Disruptive Technologies: Layering & Augmentation

From Symposium Talk transcript

During that pressure period in the art making process, I was analysing our relationship with device engagement or life support machines as I refer to them. Observations in urban environments, city streets, cafes, public transport, restaurants, etc. It’s amazing what you can see when watching with purpose. It got me thinking about fragmenting form as a way to communicate distraction of a mental state. Again, more experiments, more reshuffling and rethinking though at least the project was moving again.

The fragmentations later become much more intensified when layering the rotoscope work. By doing so, I felt this captured distraction and disruption which was the objective.

For the audio, after consideration, a voice-over was vetoed in favour of a soundscape which sounded much more exciting to compose. For diversity, the collected material was recorded when traveling from Tokyo to London. As with the rotoscoped work, the sound bites were also layered. Automated and notification sounds predominate the arranged soundscape, fading in and out, some played simultaneously. The end result being a cacophony and chaotic assemblage triggering a sensory intrusion.

I feel now that this is a resolved body of work. I’ll read an extract from Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, which for me sums up this whole exploration and artmaking process:

‘But if asked to describe how it felt during the artmaking process-well that often comes out a bit like Dorothy trying to describe the Land of Oz to Auntie Em. Between the initial idea and the finished piece lies a gulf we can see across, but never fully charter. The truly special moments when concept is converted to reality- those moments when the gulf is being crossed. Precise descriptions fail, but it connects to that wonderful condition in which the work seems to make itself and the artist serves only as a guide or mediator, allowing all things to happen’

Bayles & Orland (2001)

Disruptive Technologies: Self-reflexivity & Black & White Aesthetics

As I’ve been experimenting with colour vs black and white recently, it made me consider self-reflexivity in the filmaking process. Not that my project exclusively relates to this subject matter though it did get me thinking about the aesthetics of black and white and colour in film in more depth.

A reflexive film is a film that makes the audience aware of the filmaking process.Reflexivity is defined by such devices as looking into the camera, taking advantage of two-dimensionality of the screen, or simply making a film about making a film. In other words: A reflexive film is a film with self-awareness.


Here, five motion tween sequences in black and white have been assembled including audio. Initially I was surprised by the multitude of grey gradients creating a softer resolution. The positive spaces are more emphasized in black and white.

A grainier version


Takagi Masakatsu-Continuous Moving Paintings

Last week, while commuting to work, a colleague critiqued some of  my practice which were a few rotoscopes and my current project. Alienation & Conformity (2015)  involved a large amount of individual film frame texturing, he noticed that my practice was not too dissimilar from the Japanese film maker/musician, Takagi Masakatsu. Masakatsu is an artist who works in several mediums such as music, animation and video art. However, until last week, I’d only heard of him as a musician. Having done a bit of research, I learned that our art backgrounds and current practices have a few things in common. For instance, at university he studied film making as an extension to photography whereas I studied photography as an extension to film making/animation. Also, his work involves the old animation process, rotoscoping. A process which I first touched on 20 years ago but has been de facto in my practice over the past five years.

I was referenced Masakatsu’s live action film, Girls (2010). The artist is a frequent traveller, a great deal of his inspiration comes from memos and sketches while travelling around rural landscapes. Here, you can see the natural environment influences in his work. Like a lot of his projects, animated brushstrokes are carefully arranged during the process. The images swirl in a particular rhythm, creating a dreamlike narrative. I see his work as continuous moving paintings, an impressionist in the digital age. It’s a powerful and moving piece of work but for this film, it’s the haunting soundtrack the makes the work even more memorable. From this work, I feel that I need to pull my finger out and begin to experiment with other film software.


Public Information Film Project: Sequence No 11

I haven’t been writing about my practice for a while now. It’s not that I’m procrastinating or anything, far from it, it’s just that I don’t want to bore myself with the project. It’s easy to do that when you’re working on one thing and you’re in your own little world most of the time. You know what I mean? I’m at that stage where I’ve just completed all the drawings and I’m trying to plan the following: script a narration, edit the sequences and the create the audio. On top of that, after adding all the aforementioned technicalities, I hope to stimulate awareness, create fear and persuade all at the same time. What a challenge! Had I not decided to take a year out, the situation would be erm…well, just get something framed for the graduate exhibition and reflect on what might have been.  I hope that will not be the case.

