Post Office Studios: Animation in the Heart of Mumbai
Animation in India is something of an enigma. While the country is undoubtedly producing quality work, it’s hard to find someone in the industry who won’t reference the unique challenges that come with animating in the region. For example, it's a format that traditionally hasn't been embraced by mature Indian audience due to its kid-friendly reputation and funding for animation is notoriously hard to secure.
All of which makes the success of Post Office Studios that much more remarkable. For the past two years, the Mumbai-based studio has been crafting some of India’s best animation, from lyric videos for the world’s biggest artists (Dua Lipa, Jason Derulo, Nicki Minaj) to enormous brand campaigns, with many more in between.
To find out more about the company, as well as animation in India more generally, LBB’s Adam Bennett spoke to Post Office Studios’ chief creative officer Aditya Tawde.
LBB> How did Post Office Studios come to be?
Aditya> Post Office Studios was set up with the intention of producing high-end moving image content in advertising, film and music. We started off as a pillar under our branded content vertical, Supari Studios, due to their constant requirement for post production. However, seeing the growing demand for animation and motion graphics content that was led by good design, we decided to set up a separate company in September 2017, to fill in this niche. Ever since we were set up, we have always aimed to be unique and ahead of the curve, and stand out not only creatively but also technically, to match global standards.
LBB> Where do you guys see yourselves as a studio now, and how does that affect your work?
Aditya> The key to Post Office Studios’ success has been its deeply rooted culture focussed on fostering creativity, research and innovation, which enables and encourages our team to push the boundaries of creative storytelling, by developing a portfolio of unique and experiential work in the online video space.
In addition to being a design-driven organisation, we are also relatively tech-driven. We are investing more time into application-based research that uses AI and machine learning to automate the creation of 2D animation, with the end goal of making a professional looking animation piece easily creatable within minutes.
LBB> Since you guys started, has there been an especially defining project that you've worked on?
Aditya> Earlier this year, India’s largest paint company, Asian Paints, launched an integrated brand campaign called Colour Next, showcasing an expertly curated set of trends for the year 2019. The four trends this year were Adulting, Enchanted, Harvest and F-Lux, in addition to a handpicked Colour of the Year.
We were eager for the campaign films to be created using 3D animation. However, given that our primary strengths lay in motion graphics and 2D animation, having to create five distinct 3D animated films in a short span of one month was a challenge for our team, on both the creative and technical fronts. We had to put together a foolproof production plan to account for unforeseen contingencies, while simultaneously ensuring that we had the flexibility to rework our creative as and when required along the way.
Since commercial briefs in India are rarely this avant-garde creatively, we wanted to push the envelope to the fullest extent possible. We therefore collaborated with 12 artists based out of countries such as the USA, Russia, Belgium, Poland, UK, Italy, Spain and Chile, who worked in sync with our talented team based in Mumbai; thus ensuring that each film highlighted the uniqueness of each trend, depicted through a distinct creative style supplementing the same. Another upside of this project was that it led us to strengthen our 3D animation capabilities, which we have been able to add to our offerings.
LBB> Are there any brands/musicians that you'd be keen to work with in the future?
Aditya> Our work has been heavily influenced by music, which plays a huge role in inspiring our creatives. In the past, we have also worked very closely with Warner Music, to create animated lyric videos for artists including Dua Lipa, Adam Lambert, Jason Derulo and Nicki Minaj. We’d love to work with musicians such as Coldplay, Eminem, Arctic Monkeys, Drake, Kenrick Lamar, as well as brands creating innovative content such as Apple, Reebok, Adidas, and Under Armour.
LBB> You guys are based in Mumbai but you work internationally. Do you consciously try and keep an Indian feel to your work?
Aditya> We have always been extremely passionate to create content that is the right blend of art and technology. We believe that creativity needn’t resonate with a specific place of origin; we love to deep dive into each brief with boundaryless ideas to create tailor-made content that fits the brief best. Our core company ethos is to look for new inspiration, which drives us to make unique video content.
LBB> And are you intending to branch out to other markets in the future?
Aditya> We primarily started with 2D animation and motion graphics, and a year ago, set up a 3D animation division to be able to create innovative and hyperrealistic videos for brands who are looking for edgier content. We have recently started venturing into VR and AR, since more and more brands are changing their strategy, and want their audiences to dive into an immersive experience.
LBB> Speaking more generally, do you find any challenges when it comes to working in animation in the Indian market? If so, how do you overcome them?
Aditya> Yes, we do face several challenges, amongst which predator pricing and admirable quality of work with crunched timelines are the most usual ones. We are constantly researching newer ways to produce content efficiently and creatively, which in return allows us to spend less time to produce content and further reduces the cost of production.
LBB> Is there a challenge when it comes to how animation is perceived in India?
Aditya> When it comes to brand promotion and advertising, animation and live-action are the most common ways for video production. Many brands in India, however, are skeptical to approach animation as the way forward to connect with their audiences. This is largely because they feel live action is more personal, humanising, tangible and time effective. We are slowing seeing a shift in this regard, as animation not only simplifies complex topics but also can bring any concept to life.
LBB> What do you keep in mind when you're hiring talent? Is there anything specific that you look out for?
Aditya> We are always in search for talented people who are passionate and want to push themselves to learn and enhance their creative skills sets. As a creative organisation we always embrace uncertainty, taking chances, and learning to be OK with failing, as long as you learn from it.
LBB> Finally, where will Post Office Studios be in five years time?
Aditya> Our aim is to spread our reach to international markets as well, and put India at the forefront of design and tech-driven animation content. We’re also venturing into the creation of scalable and immersive content, by implementing new media technology in our core systems.
Aditya Tawde is chief creative officer at Post Office Studios