‘Cicadas, Crackling and Popping Wet Wood and Lost Laughter in the Breeze’

As well as being glued to the cricket, yesterday afternoon was spent designing the audio in Audacity for the rotoscope animation in my last project, Don’t Have Nightmares 0.2: The Tokyo Underground.  The audio is made up from an eclectic mix of ambient sounds. The train carriage audio is applied primarily as the base sound. Ambient sounds such as cicadas, crackling and popping wet wood and lost laughter in the breeze have been arranged fading in/out at various points. In the past, I’ve found that when experimenting in Audacity, it’s very easy to over-tweak, cut too much, over-amplify, suffocate the sound with heavy effects and end up with a cacophony as a result. While editing yesterday, simplicity  is key with subtle adjustments. I’m pleased with the overall arrangement and finding my way round Audacity with more ease is encouraging.

Alienation & Conformity (2015)


ALIENATION & CONFORMITY (2015) Rotoscope animation, 29 seconds, 337 drawings

The Tokyo Underground was a site-specific project was made between February-July 2015 as part of a series (Don’t Have Nightmares) which explores aspects of fear in art. The resulting rotoscope animation, Alienation & Conformity is a personal interpretation of how fear pervades daily urban life while living and working in alien environments. The animated passenger pan is a comment on emotions and anxieties endured over a period of time. The journey begins with a feeling of trepidation, being watched, analysed and under scrutiny and over time the tension begins to diminish though the fear is still underlying. Though the work is largely a personal experience, it also a comment on how an economic and political system can be ruthlessly exposed and pushed into the psyche of the inhabitants. The many who are caught up within these brutal capitalistic parameters, all carrying the same flag in pursuit of profit, wealth and the material gain.


The Tokyo Underground: Project Presentation (June 2015)

My last project (Don’t Have Nightmares 0.2: The Tokyo Underground) was to be shown earlier this month to my peers. However, and unfortunately, due to time limitations, the project didn’t get a critique (gutted!).

Final Reflections: To be honest, I don’t think it’s an accurate representation of the project, the main aim was to capture the fear in confined spaces on the Underground but filming was so problematic at times, I ditched a lot of footage. In hindsight, I should have documented more of the downs as opposed to ups on my blog. However, I’m pleased with the animation. I had little idea as to the end result. That’s the beauty of working with the medium.  Tales of the Unexpected!

Sound: I’ve done quite a bit of experimenting with the audio, using train ambient, crackling fire wood and buzzing insects in Audacity. Not great results due to my technical ability but I’ve assembled the audio to how I would like it.

PART ONE  Duration: 3.00 (with voice-over) 

The Tokyo Undeground: Don't Have Nightmares 0.2 (Part One)


PART TWO Duration: 2.07 (with voice-over)

The Tokyo Underground: Don't Have Nightmares 0.2 (Part Two)




Alienation & Conformity Collage (2015)

Alienation & Conformity 1-25.jpgAlienation & Conformity 26-50.jpg



Penetrative Repetition

As I spend two hours on the train each day, it’s not surprising that I’m often musing at the advertisements inside the trains. The advertisements envelope the commuters in the squeaky clean carriages. The ads themselves are fairly typical of most ads, usually  dominated by primary colours and edited to the point where any naturalness has been ruthlessly extracted. Over the past few months, the trend I’ve noticed is that the current Japanese graphic designers seem obsessed with penetrative repetitious advertisements dominated by one sex.

2 Fruit Juice 3 Chewing Gum 4 Tomato Juice 5 Hair Styler

5 Not sure.jpg 6 Lemon Juice



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.


The Tokyo Underground: Emerging From The Underground Experiments

When filming inside trains coming out from the underground into the overground, the visual effects can be quite dramatic. Here, I am particularly interested in the contrast between the dark merging to light, as if being released from a subterranean world. The sequence is shot from the first carriage. I was fortunate to be able to film without being obstructed by train drivers or passengers (that does require being up at some unearthly hour!). The graphic shapes in the footage offered a lot for me to experiment with. I found that the edge detector effect (again) worked well, enhancing geometric and linear forms.


This afternoon I was experimenting with selected frames from the footage. By adding more contrast and colouring areas, frames appear much more expressive with translucent characteristics. Sometimes analysing areas of interest (fig 4) and enlarging that particular area.  Multiplying the image and colour application dramatically alters its original form; interchangeable to a screen print or textile design.

