Beyond Rocket Science: In conversation with Gautam Singh

Beyond Rocket Science: In conversation with Gautam Singh
Meet Gautam Singh, a photographer, cyclist, squash player, and most importantly an animator who has carved his own niche in the Animation Industry as the cofounder of Rocket Science Animation. Gautam holds over two decades of experience in creating stunning 3D animations for TVC’s, Character IP’s, Product Videos and much more. From doodles in the margins of his notebooks to leading an award-winning animation studio based in Gurgaon, Gautam's journey is nothing short of the grit and determination to push the boundaries Animation in India.
Coming from a typical defense family, Gautam dreamed of being in the cockpit of a fighter plane but found himself sketching behind his school notebooks.
As a child I was always drawing cars, planes, spiderman and sneakers in my school copies and books. Teachers at the time didn’t appreciate all this drawing nonsense and generally pulled my ears and told me to focus on studies.
Joining a tech company- NIIT Ltd- as a graphic artist, after studying economics at Delhi University he says, “It was my first exposure to a startup culture; cool offices, young people in jeans, college culture and I was like wow. Life set!”
This stint was his first glance at design. He learnt not just about Interface & E-learning design but also software’s like Photoshop, Fractal Painter, Animator Pro and 3D Studio. Out of interest, Gautam also started exploring animation on Animator pro and 3D.
A 3D studio software from 1995. He says,”While working the mesh used to sometimes “break”. So we would work for a bit, press the hold button then continue working. If the mesh broke we would press the fetch button to get back to our last saved “
Animator pro. A gorgeous 2D cel animation software from the early 90s.One had to of course draw with a mouse since there were no pen tablets
It was then that Gautam decided to get serious about pursuing design formally and applied to design schools like NID and NIFT.
After clearing the written test but flunking the interview in ‘96 I decided to give it another shot the next year. Nina’s cheeky remark during the interview the following year – "Back again, huh? What if we say no once more?" – just made me even more determined to get in no matter how many tries it took!
Finally, in '97, Gautam walked through the hallowed gates of NID. At the time the place was buzzing with heavyweight names like Vikas, Suranjana, RL, Nina, Bini, Ranjan, Aditi, MCP, Choksi, E Suresh, NN Bhai, and Ashoke Chatterjee.
The amazing vibe at NID, where faculty were more like friends, exposure to amazing film screenings every day, and brainstorming at the main gate drew Gautam into the design life.
What blew my mind was the education system. The style of learning is so different from everything else we were used to in school and college. Seeing the work of seniors was awe inspiring and motivated one to improve. It was seriously the best time to be a student at NID.
Posters from Monsoon fiesta done by seniors of Gautam at NID in 1997
AEP 97 Animation batch
Within three months of Gautam joining, the Silicon Graphics lab at NID opened. This gave him a chance to venture into the world of CGI and VFX with rudimentary character animation tools that was a mix of CAD and an animation software. Alongside Arjun Gupte, Gautam learned Alias Poweranimator- a mesh of CAD and animation software.
He says, “At the same time I was just finishing my first film which I made in 2D. I drew and colored all the frames by hand and shot it on 35mm film on the Oxberry camera. After that process I thought - this is too much work man!”
Keys to the Silicon graphics studios 1997-much excitement
Arjun and I literally lived in the Silicon graphics studios.
My next film just had to be in 3D! It felt like stepping into the future. The VFX world was exploding, and I couldn't wait to be a part of it!
One of Gautam’s student projects at NID, “The Fence” told the story of a boy who wanted to fly a plane but was too scared to ask the grumpy pilot for a ride. The film- executed in 3D- was selected for the Toonz Week with the Masters 2000 in Trivandrum; an event that hosted legendary animators like Will Vinton, Bill Plympton,Joanna Priestly and David Fine.
He says, “Designing everything the traditional way but creating in 3D was a new experience. Learning how to make hierarchies, rig characters using joints and weight painting was all high-tech stuff in 1998.”
