Turning his daydreams into spectacular augmented reality videos
Visual artist Aundraj Jude shares how he got into designing 3D and AR motion graphics and his experience pursuing creative work in Singapore.
As a student, Aundraj Jude found himself always being yelled at by teachers for daydreaming in class.
“I would always imagine things in my head that would make my current reality more fun,” he shares.
Today, the 30-year-old Singaporean creative channels that active imagination into making incredibly lifelike 3D augmented reality (AR) videos that will make you question what’s real, from colourful manta rays ‘swimming’ around Gardens by the Bay’s Cloud Forest, to one of Attack On Titan’s giant monsters taking a stroll along Singapore’s streets.
“My creative process begins with the thought: How do I make my everyday [life], something out of the ordinary? It’s like taking viewers on a ride through my daydreams and looking at the world with a bit more excitement, the very [thing] my teachers used to tell me was a problem.”
His creative skills have even earned him the opportunity to work with big brands like SnapChat and Hendrick’s Gin, and recently sold his first non-fungible token (NFT) on OpenSea, one of the biggest online marketplaces for digital goods.
Growing as a visual artist
Aundraj had been “dabbling in 3D” for a little over six months before the circuit breaker period last year, but was hungry to learn more.
“Only during circuit breaker did I actually have the time to deep dive into the complexities of 3D and how I could shape my style of work, rather than try to imitate someone else’s. I decided to try out Augmented Reality compositing work, which is essentially inserting 3D elements into real life footage.”
He spent weeks watching YouTube tutorials and attending virtual 3D seminars to learn more about the art, while juggling his full-time job as a video editor at local production house Epitome Collective.
“At the beginning, one of the biggest challenges was getting [the videos to] look realistic or believable, but eventually I realised that practising and learning from my mistakes are the keys to growing in this art style,” he says, adding that each video can take from a couple of days to a week to create.
One of his first videos to go viral was “Social Distancing Shark-forcer” – it has garnered over 1.4 million TikTok views – which depicts a great white shark ‘patrolling’ an MRT platform – inspired by an argument he witnessed between a safe distancing enforcer and a member of the public. “I thought: What if we swapped the enforcer for something more menacing, like a shark?”
In October 2020, Aundraj landed an exciting six-week residency with SnapChat, where he designed an interactive AR filter of holographic koi fish that look as though they’re swimming around your hand and growing scales when you aim the camera at them.
“No way did I ever think I would get noticed by any brands in general. [Working with] SnapChat opened my mind to the possibilities around the world,” he says. “It helped me realise that the world of AR is only defined by your creativity; there’s no limit to what can be created and sometimes all you need is to draw upon your own experiences and find the creativity within you.”
In April this year, Aundraj launched his first NFT collection comprising three of his best early works, but emphasises that it’s not just about earning money.
“When the NFT storm started taking over the creative world, I felt it was necessary to learn more about this space and get into it. Knowledge is key! Keeping yourself updated with what’s happening in your current field is a win in itself,” he says, adding that he aims to focus on adding more value to his future NFT releases, rather than just selling JPEGs or MP4s.
Overcoming fears and insecurities
Aundraj’s journey of becoming a visual artist began when he was “at a crossroads in life” while completing his computer science degree at Murdoch University. “I always felt unhappy, like what I was doing wasn’t bringing me joy.”
Upon graduation in 2017, he decided to take a leap of faith and built a portfolio by shooting and editing random videos, while working part-time jobs to sustain himself.
But even with his newfound success, Aundraj admits that his biggest challenge comes from inner fears and anxieties of failure, which he attributes to the stigma of pursuing creative work in Singapore. Growing up, he would often hear things like ‘You wouldn’t be able to make a living working in [the creative] field’.
“It took quite a bit of time for me to break away from that mental barrier to embrace it like I do today,” he shares. “I started learning more about the industry, and speaking with others who have been doing this for a while. Then you [can] build off that confidence and focus on improving your work constantly.”
What keeps him going? The ever-growing possibilities of art, especially in the realm of 3D and AR graphics, as well as the works of 3D artists like Beeple and anime like Jujutsu Kaisen that inspire him. “The idea that there’s so many more things I can learn or improve on makes me excited and hungry.”
He also hopes for his art to encourage aspiring creatives in Singapore, “especially those who are at a similar crossroads” like he was.
“My mantra has always been: There’s always going to be someone ‘better’ than you, so why not focus on being the best version of yourself? Stay true to yourself, and embrace the parts of your mind that fuel the creativity that makes your art unique.”