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December 27th, 2017

The Mill collaborated with Conde Nast’s W Magazine and renowned photographer Steven Klein to create a dynamic augmented reality experience for W’s September 2017 issue.

Featuring Katy Perry in the cover story, the experience demonstrates how the fashion world is embracing augmented reality by launching it in the most important issue of the year, styled by Edward Enninful, now editor-in-chief at British Vogue.

In partnership with Klein, The Mill developed an interactive 3D digital portrait of Katy Perry, a series of short cinematic films and W’s AR app ‘Beyond The Page’.


Katya Pavlova, Mill NY Producer comments, “W Magazine introduced us to Steven Klein, an influential fashion director assigned to shoot the W cover for the September issue. Klein had a long-standing vision to create a 3D digital head, consisting of multiple video screens playing various content simultaneously. Here is where The Mill team came in, to help visualize this project in the augmented reality world. It was exciting for us to brainstorm with W and Klein on how to make this issue innovative with The Mill's VFX expertise.”

W Magazine

Beyond our collaboration with Klein to build an interactive digital head for the cover of the special collector’s Issue, The Mill helped to create futuristic film scenes starring Katy Perry, depicted in a surreal Parisian night cityscape that extends the print page experience of the magazine. Our focus was on designing a seamless experience between the onscreen video and the printed page, matching Klein’s photography aesthetic throughout in all of the AR components.

Sallyann Houghton, Executive Producer for Mill Beauty, adds, “We come from a high-end visual effects world, and this level of aesthetic in AR was the challenge. That's what's been the excitement for us — emulating print in the moving image.”

W Driving

Pierce Gibson, the project’s Creative Director at The Mill NY, led the development of the concepts of the digital head and individual AR cinematic video scenes.

Gibson comments, “Unlike some AR projects we've done in the past, the ask to create a digital component for the September issue of W enabled us to to begin thinking along different lines than generating one piece of content in a vacuum. The idea of generating a creative through-line for the reader throughout the issue, one that would provide a seamless experience between the app and the printed page, was really compelling to us.”

From the early stages of the production leading up to magazine's release, we were engaged in a constant creative dialogue with director Steven Klein and his team.

Digital Head Development

Wmagazine Blog2

Wmagazine Blog2 1

The Mill worked with Klein to captured 3D scans of Perry on-set at the cover shoot, which were used to build Katy Perry’s digital head consisting of bespoke, individually produced videos. Concepting, designing, and executing a unified experience across mediums of screen and printed page was the main goal. Keeping Klein’s aesthetic in mind throughout the CG process, we strove to produce a cohesive narrative across the issue and all its AR components.

W Magazine Progression

Capturing the 3D component of the head was really the first step in the process. Klein’s desire to take full advantage of his own imagery and materials drove the technique of reshaping these moving images into a living, motion sculpture in the likeness of Perry. The foundation of our creative decisions was keeping in mind the notion that this sculpture could exist in real life. We wanted to have a tangible quality and looked to real-world examples such as old TV screens, video sculptures, and practical lighting effects to build out our ideas.


After each individual scene was designed and composited within Flame and After Effects, it was then placed on the head, representing a sort of augmented reality second skin for the sculpture, which we ultimately achieved through Z Brush, Cinema 4D and Maya.

We were invited to Steven Klein’s studio, and collaborated together on assembling the videos for the digital head concept by working with printed collages.

Once videos and placement were decided upon, Mill 3D and After Effects artists worked on mapping the videos onto the 3D scan of Katy Perry.

Once videos and placement were decided upon, Mill 3D and After Effects artists worked on mapping the videos onto the 3D scan of Katy Perry.

W Magazine


To launch the issue promoting the picture as a living entity, The Mill approached Finger Music to create the sound for the off-the-page experience. Dave Hodge, creative director at Finger, created bespoke soundscapes for the films in W’s Katy Perry AR experience.

Color Grade

Wmagazine Color Grade

"Talking" Cover

The AR experience begins with a "talking" cover: a video and audio message of Katy reading an Albert Camus-esque declaration of freedom.

Wmagazine Cover

Readers are then encouraged to interact with different parts of Katy Perry’s cover portrait, as each facial feature unlocks a new piece of content – pressing different areas of Perry’s face, users find short videos of Perry in various situations and locations throughout the city. Scanning images and pages from the magazine, which are marked with an AR-activated W icon, leads to multi-dimensional visuals and films in a cinematic set.

Along with a series of interactive films created by Klein and The Mill, the issue presents its first ever speaking cover seamlessly coming to life with W’s AR App, ‘Beyond the Page’, also developed by The Mill.


Angus Kneale, The Mill NY's Chief Creative Officer, comments, “With this collaboration with W magazine, we wanted to push the boundaries of what’s possible in print, while unlocking a new kind of viewing experience through augmented reality. This is an incredibly exciting time to be at the forefront of emerging technology and digital storytelling, and we’re looking forward to further exploring how it can complement and expand the print medium.”

Paris Film Scenes | Katy on Pont Alexandre III bridge

W Bridge

W Car

W Bridge

Additional AR Content

The AR technology extends beyond the Katy Perry cover story. In addition to Klein’s cover story, The Mill collaborated with photographers Mert and Marcus (Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott), and photographer Collier Schorr, to create additional AR experiences within the pages of the issue.


For Collier, we’ve built a collage using the final retouched print images in the traditional style of this photographer. For Mert & Marcus, we advised the team on the best way to shoot the models so we can successfully use the film in the AR context.