pretty quickly in there. It didn’t take much time because it was a simple shape. Once I finished building that model, the model is just like a grey, there’s no texture or color on it. I export that from Blender into Substance Painter, which is a 3D texturing program, and in Substance Painter, I was able to paint the stripes on it, paint the wings, and just give the whole thing texture so that it had color. From there, I exported those textures and now I have the model and the textures.

I brought both of those assets into TikTok Effect House, and that’s where everything gets assembled. You don’t do the modeling in Effect House, but you bring in the assets, you import everything, and then you can assemble it and create the interaction in the Effect House. For Tiny Bee, the bee follows the movement of your head, so I use the head tracker in order to get the position of the head. The bee is basically locked to your head in the frame, so if you rotate your head, the whole bee rotates with you.

I also designed it where there’s another sphere that’s much, much larger, and that’s the environment, and on the sphere, I just made a landscape. There’s a ground on the bottom and then sky on the top, and it’s just an image texture. That was also locked to the bee, so as you rotate your head, the bee moves and the environment moves. You can essentially pretend like you’re flying around like a bumblebee, and your eyes and mouth were also placed where the eyes and mouth of the bee would be so that if you opened your mouth, you would actually see your real teeth and your real mouth on that bee.

Just with those few levels of interaction and having enough of your own personality to be able to shine through, people really responded to that and enjoyed making their own memes using it. After it blew up, people like Ed Sheeran used it. Ninja, the famous gamer streamer. Creed from The Office used it. It’s always so fun when you make something, it does well, and then you see people that you really look up to and respect using that out in the wild. They might not know that I created it, but the fact that they’re using it is still really rewarding.

Tubefilter: Have you been in contact with the person whose original art you saw on Reddit?

Eddy Adams: Yes. After it started blowing up, he reached out, and I didn’t really think anything of it initially because ideally, you always give credit to the original artist, but I had just saved this little image. I didn’t necessarily save the attribution or anything of it, but he was able to find me and him and I connected and we ended up actually partnering on a few partnership deals that ended up not going anywhere, but we were working together and helping each other promote Tiny Bee and his paintings. The original author, the painter, I did buy an original painting from him as a thanks for the inspiration. It ended up working out where both me and him got something out of this viral moment in TikTok’s history.

Tubefilter: How many effects have you made so far for TikTok specifically, do you know?

Eddy Adams: Yes, I think it’s probably in the range of 30 or so. Maybe 15 or 20 for myself. I guess I’ve maybe made another 15 or 20 for clients, so not a massive amount, but enough to position myself in the community. A lot of my effects are a little bit more complex. Having a background in 3D motion design, most of my effects are very 3D-heavy, so I’m building a lot of assets from scratch and all these textures. The timeline for me to create an effect is a little bit slower than some of the other effects that might just be a silly little thing like making your nose long or the makeup effects you can make a little bit more quickly. I have a little bit of a slower cadence but the level of quality of my work is pretty high.

@eddyin3d Let’s build a rose effect! #flowers #valentinesday #rose #love #ar #effect #filter #effecthouse #mileycyrus #tutorial ♬ Flowers

Tubefilter: When did you start getting client work for TikTok? Was that during the Effect House era? Did Effect House help you?

Eddy Adams: Yes. Effect House was in beta at first and so there wasn’t really an understanding that clients could make TikTok effects with creators because, before that, clients would go directly to TikTok and TikTok would work with them to make the effect. They might outsource it to a couple of agencies that they had that whitelisted but for the most part, client work was reserved for either those couple agencies or TikTok themselves.

After it was released from beta and more and more people understood that TikTok effect creation was a more easily accessible thing to incorporate into an ad campaign, that’s when things started to pick up a little bit more, and thankfully, because I was one of the top creators pretty early on for Effect House, TikTok has partnered with me a few times and brings me some work.

They, being TikTok, act as an agency, and they’re usually pretty hands-off, but they’ll connect me with the client and they’ll be able to pop in for an email or two, but for the most part, I’m working one on one with these clients with TikTok just being in the shadows, making sure things go smoothly enough. I’m very lucky that TikTok thinks I’m quality enough to be representing them and working with clients that reach out.

Tubefilter: What is your balance of your career right now? Are you working on stuff outside of TikTok? Is TikTok your main focus? What are you up to these days?

Eddy Adams: For sure. Well, as you know, there’s three giants of social media, and I work on all three platforms, so I’m somewhat platform agnostic. More recently, though, I have been really focusing on TikTok, especially with my successes early on and being able to grow a following on this platform much faster than the others, but for the most part, building augmented reality effects and filters and lenses or whatever you want to call it has been most of my income source right now. I’ve had some income coming in from building tutorials and courses and some asset packs, but for the most part, just doing client work in AR is my main bread and butter.

That’s what I want to continue focusing on and building a bigger network of clients that want to come back for repeating work. The movie and TV industry is where I want to put a lot of my effort because I love working on those projects, helping promote films and they often have a little bit better of a budget than other types of industries. It’s a win-win to position yourself in that industry, and of course, being in Los Angeles doesn’t hurt.

Tubefilter: That certainly helps, yes. TikTok is the one where you’ve really grown, because you have over 30,000 followers right now on your account, right?

Eddy Adams: Yes, not huge, but it’s getting there.

Tubefilter: You said that you posted videos showing off your effects on your account, so I’m just curious when it went from, “Oh, I’m posting this as an example” to “People are really following me.” When did your account become a thing that you were putting your time into?

