Mixing Light Interview Series

Accelerate your post-production career at https://mixinglight.com
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Today, I talked to Hootan Haghshenas, CSI. He’s a senior colourist with extensive credits, including the Oscar-Winner “The Salesman”, plus many feature films, music videos, and documentaries. His clients include Netflix, Disney, National Geographic, and more.

He studied cinematography at the Art University of Tehran. Hootan is also an accomplished photographer with a Masters in Photography from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.

Our discussion starts with his career in Beruit and how he ended up in Australia, scene-referred workflows, Baselight / Resolve differences, and how colour preferences differ between cultures. He also discusses how remote workflows have had a positive impact on his career opportunities.
Full show notes and additional links and related tutorials are here: https://mixinglight.com/color-grading-tutorials/interview-hootan-haghshenas/

What is Mixing Light Interview Series?

Team Mixing Light interviews colorists, color engineers, hardware vendors, and anyone else who can help you better understand the craft and business of digital color grading.

Hi, it's Kali Bateman here for Mixing Light and

today I'm speaking with Hootan Haghshenas.

He's a colourist who's just arrived in Melbourne

about a year ago and has done his Masters in

photography at RMIT here in Australia. But prior to

that he is an Iranian who worked in Iran and

then worked in Turkey in Istanbul and made his way

out to Australia only recently.

Hootan, it's so nice to have you here and it's so

nice to have a sense of what's happening in the

broader world outside of Australia.

Thank you so much for having me

Kali. I'm so happy to be here.

Yes, as you said, I've been doing

most of my career in Iran. Tehran is a

major post-facility and I just

moved to Turkey, Istanbul actually.

And I work on a couple of Netflix and Disney

projects in there and I just moved

here. So I've been around for a while.

You've been around and

you're very humbly glossing over.

You know, you're extremely well known, especially

in Turkey, and you've actually graded an

Oscar-winning feature film in Turkey.

So, you know, just take a few

Netflix shows, you're being a bit coy.

Can you tell me a little bit

about where you started in Iran and

what the industry was like over there and how you

got your start in color grading? Yeah, definitely.

So at my involvement in the color grading world was

a bit of an accidental event or

thing. So I was my honours, my

bachelor was in cinematography.

So back then in, I think around 2008, I was so keen

to be involved in the

board of the cinematography and

movie pictures and like camera works and lighting

and all those beautiful

things that all the DPs are doing.

But we had this lecturer back

in the university. So he was,

so I'm gonna name him because I owe

him a lot. So he's Mr. Alakruch. Yeah.

So he was a top-notch cinematographer, director of

photography and a member of the

IRSC, which is the equivalent of the ASC.

So they've got their own guild.

So at the same time, he was our lecturer and also

he had his own editing studio,

which actually his wife, one of the,

she was a very famous editor back then.

And he was very into all the digital, like, so it

was very new, all the

digital manipulation and stuff.

So he was very into it. So he was a bit now and

then he was used to try different, you know,

softwares like try them and stuff. And he realized

that I am also into

computer and digital image editing.

So he invited me over and so we had a lot of

different, you know, try errors and like,

we had fun with digital pictures, which there was

like none back then in 2008.

We didn't have anything to play with. After a

while. So the first digital

cameras came to Iran was by the,

one of the famous distributors back then. And it

wasn't an Alexa or ARRI, or RED or whatever.

So it was back then there was a company, I think

still they are working, but

not in the digital domain.

So they had this camera, which is called SI2K. Have

you heard it? No, I haven't.

What's what's the SI2K? Yeah, there was a company

called Silicon Imaging and

they had just one product,

one digital camera, which is called SI2K, which was

a industrial camera modified to be like a

function as a cinema camera, which a Windows

installed in the camera, which is very fun to

work with that camera. You see, you could see the

Windows logo when the camera was booting up.

So it was fantastic to work with that camera. And

so before that camera became available,

were you working with film at all or did you really

get into it? No, we as a digital colorist.

No, no, no. We didn't have any digital scanners

back to 2008. There was one, but just like rarely

used and just used for a few shots in a whole

movie. And the quality

wasn't very decent back then.

So it was it actually it was like all the chemical

lab and and all the color timers were

quite famous back then because they just know how

to use the like Hazeltime machine to time

or grade, you know, chemical process. But we didn't

have any digital DI process back then.

What we had was like digital cameras such as like

SD, Sony SD cameras, which used to record on tape.

And that was all the digital material that we had.

So that camera was the beginning of the whole

digital cinema back in Tehran in Iran generally. And

so since the camera was there,

and they needed someone to grade the footage

because it was the first time that people

came across with something called log picture,

which they had no idea what is a log picture.

So somebody had to grade the log picture for them.

So I had a chance to so my lecture actually

introduced me to the company that

was just like shaping shaping up.

