Meet Mathematical Animators Mr. Kaplin—The Team Behind Toob's "Wavaphon" Video [Q&A]

A couple of weeks ago, we showed you UK electronica outfit Toob’s newest video which consists of CG graphics acting accordingly to the mathematics of motion, the rules of what we perceive as the physical world. We watched it plenty of times, and each time the nagging questions about what exactly we were seeing would ring louder in our minds. What guides these geometric shapes in their seemingly random patterns of movement?

Finally, we figured we should just ask Mr. Kaplin, the design ream responsible for the “Wavaphon” video, about their mathematical approach to pairing visuals with music.

What made you want to make a music video based on the “mathematization of motion”?
We had already discussed making something more graphical than our previous work as our last few videos, including the one for Frank Eddie, were character-based. We can’t remember exactly where the idea came from to make the video about mathematics. We would love to say it was something beautiful and profound involving life or nature, but knowing us it was probably something ridiculous like, like why does Steve McQueen’s ball always land so perfectly in his glove? We watch a lot of films.

For the Toob video, how did you go about incorporating mathematical formulas into the design?
We knew we wanted to create a visual representation of mathematics in motion and while researching the idea we stumbled onto a great website as well as some other sites which have a great collection of animated physics applets. The applets influenced the core graphics and movement within the video, then it was just a matter of structuring it with the music and giving the video a little bit more style as well as substance.

One of the Vimeo comments on the Toob video says “you reach psychedelia through geometry”— was that the aim, to subvert as well as celebrate mathematics?
When we listened to Toob’s track we started reminiscing about all the old school VJ visuals you used to get at techno gigs and thought it would be fun to revisit that format. While searching for physics applets we came across a great quote from Einstein: “You should be able to explain the laws of physics to a barmaid.” This quote really helped direct the video into its finished form, creating a connection between the visual style and the themes we were exploring. Once we put two and two together it became quite an organic process and we were very happy with the form it took. All math becomes beautiful when it reaches a certain level of complexity.

Your previous video for Frank Eddie’s “Let Me Be The One You Call On” had a very different aesthetic, lots of cutesy character design. Do you like to work across a range of styles?
We like to work over a range of styles and mediums as it keeps it interesting for us and we don’t want to pigeonhole ourselves. It’s a real shame when directors get picked up for their style, get to make a couple of videos, and then you never hear from them again. We have huge admiration for directors like Anton Corbijn, Mark Romanek, and Garth Jennings. They can work in any medium or style and continue to bring something new to all their work.

When you’re making a music video, is it generally based on the lyrics or tone of the song, or do you have previous ideas that you bring to the table and think would work?
It completely varies from track to track. Sometimes you will be presented with a tune that has an incredible guitar riff or a beat and you can’t help but base your idea on it, like Gondry did with so many of his videos. On the other hand, if the song has a great narrative, it’s always fun to tell a story, without being too literal as you don’t want to make a Bonnie Tyler video. Tone is also so important, it really makes or breaks a video, we recently read Canada‘s breakdown for Battles’ “Ice Cream” which was all based on tone and structure and it was brilliant. Those lads are very clever indeed.

It’s early days for us. Most of our work has been animated simply because we have been living in different time zones and working over Skype, but now we are both based in London. We have a backlog of ideas that we are keen to implement into our videos, a lot of them using live action, but we try to be open to all possibilities from the get-go and let things develop in a natural way.

If you could make a music video with no limitations, technical or otherwise, what would it be and what would be in it?
We would build the interior of a silver bullet caravan in a suborbital spaceship and shoot a Buck 65 video in zero gravity.