Clay models of the main character Mishan Singh
Mishan Singh Recreated and rigged in Softimage 3D
For his Diploma Project, Gautam raised the bar of student-led 3D Animation in India through his fantasy and experimental film, 8. He arrived at the narrative of a spider’s tryst against a bug zapper as the key narrative. In the story, the threat of diminishing food supplies forces the spider to harness the power of tech to solve his problem.
Rough sketches of the character
Wireframe and Rig
Having worked on Softimage, Gautam was determined to push the art to newer levels with lighting, texturing and rendering. Without online forums and YouTube videos, trial and error was the way to go!
The wonderfully crafted film made the rounds in film festivals and gave Gautam the visibility he so deserved.
ppling with the intricacies of Softimage -1999 NID
After a short stint at Famous Studio, he moved to Jadoo Works where he finally got to work on 3D projects commercially. Gautam remembers this time as the best learning experience in his career, a crash course into animation, timing and storytelling.
He says,” We started out making short ad films and tests for series like Pet Aliens (Mike Young Productions) and Vanilla Pudding (Wild Brain Studios) but things got serious when we started production on Higgly Town Heroes for Disney, an animated series for preschool kids.”
Handling the intense pressure and endless scene tweaks taught me a lot. Collaborating with different teams to deliver results—lighting, VFX, rendering—was a lesson in teamwork. Starting as an animator and ending up as a team leader was quite the circle of life experience. I had a team of six animators, two lighting artists, and one comp artist, and our job was to deliver 1 episode a month.
With the end of the series also came the end of that venture. In the wild wild west of the 2000’s animation scene, Gautam sank from Higgly town hero to unemployment in a matter of seconds.
Gautam was back in the game working as a 3D Character Animator at Miditech in Delhi. He jumped at the opportunity to work as a 3D Animator in Galli Galli Sim Sim, working alongside his NID peers. He worked with not just animators but also the puppeteers, actors, video shoot team, music people, writers and everyone else involved in making the Sesame Street episodes. Soon after the series ended he was again out of work.
Ta se tamatar. Video taken from Vivekanandas Youtube channel
Cosmo and Sosyo. Video taken from Vivekanandas Youtube channel
The roller coaster ride of employment troubled both Gautam and his friend Vivek. Soon, they registered a company specializing in both 2D and 3D animation. With a logo designed by his brother, Viraj, and hopes for the sky, Rocket Science Animation was ready for lift off.
He says, “We slowly built a good clientele and reputation for ourselves. Work was coming in regularly and we could think of ourselves as a legit studio in two to three years. 17 years down the line we now have a good list of clients, a solid body of work and an incredibly creative and smart team that keeps us in the game. Nobin, Neeraj, Yaman, Annanya & Caydon - you guys are rockstars!“
Gautam recollects their first film for the marriage portal as one of our nicest films they’ve done.
He say,” We were lucky to work on this film directly with Advertising guru Bobby Pawar. He had a very clear vision for this creative and pushed us at every stage. Both I and Vivek animated and coloured this film frame by frame! Really good times!”
We were doing the stuff we were trained to do at NID and getting paid for it. Doesn't get any better than that!
A nice fun stop motion film -Sunny Side up we shot in house in 2011
A really fun clay film we got to make for
Shoot for a stop motion ad film
Slowly the team expanded, even having Nobin- an award-winning animation filmmaker- on board. Vivek left RSA in 2023, 15 years after co-founding it and continues doing incredible work as always.
Talking about the processes at RSA, he says, every client brief is followed by planning for production, brainstorming, creating visual concepts, and occasionally some scriptwriting.
With 3D Animation, Blender is the primary software while Maya is used occasionally for certain requirements .The team gets the characters and background models ready and rigged. With the rigs placed within the backgrounds the animatic is timed to a scratch sound and ready for animation and lighting. Compositing works its magic on the rendered frames, sound effects are added, and the final edit is locked.