1 Edge Detector 1 2 Edge Dectector 4 3 Edge Dectector 3.jpg 4 Edge Dectector



Emerging From The Underground using threshold effect with crackling cicada sound bite.






Part of my contextual inspiration comes from the Brazilian Social documentary photographer and photojournalist Sebastiao Salgado and a project of his called ‘Workers’ (1993)which depicts the kinds of extremities people have to endure in their daily working lives.

Salgado 1 Salgado 2 Salgado 3

From my own commuter drawings over the years, the Commuter Collage Triptych is a nod to Salgado’s work. The masses, compartmentalized, busily and sleepily fill the textured zones.

Collage 1 (Paper & Grunge & Nature  texture) Collage 2 (Grunge & Materials texture) Collage 3 (Grunge & Nature)


The Tokyo Undergound: The Moving (experiment 3)

Spent most of Monday and Tuesday in the Underground on Metro lines. Managed to gather miscellaneous underground footage of passenger actions, the masses on their way to work, train rushes and more passenger pans inside trains. I was surprised to find so many commuters as it is Golden Week (public 3/4 day holiday). It’s so true! There’s so much guilt over here about taking a bit of time off!  Anyway, today, started filming around 7:00 in the morning. Got some interesting footage which appears to be a sea of black and white suits moving along in droves. I’ll time my run slightly later tomorrow, around 8:30 just after the rush hour has past its peak. I feel I’m steadily building the footage which will be useful later in the project though I still aim to capture more of a characteristic which conveys intensity and chaotic movement.

Other than that, I continued to experiment with footage from earlier experiments. The edge detector effect makes linear form visibly prominent, clearly defining shape and form. As in experiment 2, the film speed stays at 48-frames per second which prevents, but not entirely, blurry and strobbing visuals.

* Experiment 3 (b) has audio included. An underground ambient though there is nothing to suggest that the footage has been enhanced by the audio. Visual familiarity?, nothing really to add other than that. (* footage not uploaded )

While editing, I was interested in isolating frames which offered more possibilities and explorations. The frames have been randomly textured using textures such as grunge, nature, fabric and material. In fig 4 I get a texture & colour clash whereas in figs 1 & 3 I feel there is more of a relationship between texture and image. So are darker, grungier textures more appropriate? Should I be considering appropriacy?

I feel I’ve got more out of today’s experiments and fortunately earlier than expected. The ‘contriving’ aspect of today’s tests has really opened up possibilities.

1 Grunge.jpg 2 Fabric.jpg 3 Miscellaneous.jpg 4 Nature.jpg



The Tokyo Underground: The Commuter Rapid (experiment 2)

Footage sequence: 25 seconds (approx.) Experiment 2 consists of three sets of footage. The commuters in various actions, as follows: Walking up/down platform steps, descending/ascending escalators and walking through tickets gates. The film speed has been altered to 48 frames per second using a posturizing effect. By doubling the film footage, I can remove the motion blur and any strobing from fast moving images.

Process/Outcome: During the edit the footage was chopped up into two second sequences on a high film speed. It was noted that the high film speed removed the motion blur and strobing and as a result, the footage is smoother and graphics crisper especially when using the posturizing effect. Having partly achieved my aim, I’m considering rotoscoping the footage. Later, I looked into adding audio. The visuals suggest a working community, cogs in a wheel moving though moving in various directions. The audio is a factory sound with metallic clanging. However, I’m unsure whether a factory ambient is relevant or enhances the visuals in any way. I’m interested in pursuing the performativity  aspect of the visuals. I feel I’m making some ground now but still a long way to go.

After the experiment, I researched into 48 frame film theory and came across an interesting article in Tested.com. Tim .J. Smith a lecturer in the Psychology Sciences department at Birkbeck University in London. He specializes in film cognition offers insight into how our brains process images and how perception interacts with the world of film. Below is a relatively recent (Jan, 2014) article about 48 frame film theory:








The Tokyo Underground: The Still & The Moving (experiment 1)

These past few days I’ve been out on-site (The Tokyo Underground) filming mainly around the Shinjuku area on underground and overground trains. Also, I’ve been using archive footage I took earlier this year, hence passengers in coats, hats and scarves attire.

Although I’m not over-excited with preliminary results, it was essential that I get the ball rolling.  Hopefully, these initial experiments will activate new ideas, generate alternative angles and I can gain more impetus over the next few months.

