They're alive! A warped look at Japan's skylines

Updated 19th July 2016
They're alive! A warped look at Japan's skylines
Written by Stella Ko, CNN
Inspiration often comes from the most unlikely of places. For filmmaker AUJIK -- a monotonous train ride around Tokyo triggered a spectacular vision of tangled concrete.
That vision is shown in the four-minute film 'Spatial Bodies' -- and employs a mix of drone footage and animation to warp the skylines of Tokyo and Osaka. Above, is an excerpt from 'Spatial Bodies'. Here, AUJIK discusses how he created the film.
CNN: How did you come up with "Spatial Bodies"?
AUJIK: It popped up while I was riding around Tokyo on the Yamanote train line. I was listening to an Aphex Twin album on repeat. The cacophony of concrete structures, zipping by in various dimensions and shapes, presented an almost hallucinatory impression of the city.
The architectural landscape began to resemble a forest with trees, plants and all sorts of vegetation. I began sketching ideas but wasn't able to execute them until recently when drones became more accessible. My vision was to rearrange buildings so they could be structured like living organisms.
CNN: What inspires you about architecture in Japan?
AUJIK: Mainly the diversity and multiplicity of shapes. Japan is extremely compact and at first glance it might look chaotic but everything is very structured and organized.
I'm especially influenced by Gunkan and metabolism architecture -- like the New Sky building and the Nakagin capsule tower in Tokyo, as well as Hashima Island. I also really like places that feel artificial such as Odaiba. Also the old Machiya houses in Kyoto are fantastic.
CNN: What special buildings did you incorporate? Were there any ones -- like the Hitachi building for example -- that stand out to you and why?
AUJIK: Yeah, The Hitachi building -- also known as Tsūtenkaku (which translates to "tower reaching heaven") -- was essential since its been the landmark of Osaka for over 100 years and represents another era. It was destroyed during WWII and then rebuilt. Today, it's still standing strong.
Also Osaka's NHK building and the newly built Abeno Harukas -- which is Japan's tallest skyscraper -- became central and from which other buildings emerge. I also incorporated the house I live in, mainly just for fun. It's the closest to a self portrait that I'll ever do.
CNN: Where did you get the idea of bending and moving the buildings?
AUJIK: It was just to make it look more dynamic and animated. It was also influenced by Alan Watts' ideas of a wiggly world.
CNN: Who was involved in the production?
AUJIK: Just me basically when it comes to the whole working process. Japanese electronic musician Daisuke Tanabe made the music and we had a pretty tight collaboration.
I also need to credit my wife who assisted me while filming it. It was a bit nerve wracking to control the drone while also focusing on exposure settings and camera work.
CNN: What sort of programs did you use to create the video?
AUJIK: It was first motion tracked with Syntheyes and the sculpted in Autodesk 3D studio and rendered with Vray. Then composed in After Effects using Magic Bullet and a few other plugins.
CNN: How long did it take to complete the video?
AUJIK: I worked very intensely on it for nearly four months. There's always the trial and error factor so I had to redo some parts. It was also quite difficult to recreate the buildings by just using the footage as reference, so I had to find them on Google map to get a better idea of textures, shape, details, proportions and angles.
Motion tracking was also quite time consuming. I've been using this for most of my videos, but this time I had to do it all manually and with thousands of tracking points.
CNN: What sort of videos do you normally produce?
AUJIK: I've been working with this AUJIK concept now for a decade and my previous work has all been about AGI (Artificial General Intelligence) in relation to nature and consciousness mixed with elements of animism and esoteric ingredients.
My most ambitious work is a short film called 'CATHEXIS' and is about a synthetic limbic system and constructed sentient and emotions. That project had decent funding so I could use some actors and filmed with a green screen. It was also a collaboration with a Scottish electronic artist called Christ, whom I've been working with other projects as well. Lately, I have mostly been making music videos for artists.
CNN: What do you hope to show to audiences?
AUJIK: Some sort of distorted reality that will hopefully evoke some new perspective and insight.
For more on AUJIK's work visit this website.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.