How the ‘Runaway Aurora’ filter became hugely popular in the social arena during those gloomy times
On April 16, the Pune-based videographer Bhupendra Rawat published a Hindi tutorial entitled “How to do Runaway Aurora filter effect on Instagram” on his YouTube channel OsuVoX.
He had noticed that people were looking for this now viral augmented reality filter (see Google Trends) that would allow users to create silhouettes of themselves in various poses with ethereal images of the sky as the background.
For the young career of the 22-year-old Rawat as a YouTuber, the filter proved to be a kind of game changer.
Rawat, who had an average of 100-5,000 views, was in for a surprise.
The Runaway Aurora tutorial got him nearly 982,000 views and is still growing.
The 3-minute clip also earned him what he’d had in advertising revenue for a full year on YouTube last month.
It was also instrumental in reaching 40% of its current subscriber base of over 10,800.
“This is the first time a filter has been trending on social media,” he says.
Illustration: Rahul Awasthi
Creators like Renald Fadli from Indonesia were among the first to upload the filter to the photo and video sharing app in mid-March. They had used Norwegian singer Aurora’s 2015 soundtrack ‘Runaway’ as accompanying audio to accompany the filter in their videos. The song recently reappeared on TikTok and has grown in prominence in the West.
The filter, also inspired by a recent Silhouette challenge on TikTok, became known as the Runaway Aurora filter. (Even Aurora, the singer-songwriter, is amazed at the frenzied response the filter and her song have received since the trend took us, we hear.)
“I don’t know how it got so big,” says Rawat, still incredulous.
He brings it up on people’s propensity to do aesthetically pleasing things on social media, especially in times of extreme despair.
“Cloud-vloud, shadow-vadow, sab sahi rehte hain. Art bhi achcha hai, ”he says. (People like elaborate visuals and effects that include clouds, shadows, moon, and the works)
Hundreds of AR filters and visual effects are uploaded to short video sharing platforms like Instagram every day. While some of them click, others will eventually be forgotten.
Runaway Aurora is that rare filter that has become hugely popular not only on Indian social media – at a time when most online platforms are filled with Covid-related SOS news – it has also become an unusual one in recent years Breakthrough for many creators resulted in weeks.
Mohammed Ovesh, a 19-year-old YouTuber from Barnagar, Ujjain, has added 13,000 new subscribers to his Ovesh World channel thanks to a tutorial video on this filter.
“It has three times as much engagement as a viral video on my channel,” says Ovesh.
Aashi Adani, a Mumbai-based lifestyle content creator, took advantage of the filter for her role by wearing a heavy lehenga that she last wore at her sister’s wedding.
“It struck me that the ethnic touch with these western trends goes down well at home,” says the 22-year-old. At 19.8 million, it’s her most-viewed post of all time. Her account saw a 550.8% growth in reach in the first 7 days after this role was posted. “I gained 10,000 followers through this role. It’s not an easy task considering there are so many creators out there today, ”she says.
However, it is not just the visual quotient of the filter that caused this frenzy on the internet.
It had a mass appeal as opposed to the myriad dance challenges that made the rounds, which are not for everyone, notes Rawat.
Last week, GeeksforGeeks, a computer science platform, released a scroll that uses the filter to describe a day in the life of a programmer. “We wanted our followers, mostly students, to know something about this trend that they could identify with,” says Sonakshi Goswami, who is part of the platform’s marketing team. It has 40% more engagement than the regular viral posts on their social media channels.
The filter also worked well because it was easy to use.
You didn’t have to edit a lot to create a compelling video, says Mihir Surana, COO of NOFILTR, an influencer marketing agency.
However, one of his agency’s creators, Manav Chhabra, hired graphic designer Darsh Nishar to customize the filter for his role.
It becomes imperative for top creators to use a trend clearly.
Illustration: Rahul Awasthi
Nishar selected some beautiful images of the sky from Pinterest and added a moving sky effect to the background of Chhabra’s video. It has also caught Nishar’s attention, getting him more requests from developers who want their own version of the filter.
Dhruv Shah and Shyam Sharma are another group of creators who have been noticed by Chhabra’s escape performance.
The duo created a remix – a current trending format on the platform – in addition to Chhabra’s already viral reel to show how the trend was invented. “We were basically giving our side of the video a behind-the-scenes look and by turning the lights on and off, we pretended to be the ones directing,” says Shyam Sharma from Mumbai.
The role of Sharma and Shah received 43 million views; Chhabra’s original role is currently around 31 million. “People wrote in their stories that they found the winner of this trend on our roll,” adds Sharma.
Many Instagrammers have since parodyed the filter and officially turned it into a meme, notes Yash Saboo, a social media worker at the content marketplace Pepper Content. He’s also created one that shows him as a freelancer trying to do a role but being interrupted by customer calls in between.
Psychologists say it was no coincidence that the filter on Instagram became unusually popular in India, especially at a time when a section of the internet was flooded with SOS posts for Covid-related help.
“It matched the tonality of the time,” says Anshuma Kshetrapal, a creative arts psychotherapist from Delhi who also created a roll with the filter while she was still recovering from Covid-19. “It was dark, gentle, not solemn. It didn’t break the ethos of the time, ”she says.
The filter enabled people to experience the great outdoors as most of the poses of people were outside of their homes, on their balconies, on their rooftops, or on building lots, amid locked restrictions.
“I know friends who hadn’t left their house since last year went to their building garden to make this video,” says Saboo of Pepper Content.
Illustration: Rahul Awasthi
In the midst of the chaos, it brought some calm, albeit temporary.
Music & text
The part of the song made famous by this filter was also a symbol of the time we are in.
As Surana says, “I don’t know if people realized that, but the lyrics, ‘And I ran far away, would I run away from the world one day?’ actually corresponded to our current situation. ”
Vipasha Malhotra, a young musician from Delhi, became famous for interpreting these lyrics for the Indian masses.
Earlier this month, she released a Hindi rendition of Runaway’s lyrics while using the filter on an Instagram reel, getting over 20 million views and 2 million hearts on her post.
The Hindi texts have enabled more Indians to make sense of the trend, says Malhotra. “It’s like you think Post Malone’s songs are cool, but you connect with Arijit’s tracks.”
The role caught the attention of actors like Sonam Kapoor and Siddhant Chaturvedi, among others, she says. Actor Mrunal Thakur even asked her directly to do a full cover of the song in Hindi, which she eventually did and received several business inquiries afterward.
She now owes two thirds of her 63,000 Instagram followers to this trend.
Malhotra was on her first day of period when she created the first runaway aurora scroll. “In addition to the menstrual pain, I was also concerned that my parents were having difficulty getting vaccination spots in Delhi,” she adds.
Why should you put this pressure on yourself to create something trendy during these dire times, you ask, especially when influencers attract flak for posting “positive or uplifting content” that doesn’t read the space?
“Because once you’re in the content game, you can’t do it anymore,” says Pawan Rochwani, head of community, events and partnerships at Pepper Content.
It’s almost machine-like for creators. 1 million views turn into 1,000-10,000 followers and if you’re not consistent, the algorithm can push you to the end of this race.
“While many of these creators were equally concerned about the Covid situation, they had to keep doing it,” he says.
If it comforts you, working on this role served Malhotra as a distraction.
For graphic designer Nishar, however, that distraction soon turned into trouble. “After doing so many edits, I got irritated by the song and started wiping away every time a role with that filter came up in my feed,” he says.
And yet he and everyone else who have benefited tremendously from this filter are waiting for the next Runaway Aurora filter equivalent. As Adani of Mumbai admits, “Nothing brings in the kind of numbers that this filter made. It was really an isolated case. ”