On a different topic though project-related. I’ve noticed how I’ve tended to become more impatient with projects recently. It’s like I DEMAND immediate success for my labour. This has been cluttering my mind for some time now. Is that because of all the overflowing imagery I now see on the Internet every single day? Or is it that everyone and anyone, creative or not has readily available software tools at their disposal? Again, I’m just needlessly ranting to myself as usual.

The Still & The Moving: Video Experiment 1

Footage sequence: 55 seconds. The first video is a combination of conventional footage; train passenger pans and commuters ascending and descending escalators and platform steps. The passenger pans are edited at a conventional 24 frames per second whereas the station commuters are edited at 48 frames per second. I played around with the footage, adding sepia for the passenger pans and threshold film effect for more graphic imagery. The combination didn’t work so I reverted back to the original.  At this early stage, I’m observing the chemistry between stationary and animated footage with the intention to capture intensity and calm simultaneously. Overall, visually, the moving vs the still dynamic is too over-whelming and the narrative is too clearly visual (if that makes any sense!). The passenger pans appear to clash against the pacey speeded footage. However, after playing with the graphical imagery, there are some visually interesting components which can be explored.


The Tokyo Gas Attack & Objects of Disobedience (for the wrong reasons)

Back in January I went to an exhibition in London called Objects of Disobedience. The objects exhibited were ones which were/ are used in movements to fight for or against something. You could say, for a good cause, of course, depending which side of the fence you sit on. Now to my point, a few days ago, I was filming in the Tokyo Underground in Kasumigaseki on the Marunouchi line. Kasumigaseki was the scene of one of the worst acts of domestic terrorism in Tokyo just over 20 years ago. It was here that deadly sarin gas was released inside the train. The perpetrators used their own objects of disobedience to puncture and release the sarin gas. In this case, the objects of disobedience were ordinary vinyl umbrellas but were used for the wrong reasons. The gas bags were punctured using the sharp spike at the tip of the umbrella. Like many people that live in a climate with a rainy season, vinyl umbrellas are as ubiquitous as a bar code on a shop product. However, after reading Haruki Murakami’s book-Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche, about 10 years ago, for me, these cheap vinyl umbrellas symbolise one of trepidation and I’m probably not the only one.

Vinyl Umbrella


In March 1995, Tokyo suffered one of the worst acts of domestic terrorism – The Tokyo subway sarin attack, though the media referred to the incident as the Subway Sarin Incident. The attack was perpetrated by the religious movement Aum Shinrikyo. The enforcers released sarin, an extremely potent colourless, odourless liquid used as a chemical weapon in several train lines in the Tokyo subway, killing 12 people, injuring 50 and affecting over 1,000 people who were on the trains of the morning rush hour, March 20, 1995. The targeted trains were ones passing through Japanese Government areas-Kasumigaseki and Nagatcho. The sarin was released on three metro lines by five perpetrators.

Details from Wikipedia





The Tokyo Underground: Drawings, Notes & Nostalgia from the Underground

Recently I have working on revamping archive Tokyo Underground passenger drawings. When I say ‘revamping’ I don’t mean improving, I mean reconstructing as to redesign overall appearance in order to portray a troubled state of mind or a moment of anxiety. I felt a wave of nostalgia leafing through old sketchbooks especially reading my often turbulent thoughts scribbled on the back of some sketches. And even today, after another hectic term, hectic surroundings, hectic frame of mind, I always say to myself, ‘never again’ but always return, always.

The context: Being inside a congested train during the rush hour can be a frightening experience if you’re not used to the daily crush. The close proximity among commuters can be unnerving as passengers are tightly pushed against each other. Here, my aim was to pursue this extremity visually. Over the years I have tried to capture these moments on film during the rush hour on the Tokyo Underground. However, I’ve usually been disappointed and as a result, discarded the film. Using my drawings, I’ve been experimenting from another angle.

Stage 1: ‘Distortion & Abstraction’ Using selected train passenger drawings, the aim is to create evocation through distortion and exaggeration thus contriving the image to suit my purpose.

