Michelle Brand is a German-English freelance animation director, illustrator and sound designer working across a wide range of aesthetics. She’s completely obsessed with geometric shapes, straight lines and perfectly round circles and focuses on visualising abstract ideas in abstract ways.


Toby Auberg is a Swedish-American 3D visual artist and animator who’s all about the unusual ways and means of making moving pictures with the computer machine. He’s really into sensory overload, abstract characters and virtual worlds, and sometimes dabbles in political themes.


Together they are founders of KINEMUS, an animation studio based in KAOS that combines techniques from 2D and 3D animation to create ethereal moving pictures and vivid virtual worlds.

When did you decide to work together?
Toby: We studied at RCA London together and moved to Germany during the pandemic, where we were working remotely from our flat. During this period we kept helping each other out on projects, and the idea of formally making a studio grew out of that.


Michelle: It came very naturally since I work in 2D animation and Toby works in 3D. When working, I would often need something from him or vice versa so we were constantly hiring each other. Our working methods match well, we can exchange ideas and help each other where needed. The work we do as one studio is a more happy, fun version of each of our practices. In some sense, there are now three directors.


Toby: By collaborating, we make work that we could never do separately. We are also less precious about everything, the other person forces you to loosen your grip on the work. We talked about creating an animation studio for a long time before launching it at KAOS. We initially worked in separate rooms and eventually took over a space which we transformed into the ‘animation room’ to work on projects together. Now we share the place with game developers and fellow animators. It’s nice being next to people who are in a similar mode. We all understand each other with the Zoom calls, crunch times and deadlines.

How do your animation practices fit together?

Toby: Nowadays, in the animation world the lines between 2D and 3D are being blurred more often. We’re trying lots of different techniques and approaches. In each discipline, there are painful and time-consuming aspects that could be done very easily by handing off part of the project to the other side. For example, doing facial expressions is very time-consuming in 3D, it’s kind of like building puppets. Whereas in 2D you can just draw it frame by frame, there’s no setup of muscles and bones involved. When you mix 3D shapes with 2D faces it makes life easier for everyone. On the other hand, doing camera moves in 2D is really hard. You need an understanding of perspective, keeping object and space consistent… In 3D it’s very straightforward.


Michelle: Aside from production techniques, there’s also a look or atmosphere that we can only achieve together. We worked on a music video where only by combining 2D and 3D we managed to create the look that we wanted. In 2D it’s hard to make things look mysterious regarding the technique, whereas in 3D things can feel quite sterile or rigid sometimes. There is a novelty when people see hybrid work where they don’t know exactly what they’re looking at. We like to confuse the viewer on how something’s made and blur the lines between what is real and what is rendered.


Toby: Conceptually, we both have a fascination with the abstract. I’m very fascinated with when something goes from being just a ‘thing’ to being perceived as having agency and character. I like playing with our preconceived notions of what an animated character is, and this works very well with Michelle’s interest in the abstract visualisation of time, space and movement.

What are you working on now?

Michelle: We are working for Outreach, a nonprofit organisation focusing on supporting local youth, who also have an office here at KAOS. We’re animating a piece for their website. It’s very nice because if we didn’t work at KAOS we would’ve never known of each other. It’s also refreshing to be able to have physical meetings, often our clients are in other countries so we do a lot of video calls.

What’s your dream project?

Toby: I just want to do short films all the time and not worry about anything else. Short films are great since they don’t need to target mass appeal so you have total creative freedom, you can take risks and be uncompromising.


Michelle: I have this idea in my head of an experience in a room or building where you can go on an adventure. There would be animations, projections, sculptures and objects, a moving floor or walls, maybe something in the air… Complete sensory overload! I want the whole experience to be very confusing to the viewer, the perspective is wrong, and they don’t know where they are in the room or what they’re seeing. I would love to collaborate with people so they can incorporate their own ideas and works into this.


Toby: Kind of like an animation funhouse experience?


Michelle: Exactly! If I had infinite time and money this is what I would make, it’s very ambitious, but this would be my dream project.

How has working at KAOS influenced your practice?

Toby: Since we joined KAOS we have been doing a couple of physical installations.


Michelle: Thanks to KAOTIS like Tinka, Phillip, and Charlie, we have been able to make totally new work that we would’ve never made otherwise. I wouldn’t have the experience, energy, or motivation to build something, but people here really motivate you to just do it. We can go to people with expertise in other fields and ask questions. So far we’ve made two installations for the summer parties. The last one we did was a big hanging projection screen decorated with abstract shapes, that Tinka helped us with. When the lighting condition is just right, the attempt is to confuse the viewer on what is real and what is digital. This installation also led me to make a 3D mural in a shop in Berlin.


Toby: Another great thing about KAOS is the parties that we host. For these parties, we all get together and build a scenography. You can collaborate with other people and it pushes you to make something new and fun and learn new skills.


Michelle: People organically come together and discuss the theme, whoever wants to do something can just do it. You can make something very big because you have all the space and tools available. If you have an idea, you can just do it and get others to help you. This removes a lot of barriers, I’ve made things I didn’t even know I could do.

Who inspires you at KAOS?
Michelle: Philipp Artus, he does animation projections.


Toby: They’re more like expanded animation installations, when we first discovered his work, it blew our mind.


Michelle: When he found out we were doing experimental animations we talked for hours, this is what happens when you put animators in a room, they can just go on forever about the intricacies of animation. Tinka is also very inspiring, he has so much knowledge and really gives you this energy that you can do anything.

Check out their new animation studio KINEMUS over at: https://kinemus.com/

Instagram: @kinemus.feed

Michelle’s website: https://michellebrandanimation.com/

Toby’s website: https://toberg.tv/


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KINEMUS Projects up to 2023