Mitul Rajani, our Head of Animation, cuts an imposing figure (Creative Director Will often jokes that he is his own personal bodyguard). Tall, bald and bearded, hands decorated with rings and a discreet eyebrow piercing, he looks every inch a man who belongs on stage.
But what resonates with colleagues as well as clients is his mild and gentle manner, his dedication to camaraderie, his body of work and his ability to get the very best out of incredibly complicated technology.
We meet on a drizzly January afternoon at a coffee shop in the heart of London’s insurance district close to Within International’s studio, to get his take on animation and film.
Tell us, Mit, what’s your background? How did you get here?
“I was classically trained in film, TV, radio and theatre at ARTTS International in Yorkshire. I looked at every aspect of the industry from script writing, set construction, lighting, costume design, directing and camera operating. You name it, we covered it. It was there that I realised that I had a natural talent for editing and just naturally gravitated towards it just after beginning the course.
“Believe it or not, I then became an assistant editor working on a children’s TV show. The studios next door were the ones that produced ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’, ‘Big Brother’ and all the Star Wars films, so you could say it wasn’t a bad place to be for a rookie.
“I was lucky enough to learn from two very, very good editors who not only shared their knowledge and insight, but also allowed me to put what I had learnt into practice. This is where my career really took off. It is where I first worked with high-end broadcast equipment and found my passion for the industry.”
What do you think has been the biggest shift in film and content since you started?
“Now, screens are everywhere. TV has been superseded by the smartphone as the ‘first screen’, and the way we consume content has been heavily influenced by the introduction of mobile phones. We are now more exposed to them than ever before. They are in your pocket, on your nightstand or your desk, and then on billboards, bus stops and shops – screens are everywhere.
“Because of this, content has shifted. It is being created so that it can be easily consumed on smart devices via social media channels. Ultimately, though, more screens mean more content, and more content means more opportunity to drive our clients to more interesting outcomes.”
How has technology evolved and influenced your work?
“Film has come a long way from the analogue days to the digital present. In the early days, teams of animators used to painstakingly create frame-by-frame stop motion work that would later become fully-fledged films in their own right. But one thing has not changed. I still, as the old teams did, rely on our designers to create the foundations on which my final productions are built. From there, I get to decide on the technology and approach – and as the team here will tell you – I don’t like taking the easy road!”
“Using Cinema 4D as the basis for a primarily static identity is rarely done. Using sound to create the graphic devices is very rare, and the way we did it has never been done before.”
“My work on DLA Piper’s visual identity took animation about as far as it can go in the professional services sector; and huge credit to them, clients are seldom so bold. Using Cinema4D as the basis for a primarily static identity is rarely done. Using sound to create the graphic devices is very rare, and the way we did it has never been done before. This kind of software is so complex I couldn’t possibly do it justice here – that’s why I like to invite clients in and share it first-hand.”
What do you think is a key factor in the success of the studio?
“The key for our studio is making the complex accessible and involving the client in the process in a way that most studios do not. Technology in any given industry can be impenetrable to people who have not worked in that sector, and one of my main objectives is to demystify what we do so we can work more collaboratively with our clients.
“Our CEO, Ruxandra Radulescu, has always encouraged and fostered an ‘open studio’ approach. We have client visitors almost every day, and not just for meetings. We like our studio to be available as a space to reflect on challenging projects or as a place of inspiration to help our clients tease out those big ideas. I am central to this, given that my work is heavy in terms of data, and, rather than sending enormous files through firewalls, I would much prefer to send a car to pick up our client, bring them here and work with them over a coffee. This not only makes better work, it creates stronger relationships, and I like being the solution.”
“We have client visitors almost every day, and not just for meetings, we like our studio to be available as a space to reflect on challenging projects or a place of inspiration to help our clients tease out those big ideas.”
What else would you say has been the biggest influencer of your work?
“I will always want to marry audio and visual in new and interesting ways. I think sound is undervalued in film – there is nothing better to set pace and convey emotion. Ever since my interest in film and TV started, I have had a love for music. I actually play guitar and sing in a heavy metal band, and I like to think I have a natural flair for rhythm, which definitely helps with the editing process.”
So, where is film and animation going next?
“Moving pictures that are immersive and interactive have been around for a while, but you now have hardware like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift S that can transport the end user into a very real, first-person experience. Virtually anything is possible and that’s really exciting. The key is working with clients who have big enough ideas to make use of everything that is available. We are so lucky here – we have those clients, and the talent to deliver.
“Technology evolves rapidly. We must keep up and adapt with it and this also allows us to expand the way we think and approach projects. In closing, what is next is dependent not only on the technology or the clients, but the young designers we have assembled here. Nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing what they come up with. Our cross-department collaboration means I am just as likely to work with a graphic designer as another editor.
“So, where next? You decide, and if you can’t, drop in for a coffee and a chat.”
Get to know the power of animation. Contact us for a demonstration (and to meet Mit in person).
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Career progression, process and influences: introducing our Head of Film, Ben Neeves.