To get a second opinion on things, recently, I went to see a friend who is currently working on a documentary based on an incident in World War II in Tokyo. His previous project was Lessons from the Night (2009) . It was a well-spent two hours. His comments and challenging questions were of great benefit for me. As a result, I felt much more inspired. It’s important to hear others’ views. When showing your work, the audience is viewing an unfamiliar journey, a journey that is all too familiar for yourself. He was able to ‘‘see’ what is difficult for me to ‘see’. As his film making expertise is predominantly in editing footage, I got a few useful pointers. In his opinion, areas of the animation seemed flat. The viewing dynamic could be tweaked. Using Adobe Premier, I could consider panning the visuals or homing into areas for effect. All considerations taken on board


In earlier sequences, to increase movement within sequences that I considered too static, I added pattern to the hair. Something child-like that could work with the narrative. The pattern creates a bubbly effect as a consequence. I feel it doesn’t interfere and detract the sequence too much and comments have been generally positive.(famous last words!)




Sequence 11 Gif












Rotoscoping: Linear Alterations, Before & After

Here, I’ve been experimenting with the effects in Windows Movie Maker Live. The objective is to radically alter linear movement and brush strokes. Usually, after the drawing process when rotoscoping, I import the files into a photo editor and texture each frame. This can be quite time-consuming especially when you’ve got between 200-300 drawings to manipulate!

For this methodology, the first animation (before) has the following effects: posterized,  threshold and a black & white with red filter. The outcome at this stage of the process doesn’t appear very spectacular and the film  pretty much remains similar to its original version. The same film is then imported again into WMM. Again, using threshold then tweaking the brightness. The outcome alters quite dramatically, I’m able to contrive a scratchier, sketchier linear movement.






Don’t Have Nightmares 2015 (Revised)

Don’t Have Nightmares was an unfinished project back in March, 2015. An installation was to be incorporated but due to complications, I abandon the idea. Also, the audio was never added as the animation remained unfinished. It was a pity, as Jonny (sound engineer) had worked hard on the audio. So, rather than just abandon the project, I found myself being more proactive over the festive period. I continued working on the animation. First, adding motion tweens, then a few stills, then cyan tones and finally the icing on the cake-the audio. Done!

My inspiration came from the books I’m currently reading and the public information film project I’m currently working on. The idea of using the animation (Don’t Have Nightmares) for a public information project was considered back in June/July last year. The books, The Internet is not the Answer by Andrew Keen and The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, inspired me to use the animation to interpret the argument that privacy is becoming obsolete. The voyeuristic iconic shower sequence in Psycho where the viewer is allowed to secretly peer in at the subject is akin to the way social media platforms are set up. Facebook being the obvious example. That’s not to say we only use social media for a spying purpose, but there is the temptation to do so. Interestingly, Andrew Keen references another Hitchcock film, Rear Window. In his book, he states that Hitchcock’s narrative parallels Google’s dominance in the digital age. I considered a new working title ‘Are Friends Celebrities?’ However, I ditched the idea to avoid any referencing confusion on my blog. Overall, I’m pleased with the end result and thankfully so is the sound engineer.

Audio information from an earlier post (March 2015):

The original audio was severely revamped. Stock sound fx downloaded and manipulated in pitch or speed. Analogue synthesizer used for simple “heartbeat” pulse. Reverb plug ins used to simulate tiled bathroom ambience. Delay with lfo sweep used to emulate water going down a plughole, swirling psycho effect.  Overall, I was very pleased with Jonny’s work. However, the screams were still too prominent for me so I decided to make amendments in Audacity. I reduced the scream amplification and added much more ‘delay’ effects on screams



Public Information Film Project: Sequences Nos 6 & 7

Using the Weaver effect in Sequence 5 gave me more ideas and I was very encouraged to be more audacious with my approach. While considering designs for Sequence six, I thought about having multiple frames in various colours which would visually boost the rotating pencil movement. I experimented with a Pop Art effect and this is what came out in the wash. The multiple frames inspired me to do similar in Sequence 7. However, I’m unsure about adding the Peeling Paint effect, looks a bit muddy compared to other sequences. I may tweak that sequence at a later date. Presently, I’m well-into the drawing stage of Sequence 8. Also, I’ve began making narration notes this past week so I’ve been just loosely framing the social commentary.