Eddy Adams: Well, thankfully on TikTok, when an effect of yours goes viral, the way effects are laid out is that when you go to the effect page, the first video that you post using the effect is in the top left corner, and it’s the official video for that effect. Let’s say your effect goes viral, it gets used by millions of people. The chances that they see your video in the top left, there’s even a little official tag on it showing that this is the video by the creator. Just because of that little detail in the user experience, a lot of those people using the effect might watch that video and then might end up following me.

Really, when an effect goes viral, there’s a good chance that you’ll get a good bump of followers from that, especially if you also post quality content and it’s not just the effects that you’re making, but you’re also building a presence around that, whether it’s posting funny videos with your effects or doing the behind-the-scenes tutorial stuff, which I’m focusing on but yes, it really makes a difference. If I didn’t have these effects to push my presence out there, I don’t think I’d have nearly as many followers.

Tubefilter: Do other platforms have that robust attribution system for effects, or is TikTok the best one about it?

Eddy Adams: It’s hit or miss. On the other platforms, there’s usually attribution of your name. If you tap through, you can usually find the creator of any effects on any of the AR platforms. I just found that TikTok, I don’t know if it’s because the things go more viral or there is a little bit more visibility on the creator, but I’ve had the most success on TikTok because of that. I think it really comes down to their algorithm and how they’re able to push content out. They have such an avid user base that when things go viral, people really respond and they might create their own trends based off of it, which is a unique thing for TikTok that the other platforms have tried to mimic but TikTok is still the reigning champ in that way.

@eddyin3d Wherever I go, he goes. #grogu #babyyoda #mandalorian #ar #effect #filter #effecthouse #tutorial ♬ The Mandalorian

Tubefilter: I know you addressed this a little bit in terms of wanting to get into the film industry and TV industry, but do you have any other specific plans or goals for growing your AR presence and your presence on TikTok?

Eddy Adams: Yes, well, I’m working on a little personal project that I just dreamed up a week or so ago that I want to create into a series. It’s called Adoraballs. It’s like Pokemon, but not a direct copy, but loosely inspired by where each effect would be a different creature or animal. Similar to how I have Tiny Bee and I have a few other character-driven effects, like you can turn yourself into a rose or a Pomeranian dog or Baby Yoda.

In this series, I want to make a handful of effects that have a similar aesthetic and style, but you can be any of these creatures and they’re randomized, so you might get a golden one or a fiery one so every time you use it, you’ll get a slightly modified version of that critter or that creature. I want to make just a bunch of cute little things for people to play around with because that has been a lot of where my successes come on TikTok, is making character-based effects where you no longer really see yourself at all, but your eyes and your face and your mouth control these characters. You can jump into a different world and be a Pomeranian for a minute, or a Tiny Bee, or whatever.

I’m hoping that this series, the dream would be, it would go viral, there would be a lot of excitement around it, and then eventually, there could be potential for brand partnerships where maybe one of the critters is wearing Crocs or a hat from Adidas or whatever it may be. We’ll see. It’s very hard to predict the success of these AR effects because you’re at the whim and the will of the internet, essentially, so. The most surprising things will go viral and you can’t ever recapture that lightning in a bottle more than once, so you just have to keep innovating and trying new things.

Tubefilter: Gotcha.

Eddy Adams: That’s an up upcoming project I’m excited about. Otherwise, just generally, I’m really trying to position myself as not just a creator, but a social cog in the AR industry. I recently hosted an industry mixer in Los Angeles for the AR community. I think about 100 people showed up and I hosted it at a creative studio called Buck. They’re a pretty huge creative studio. They do a lot of commercial work, video work, a lot of animation, some of the best in the world.

They were so kind to let me host this event at their office in L.A., and we brought a bunch of people together, people networked, there’s food and drink and trivia and prizes, and just a lot of time to connect with the community here. I’m trying to position myself as a connector of people, an educator, and a creator, and it’s going pretty well so far. There’s a lot of interest in having more mixers in L.A. like this, so it’s only going to grow from here.

This is the first one I’ve hosted in L.A. since moving from Seattle. I hosted a few mixers up in Seattle, more in the 3D design world, but now that I’m focusing on AR, the mixers have shifted into the industry that I’m in now. That’s been a really fun thing. It’s so rewarding to meet people face to face because, in the AR industry, you quickly get to know a lot of the top creators because they’re very active on social media. They’re often quite kind and generous with their time if you’re having issues on building something or you need some inspiration. The community itself online is quite beautiful, so having these mixers in person, you bring all these internet friends together essentially, and then you get to become face-to-face friends, and that’s always so satisfying. It brings me a lot of joy.

Tubefilter: Is there anything else you feel like readers should know about you?

Eddy Adams: Yes, let me take a look. I took a few notes based on the agenda that was shared out. Another fun thing I got to do recently is TikTok invited me to South by Southwest, which is a big film and music conference/festival in Austin, Texas. TikTok had me down and I was on a panel with two other AR creators, and we got to talk about how brands can use AR in their ad campaigns essentially. It was full of brand marketing people and we just talked about AR and the current state of how TikTok is really working with brands and giving them new and unique opportunities.

There’s a new thing where they’re essentially partnering creators with the brands, but then also boosting the content that the users are creating. It’s a new program that just basically amplifies crowdsourced marketing, but on a much more massive scale because it’s TikTok, is the platform, so you already have a lot of inertia there. That was really fun. Public speaking is always a little nerve-wracking, but once you get on stage and sit at the chair and start talking, it always lets the nerves settle down and then you just get to talk about what you’re passionate about, which in this case is our love for augmented reality and sharing these little tiny micro-moments with the world.

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