Last month we added a central image feature to our subscriber Animation Engine and our free public QR code generator. This allows you to create a standard QR code with an image in the middle, which helps communicate to your potential scanning audience what the QR code does for them or where it will take them.

Sure, anyone can do this manually with some basic image editing software, but we've found that placing an image in the middle is actually something that's really easy to get wrong. You don't want the image only partially covering up code tiles, which can affect the data integrity of the code. Also you don't want to have image distortion if you have to meet the first requirement.

We've implemented a solution which never distorts your stamp image, and never partially covers up code tiles.

Also, since image orientation is commonly confused with different image formats, we've made it easy to rotate the image if needed.

Here's a simple example of how a central image can help your standard QR code's first impression:

A reminder, the above code was made with our Standard QR code Generator which is free, private, with no advertisements, and provides high quality image. It could save you some time for sure.

And don't forget, if your QR code is going to go on an electronic display, consider really leveling up and getting one of our animated QR codes.

First and foremost, a tip of the hat to the engineers making a QR Code in the sky of Shanghai for millions of people to scan:

Talk about getting your message out there, it's tough to beat this one. I know a lot of marketing and advertising folks who dream of a QR code in the sky that loads a simple page to buy a specific product with a few finger taps within 30 seconds . And that will be happening routinely in the future, I'm sure.

But I couldn't help but notice a problem.

Well, two actually.

And it's worth discussing theses issues within the QR Code industry. I have seen these problems a lot and the industry is largely silent on addressing them, and as a result a lot of unnecessary frustration for customers (or scanners) has occurred.

Problem #1: The QR Code made in the sky in the above video is the wrong color.

Specifically, each dot is a bright white on a black sky background, rather than the QR Code standard, which calls for dark dots on a brighter background. I've seen this tonal inversion used by many people as a design choice to make their QR Code look nicer on its medium, say round white dots on a black car window for example. And it's understandable people do this: QR Codes aren't the prettiest of things, and any designer alteration to make them look nicer or more interesting, well... trust me, we here at ACME understand that need.

But why is color variation a problem?

Problem #2:

Scanning software on cellphones is highly variable and constantly changing.

Over the last 6 years, we've watched the forces of silicon valley push and pull for and against QR Codes. We've seen QR Codes arrive as standard software on phone operating systems one day, only to see them go away the next. But we knew the overwhelming force of a free and open standard would eventually dominate, and it has; QR Code scanning is now a standard feature of all the major cellphone operating system's default camera software.

However, we think that many of the people in the video above couldn't scan the QR code. Why? because the code was white points on a dark background, rather than black points on a white background. This tonal inversion confuses the scanning software on many cellphones because it is backwards of what the software is expecting.

The drone operators could have solved this by making their drones form a stencil (an ACME standard feature by the way), so that the dark sky behind the drones became the dark dots, so the QR code would have been fully within the specifications of a standard QR Code. Not all cellphone software is this sensitive, but certainly many are. The inconsistency among those software programs is a function of both brands of cellphones, and time as software updates change the software on people's phones.

One day your cellphone may scan a QR code with circles, another day it will not. One day your cellphone may scan an inverted tone QR code, the next day it will not. One day your cellphone will scan a QR code with 50% black covering each tile area of a code, the next day it will only scan if 90% coverage exists.

This lack of consistency is a source of frustration as we here at ACME and many other companies work to make QR Codes more visually unique, but still work.

Ultimately we'd like to see a unified opening of tolerance of QR Codes to allow for much more arbitrary tile shapes, and tonal color options.

But until then, the only way to offer assurance that your QR code will scan is to make sure each tile is dark and covers at least 90% of its tile space, with the background being as light as possible.

ACME animated QR Codes offer a unique solution to this problem: your QR Code will still scan with 100% reliability within the stricter standards requiring full square and black tiles on a white background, but because of our brief animations of your QR Codes, they will be highly branded to your company or product.

And they'll be the coolest part of your advertisement.

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  • Peter

Today ACME.CODES released a new animation to our public library: Quicksilver

This is one of our simulation based animations; rather than keyframing the tiles of a QR code to different positions over time, the animation is created by calculating the physical behavior of a mercury-like fluid flowing between the tiles of a QR code.

If you choose Quicksilver, we animate your QR code slowly immersing itself into a pool of mercury, which eventually settles down to a reflection of your custom image. Then the mercury splashes up through the image and back down through the QR code. It's... literally a splashy QR code.

Normally our animations are implemented so that the creation time is very short; usually less than two minutes. However, fluid simulation animation requires much more time than other animations for two reasons:

The Simulation (calculating the fluid movement), and

The Rendering (calculating the pixels of the animation).

The Simulation:

This simulation requires a time consuming amount of computer calculations because simulating natural effects of liquids requires it.

A particular result of this style of animation is that each animation is completely unique to each and every QR code, since the QR code is interacting directly with the fluid simulation, and small differences in the QR code tile placement largely effect the movement and shape of the mercury animation.

The Rendering:

The image creation requires more time than usual because calculating the surface reflections of the mercury requires a much more computationally intense software ray-tracing renderer (like is used for animated films) rather than our normally used very fast hardware renderer (like is used for computer games).

It should be noted that these are exciting times for real time ray-tracing in our industry; Nvidia's RTX line of GPUs and other suppliers have recently started supplying robust and fast ray tracing on their GPU accelerated cards. Ray tracing has been implemented on GPUs in the past, but never at such industry-wide availability as now. In the not-too-distant future, GPU based rendering will be as realistic as more traditional CPU based rendering. We look forward to taking advantage of this new technology soon.

Despite the longer time needed for both simulation and rendering, ACME still provides an un-beatable turnaround time for such a complex simulation customized to anyone's recently defined QR code. Our fully automated framework can create this animation at high resolution in about an hour for 1/10 to 1/1000 the cost of attaining a custom QR code animation from traditional animation creators.

Most importantly: these animations are pleasant to watch. There are few things as satisfying to the eye as light glimmering off the smooth waves of a perfectly reflecting surface.

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