19015 Frame 190

Unedited & Edited: Resize,Weaver (normal), Pop Art (i) Dots size 10 (ii) Images x3, Focal Zoom (darken x2) 



Unedited Frame 223Edited Frame 223

Unedited   & Edited: Resize,Weaver hardlight, (i)size boost, (i) shadow(multiply),Peel Paint, Focal Zoom, Rainbow 



Public Information Film Sequences 5-7

Each sequence is looped x 2



Public Information Film Project: Sequences Nos 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5

As I’m about half way with the drawings of my current project, I thought it would be a good idea to keep track of the effects which are used when rendering each drawing. This is an area I neglected in my last project which created problems. As you can see, there are subtle differences in each sequence. However, if you compare these drawings  to the last animation (Alienation & Conformity), I’m being a bit more conservative in my approach when editing the drawings. Preferably , I’d like more continuity as the context will focus predominantly on the message as opposed to the visuals. That’s not to say I don’t want the visuals to stand out, just not to become too much of a distraction. Don’t worry, this post will all make sense eventually!


Frame 11 Frame 1

Unedited     Edited: resize (width: 5296 height: 2979),focal zoom,                                                                  texture(materials)



Frame 47    Frame 47.jpg      Unedited                                                  Edited: resize, focal zoom, texture(fabrics)



711 Frame 71

Unedited                                           Edited: resize,focal zoom, posterize, rainbow



97 1 Frame 97

Unedited                                             Edited: resize, focal zoom, posterize, rainbow



1211 Frame 121

Unedited                          Edited: resize, weaver(hardlight), focal zoom, rainbow

Below are sequences 1-4. Each sequence has been played 2/3 in succession which gives me some idea whether or not I will loop particular sequences








Public Information Film Project: Sequence No 1

The animation in my last project, The Tokyo Underground,  Alienation & Conformity involved animation merged with footage. I received mixed opinions regarding the process but overall positive ones so now I’m at the contemplating stage with this project. Here I’ve drawn the first sequence, 46 drawings in total. The drawings have been individually textured. Test 1 Sequence 1 involves 12 drawings and Test 1 Sequence 2, all 46 drawings. In both sequences the drawings have been copied a few times, by doing so the viewer is given enough time to take in the visuals. After continuous viewing I’m still undecided for a number of reasons. Including footage with rendered drawings,  without doubt helps shadow, line and tone. Stronger and bolder by appearance.  However, by not merging the footage the drawings seem more natural though carry less impact. As for the abstract motion tween, mmmm I’m not sure. It’s a bit gimicky to me. Is it necessary?

Test 1 Sequence 1 (without footage)

Test 2 Sequence 1 (including footage)  

Test 3 Sequence 1 (abstract motion tween)





Alienation & Conformity Tests 1 & 2

Over the past few months I’ve been working on an animated film I made in Tokyo which examines conformity and a fear which I felt when living abroad for the first time, alienation. The film footage is shot on an over ground train carriage in the Tokyo. Panning 180 degrees, right to left conveys an arc of life. The pan is a comment on emotions and anxieties endured by myself over a period of time.

Alienation & Conformity Test 1

Alienation & Conformity Test 2

Alienation & Conformity Test 2


However, after a few tests, I felt  to comprehensively project this concept, I decided to continue the sequence and pan an extra 180 degrees, the pan returning to the starting point.