Sample storyboard for Zomato
Storyboard for nestle milk chocolate Nestle Milk chocolate
RSA skillfully executes their product films; from optimizing the CAD renders for Blender to rigging the movements and adding the right texture and lighting to achieve the exact look and feel. He adds,” Once the client is on board with the general direction, we get a music track and cut the video to that beat. The make or break for a product video is of course the lighting and rendering and that's what we really spend a lot of time on. “
The process of character-based films like CineBoy for Cinepolis and TVC’s demands a higher quality render and longer hours to be complete with fur, cloth or hair, while explainer videos are simpler and involve more scripting. But it’s the motion graphic projects that give the team a chance to be spontaneous and fun.
TV packaging identity for Reliance Mobile.
One of the most rewarding projects for the RSA team was the “The Havell’s Ram Leela” in 2018. Within the tight deadline, the team produced 10 films that depicted Ramayana in a shadow puppet style. Using plastic sheets to translate the puppets designed on Photoshop meant managing the physicality of the material alongside the filming.
We juggled storyboarding, client approvals, puppet design, printing, assembly, shooting, editing, and post-production simultaneously. Everyone in the studio was hands-on, leading to intense collaboration and problem-solving. Despite the pressure and madness, the films turned out great, and we enjoyed the process immensely.
While client projects are plenty, the animators’ itch to tell stories prompted the team to create a miniseries “Hukum Malik”- the story of a grumpy retired colonel and his do-it-all handyman Vasu. Gautam says,” It's very desi content and humor and we try to have fun while coming up with the stories.”
We can tell the stories that are close to our hearts. We can be more spontaneous and build an audience. And of course, if the characters or series become popular we can get serious visibility. It's a complete win-win, if you can sustain the creation and production.
Another one of RSA’s passion projects that aired on SAB TV’s Digital Chanel was “Rat Race”- a show centered around a dysfunctional office, with quirky characters and a dreadful boss. With a simple treatment that allowed for quick turnaround, the in-house project turned into a weekly release of 20 episodes.
The journey was not just creatively fulfilling but also immensely enjoyable. It provided us with an opportunity to showcase our storytelling prowess and animation skills while having a blast as creators.
Loglines- A lot of these stories were inspired from what actually happened in our office.
With an in-house team of modelers, 3D animators, motion graphics artists, lighting and rendering artists, Rocket Science Animation works on a variety of 2D, 3D and motion graphics projects.
As a studio we have a very open and collaborative workflow where each team member contributes to the project. We have more generalists and encourage them to work outside their comfort zone. If a lighting artist comes up with a good story, we are happy to roll with it.
Prioritizing a cultural fit apart from creativity and skill helps RSA create a great work culture where high-quality work can be produced by the happy team. He adds,”We also ensure to build trust and strong relationships with our clients. When our clients not only give us work but recommend us to others, we know we are doing something right.“
Experiments in Live shoot, motion tracking, CG animation, light and environment matching
With the aim to pick up more character animation driven projects, create animated properties and short films, RSA is optimistic about the future.
He says,”I saw some very inspiring short films at Chiaaf 2024 recently namely, Studio Eeksaurus’- Kandittund, Arana Puranam and Ujwal Nair’s Lucky Dog. I was seriously so inspired and at the same time felt terrible that as a studio we have lost that focus of telling stories and making our own films. Short films have to go hand in hand with commercial work. This year I’m 100% committed to making a short film (hold me to that)”
However, with the oversaturation of 3D content, somewhere Gautam also hopes to see the magic of 2D Animation light up the eyes of audiences across the world.
We are not machines. Our emotions are not generated in code. And the stories we tell are not so either. We will definitely have to use AI tools, but I don’t think it will replace us so soon. There are so many stories yet to be told.
To the young creatives, he says, “Focus on core skills and hone them. You need to be smarter and better than the latest version of Sora or Midjourney. Most importantly, learn how to network and promote yourself. Learn the art of business development. Creative people are generally not comfortable promoting themselves.”
On that note, we come to the end of this feature. We wish Gautam and the team at Rocket Science Animation all the best and thank them for their valuable insights. Until next time!
You can find the links to reach out to Rocket Science Animation and Gautam below:
pic credit- Abhimanyu Nohwar
Gautam Singh
Rocket Science Animation