3.jpg 4.jpg 69.jpg 83.jpg

Stage 2: The images are torn, fragmented and overlapping in various juxtapositions. ‘Intensify Congestion’ From experience, the uncomfortable rush hour moments are when having to endure heaving and pressing body parts in a confined space for  lengthy periods of time. Notes about my experiences follow: ‘Your face could be practically pressing on a hand, an alien hand that is tightly gripping an old creased-up newspaper. You try to face another direction but your vision is obscured by a mass of perfumed hair wafting around by the air conditioner. The Louis Vuitton designer bag jutting into your sweaty back. You attempt to look down and a child’s satchel is digging into your ribs. You are momentarily being held against your will inside a rapid shuttle shooting through the darkness of the underground.  Murray, June 1999

Abs 1.jpg Abs 3.jpg Abs 4.jpgAbs 5.jpg


Sink (1999) – Satoshi Tomioka

Satoshi Tomioka was born in Nagoya in Japan in 1972. At graduate school, Tomioka studied hydrodynamics at Tokyo University. He became interested in computer graphics while working part-time for a graphics company. After graduating he worked for Dream Pictures Studios until the studio closed down in 1999. He now works at his own studio Kanaban Graphics which received success for the series Usavich, a series of animated short films for MTV’s Japanese mobile service ‘Flux’.

Sink (1999) was Tomioka’s first film which is based on his own experiences commuting on the Tokyo underground. In the film, Tomioka depicts his subjects (businessmen) in an underwater world. Poking fun at them as they ogle at pornographic imagery. Tomioka’s imagery of the Tokyo metropolis is an extremely vivid and colourful one. Toy-like trains glide through illuminated tunnels. There are some captivating angles taken from inside the train. For example, at 0.54 the scene features the intensity of a packed commuter train so packed, train seats are not evident. Another angle focuses on views of the surrounding cityscape, skyscrapers bearing down on the inhabitants and the ubiquitous advertising hoardings completely mapping vertical structures. Sink portrays aspects typical of Japanese social realism in the 90s. Tomioka’s interpretation of Tokyo commuters is played with tongue and cheek; a society dictated and ruled by businessmen with sexually repressive characteristics living a monotonous existence. Having researched on Tomioka, there are suggestions that the shy and reclusive filmmaker is depicting himself in this manner. There are aspects of the animation I can clearly identify with and I would imagine my project will feature similar viewpoints of Japanese society.

Sink (1999)  

The Tokyo Underground: Preparatory Notes

Below is an excerpt from my Project Proposal back in March 2014. The intended project was to be a site-specific piece of art using the Tokyo Underground for the location. Currently, I am in the process of making preparatory notes for the project Don’t Have Nightmares 0.2: The Tokyo Underground , documenting an aspect of Japanese social realism.  The Tokyo Underground. Provisionally speaking, the focus will be predominantly on confined spaces and the intensity of the rush hour.


Site-specific art (artists/locations/mediums/exhibitions)

Tokyo Underground (history/maps/public signs & symbols/train designs/train times/statistical data/ /terrorist attacks)/train staff, uniforms,actions/graffiti/public services)

Japanese Social Realism- The Underground (commuters, actions, etiquette & train customs/Japanese subcultures/semiotics/suicides/ the rush hour)


March, 2014

Presently, I have one major project in mind which I am considering, it involves being site-specific and is a microcosm of Japanese society. I intend to use the Tokyo Underground as a work space. In the mid-90s, while an undergraduate at Bristol University, I was very inspired by a photographic exhibition titled ‘Workers’, by the Social Documentary photographer Sebastiao Salgado. His images reveal the kinds of extremities people have to endure in their daily working lives. Using the Tokyo Underground as the stage for my for my context, I intend to film at Shinjuku station and capture the everyday intensity that occurs each day during the rush hours.
Shinjuku station alone disgorges 900,000 passengers each morning, sucking them in again in the evening, some of the men (and they are mostly men) by now inebriated, before dumping them in their distant bedroom towns. Indeed, the commuting salaryman—the selfless company drone, one among a sea of dark suits pushed on to their morning train by white-gloved platform attendants—has as much claim to be Tokyo’s iconic figure as Christ the Redeemer has for Rio de Janeiro. The Economist, 2011
As an American journalist commented on CNN recently, “It’s just bodies squished as tightly as you can be into a small space. You can see people whose feet aren’t touching the ground sometimes because they are wedged in so tightly,” For my project, I hope to film sequences in the underground that exhibit the intense congestion within a small space (i.e. the train carriage). The rushes (footage) can then be animated using the rotoscope technique. As well as filming in the underground, I will also record visuals with a series of pencil sketches and photographs. The visuals will be included in the journal as part of the experimentation process.