Alienation & Conformity Test 1

Also, I’m experimenting with the relationship between live action and animation which I’m pursuing more and more in my work recently simply because I find the relationship visually engaging.  Frames 94  &  146

Tamagawa Train Pan 146

The silhouetted passengers all matching with similar characteristics and behaviour. A feeling of trepidation, being watched, analysed scrutinized. Time, like the pan, moves jerkily along until the passengers become clearly visible, the tension diminishes, the atmosphere less threatening.  Frames 225 & 305

Tamagawa Train Pan 225 Tamagawa Train Pan 305

To capture more atmosphere and mood, each frame has been rendered and textured. When projected continuously, the moving image radiates an assortment of dynamic characteristics. I had been researching artists that primarily employ composites in their work and how dramatically the visual alters as a result.

Frames 20, 90, 184 & 216



I’ve not quite completed the rendering and texturing though hope to premiere the animation on Tuesday. The audio will be completed later this year.


Sparky Shower

Over the past few weekends, I’ve been experimenting with animating water. Before I began this project I didn’t really consider animating water in much detail. Before I began, I checked my preparatory notes. A brief summary below:

Figure(s) details: body colour, hair colour, wet hair colour ,dry hair colour, shadow of assailant behind curtain, facial shot close-up, shading, toning, colour gradients ( sketching loosely for rapid movement, line tool for outline).
Background details: tile colour, shower floor, bathroom wall, picture on wall, bathroom door.
Other: curtain colour, shower head (2 angles), shower rail, shower rail holders, plug hole, knife.

No mention of water, so for a few ideas and tips, I began looking at a few animated watery effects and tutorials  on YouTube. First, I used the paintbrush tool as I can rotoscope fairly fast with it.  I achieved some interesting  slushy watery effects. However, I couldn’t find an appropriate sound bite to match the visuals. I even considered omitting animating the water altogether. Therefore, I would put more emphasis on sound to convey  water. I decided to leave everything alone for a few days, think with a clear mind…another day.

Back to the drawing board the following weekend with a new plan of attack. My next approach was to listen through some sound bites. Why have a watery sound? Why not whistling kettle, a hissing cat  or finger scratching a chalk board?  I came across some electric drills and circular saw sound bites. I got mental images of strobes, neon lighting and sparks from a welding tool. I began to practice with more tools in the Flash software until I found a tool which enabled to produce a strobe, sparky effect. After viewing and considering the sound, still I wasn’t satisfied with the overall treatment. The animation appeared TOO mechanical. So, I decided to add splashes (that look like sparks!)  using the paintbrush.

Top left: shower angle 1, line tool (black line) /Top right: shower angle 1, line tool ( white line) / Bottom left: shower angle 2, line tool (white line), edited in online photo editor/ Bottom right: shower angle 2, line tool (white line), edited in online photo editor

1 Black Water.jpg 2 White Water.jpg 3 Grey water White background.jpg 4 Shower 1.jpg

Left: shower  angle 1 with figure ( pen tool/ paint brush) Right: shower angle 2 , (pen tool/ paint brush)

Psycho Shower Scene (frame 91 shower front view) Psycho Shower Scene (frame 132 shower ariel view)

Test 2

Animation Duration: 11 seconds (120 drawings approx) ;  Water effects: shower angle 1, paint brush/ white water. shower angle 2 grey water, white background. Visual effects: ripple effect


Lounge Music: Bruno Nicolai-Spy chase ( music ends before animation);  Sound bite: Deafening Whispers (Overdubbed whispering. Very intense. This sample loops seamlessly. Recorded, edited and mixed using Audacity and Zoom H2) ; shower cues sound bite.



Dont Have Nightmares: Test 2





Test 3

Animation Duration: 11 seconds (120 drawings approx); Water effects: shower angle 1,  line tool & paintbrush/ white water. shower angle 2 line tool & paintbrush, white water, grey background.

Lounge Music: Armando Trovajoli- The Getaway (music ends as shower begins);  Sound bite: Machine Band Saw, (sawing hardboard with a band saw). Pack of power tools recorded in carpenter’s workshop in Savijärvi, Tavastia Proper. Zoom H4n. Shower cues sound bite.


Dont Have Nightmares: Test 3




Italian 1960s Lounge Music

Sound Collaboration (provisional): Jonny C

Over the past few weeks, amidst a busy work schedule, I found time to have a brief meeting with my work colleague, Jonny. I’m hoping that Jon will collaborate on my project as sound engineer. Background: After graduating from Glasgow University, he became interested in experimental sound mainly working/experimenting with analogue synth. Since he arrived in Tokyo in 1998, he’s collaborated with a number of bands, playing the synthesizer. Before we became acquainted, I recall going to see him perform with a band called The Lickerish Quartet about 6 years ago. They played at The Green Apple (below) which is a 60s/70s arty themed café in Koenji (Tokyo) . The café also serves as music venue at night and is well known for performances dealing with psychedelia, mod nostalgia and avant-garde experimental music.

The Green Apple Cafe 1


I vividly recall the theatrical setting devised  by the band before they came on to play. Playing on retro aesthetics, an 8mm film projector silently played Italian 60s film footage onto an orangey, pink coloured curtain while the band played. The band played a mixture of modern chill-out, poppy electronica with down-tempo elements and with the usual characteristics associated with lounge sounds (i.e. jazz, exotica and bossa nova origins). I was impressed by the whole visual spectacle. A performance in both foreground and background. I think I was more interested in the theatrical presentation rather the music. When I became acquainted with Jon, I found out that the stage setting and props were his idea.

During our meeting, we looked at my blog and I conveyed how I envisaged the sound. I informed him that I intend to make an installation of the bathroom used in the 1960 film Psycho. The shower room scene would be edited, animated and projected from a monitor inside the set. I further mentioned the feasibility of this plan and my intentions regarding scale. That is, if I’m unable to make a life-size set, then a miniature set will be constructed. A meeting with a set designer is scheduled next month. It was also noted that the installation/set will not be an exact representation but the finished article should look very Modernist by appearance with expressionistic influences.  Below are some researched 1960 bathroom designs from American Standard.

Example 2 Example 3



We considered the opening audio, which would run for around 30 seconds. I’m keen on the idea of using Italian 60s lounge music themes, so we listed a few composers and tracks such as Armando Trovajoli-Vivere Felici, Bruno Nicolai-Spy Chase and Nico Fidenco.

The idea being that Jon would then compose either sampling, remixing or work on similar themes. At this stage, there isn’t a concrete sound plan, though it is intended for the opening audio to distort into a more sinister theme which would be a cue for the animation to begin. The duration of sound will be no more than 2 minutes, 10 seconds. Sound bites used for the animation will be discussed in our next meeting. We will consider answers from Question 2 of the questionnaire.  The next step is for Jon to view the edited Psycho footage and work on a few audio tests. If we are on the same wavelength (audio wise ), then the collaboration will begin. The big “If”

Rotoshop experimenting: Step 3

STEP 3: Designing. Over the past week I had been designing the background and considering colour schemes. Originally, the shower area and figure would be white. However, as I will probably animate white water, I altered the shower area to an ash grey. The figure’s hair will be expressive, gradients of chrome auburn red, cobalt blue or emerald green. The colours are not yet decided.

Psycho Shower Scene (frame 1 blue read chrome shower area) Psycho Shower Scene (frame 1 grey chrome shower area) Psycho Shower Scene (frame 1 grey shower area) Psycho Shower Scene (frame 24 multi-coloured hair) Psycho Shower Scene (frame 24 red hair) Psycho Shower Scene (frame 64 blue hair)

Today I rotoscoped about 5 seconds. Below is a test

Rotoshop experimenting begins (Steps 1 and 2)

STEP 1: After finally deciding that I would choose the shower scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s film Psycho (1960), I scanned various sites to find a HD version of the footage. A HD version helps me during the rotoscoping process as I can map the outlines of the form with more speed and less difficulty. At this stage, I don’t get bogged down with having to improvise objects and movement. From experience, that part of rotoscoping can really slow down the process and the outcome might not be the desired result. On the other hand, improvisations can create unintentional digital masterpieces! Considerations. Below is an audio version of the Psycho shower scene. Time: 2 minutes, 36 seconds

STEP 2: I will be animating at 1 second per 12 frames so my next aim is to edit the footage down to around 1 minute 20 seconds (960 drawings approx. ). I’ve not done very much in the way of film editing since my university days. It will be interesting to see if I can still maintain the impact of the scene though it’s not a pre-requisite. From analysing the footage, I note framing composition, visually very clear and the manner in which the tension builds; subtle edits from animate objects (woman) to inanimate objects (the shower head). The tension manifests in a series of close-ups and montage. I keep track of times, shots and areas in which I could exploit, distort, exaggerate during the post-edit phase. Time: 1 minute, 29 seconds

Maquette No 1 (Part 3)

Last night I drew a few frames and went through the following procedures: Testing the thickness of brushstrokes, determining the %s to magnify areas of the image, considering colours and gradients. All provisional but it gives me a platform to work on. This morning I set up the polystyrene maquette and used the images to continue with my experiments. Each image is clearly marked; the image number is in the bottom right corner. Details of each image are noted below:

1 Maquette with vinyl window decoration as curtain. Ice blue colouration for image.

2 Maquette with empty just washed PET bottles, close up, no curtain. Ice blue colouration for image

3 Maquette with empty just washed PET bottles, and cling film as curtain. Ice blue colouration for image

4 Maquette with cling film as curtain. Ice blue colouration for image.

5 Maquette with just washed PET bottles. Soft grey gradient for image.

6 Maquette with empty just washed PET bottles, and cling film as curtain. Mixed hues of browns, nectarine colouration for image. Lighting effect used.

7 Maquette with empty just washed PET bottles. Mixed hues of browns, nectarine colouration for image. Lighting effect used.

From my experiments, I gained many ideas and different possibilities for future maquettes and images. It was obvious from Fig 1 that I needed to consider softer transparent materials in order to project imagery through layers. Also, I found out that the maquette was too wide so I altered the shape to cube and as a result, the maquette looked more compact and structurally balanced. I thought about abandoning the curtain idea altogether and use transparent objects. PET bottles worked fine but looked a bit flat by appearance so after cleaning them, I got some interesting effects with the drops of water (Fig 2). I thought about a transparent material. Rhiannon’s drawing on cling film and tracing paper gave me the idea to use cling film (Fig 3). I think I’ll use tracing paper next time. I removed the PET bottles but the effect wasn’t particularly interesting visually (Fig 4). Next, I experimented with colours and photography effects. I used greys and blacks and continued with using the PET bottles (Figs 5/6/7). Using multiple layers worked well for me. Next time, I’ll consider glass, tracing paper and other materials for the maquette.

1.jpg 2.jpg 3.jpg 4.jpg 5.jpg 6.jpg 7.jpg

Maquette No 1 (Part 2)

9 Shower Rear Elevation with Curtain.jpg
Shower with curtain: (Rear view)

The length of the shower curtain was a bit short as you can see; the size information IS written on the packet. Consider next time. I chose the multi size pink polka-dot design for a few reasons. 1/ I wanted something retro, a bit like the anatomical designs in the 50s. 2/ Staying with the eerie theme, I though the design gave the look of infection, disease or blood splats even. Perfect, I thought.

I considered using wire hair pins for the shower curtain holders. However, as I couldn’t find any, I abandoned the idea. Drawing pins worked perfectly well.  I had problems fixing the aluminium cup to the upper surface of the polystyrene. As you can see, it looks a bit skeewiff. Something to think about for a future maquette.  Finally, I fixed the metal net over the monitor screen. Hopefully, I can get some interesting visuals when I’m rotoscoping tomorrow. Incidentally, can you see The Language of New Media and Digital Art propping up the shower? I knew those books would be useful!

Shower with curtain: Front view
Shower with curtain: Front view
Metal Net on Monitor
Shower Room Maquette in front of the Monitor
Shower Room Maquette on Monitor: Side view