They did because there should be there should have

been some some company to do all the

grading. So now I know I had the experience. So

they just introduced me and was just started.

Actually, I started the whole digital cinema when I

just it was beginning. So yeah,

I'm as old as digital cinema in Iran. Yeah.

Yeah, that's great. And what kind of material

was being shot on these cameras? Like

what sort of stuff were you grading?

Feature films, most of them, most of them. And there

was another thing. So there were some

other people who had the experience, but with like,

so sometimes they sent the material outside of

so sometimes they sent the material outside of

the country to be scanned and they just had the files

scanned back. So we had some more experienced

people which I had to opportunity to meet them and

learn from them. But like working on pure

digital camera files was like just was the process

of the beginning of the process and

and slowly red camera red one cameras were in. And

so like it was a knick and knack. So it's like 2K

Red started together. And but everybody was

demanding an ARRI camera and ARRI was thinking how

they should make a better workflow and more

standard workflow into the market because

everybody was confused back then at least seeing on

how we should deal with the digital files.

What's a LUT? What's the workflow? What's how can

manage the digital files? And where were you

where were you getting the information from?

Because I remember early on we didn't have

some of the resources that we have now. Where did

you find out what to do with these files? Or was

it all just trial and error? So I had another

chance because the company that I used to work for

so there was another company like a sister company

which was the distributor of those products. So

we always had constant connection with the

manufacturers such as they were the distributor

of the ARRI cameras like like Si2k cameras. So Si2k

was a company was based in Germany. So I had

the access to technicians in Germany and asked all

those questions and they were very willing to help

nicest people I ever met. And so yeah I could

update my information and you know like find out

how I should deal with those files because I was

not quite experienced back then in terms of using

the digital files. So yeah so that was the biggest

resource, the information

resource. And there wasn't

much information on internet that time back then

but slowly it was just like there was a huge

difference between 2009 and 2010 and 2011 because

like it was like a very very rapid

process of updating. Everybody was trying to update

themselves and they were also so generous to post

all the information over the net. So it wasn't that

quite hard to know more about you know the whole

process. And what kinds of films were being shot in

Iran that you were grading? What was the the

state of the cinema like? It was like 50% indie

movies, 50% funded by sometimes government,

sometimes like big facilities or like they had some

big sponsors. So like, studios.

exactly there is there is not studio type of movie

making back in Tehran. Most of the movies

are like done by the independent part of the movie

making world and the other one was like

founded by sponsors or like government. So the

studio system is not quite functional back in

Iran. I don't know how is it now because I've been

away from the country for a while so I have no

idea what's happening now. But back then it was

like 50% 50%. But the point was like the final

cost of the filmmaking on digital camera even in

the very early days was much much better,

much much lucrative for the producers rather using

negatives. So it was a rush towards the

digital production back then. So everybody wants to

use the digital camera and the company which I

was working for they realized that if they buy film

recorders like a laser recorders they can like

produce huge number of the movies every year. So we

had three of those laser recorders and we've

been very busy back then because everybody you know

liked to shoot on digital and record it on

negative because we didn't have any sort of digital

projections. All the projectors were

like in film projectors. So I remember there was so

there is this big festival happening every year

it's annually and one year we had too many movies

to finish for that festival and it was

it was like a madness to finish 20 movies in a very

short period of time but that was the thing

that we should have done it. So yeah and we did it.

That's amazing. So the process was you'd have

these films getting acquired on the new digital

formats and then you'd receive a turnover from

editorial and you'd conform it and grade it and

then finish it and it would be put back onto film

or projection. Exactly, exactly and we've been

direct connection with film labs like chemical

labs because having finished printing them on

negatives on films and especially we had

Fuji RDI Intermediates which were amazingly good

when we used them on laser printers and

we've always been in connection to get the best

results you know out of those recordings.

That's so cool. I mean you know I hear a lot about

people having experience with

like tele-cine grading and colour timing and things

like that but I haven't actually spoken to many

people who've had experience of printing back out

to film to be honest and I don't know if that's

just that I haven't come across it yet and there's

heaps of people out there or if it's a special

skill but did you personally have much to do with

the printing or is that handled by different

colleagues which were operators of those machines

but we usually we've been in connection in terms

but we usually we've been in connection in terms

of a colour accurate pipeline because then ARRI I

think they still have it I'm not quite sure but

they had something called ARRI Cube which was a

colour pipeline from the beginning to the end

so you would have you could have access to the like

how ARRI laser or ARRI lasers are going to

print so you could monitor it on your reference

monitor but anyways since everything was like

finalised in the chemical lab so we had to be in

contact with chemical labs as well but the thing

is that you had to be very patient because one

frames per second it's like wow. Right, get it

right. So that's how fast it's printed back onto

film and so that ARRI system you're talking about

was that like a viewer LUT like to emulate the film

as you were grading is that sort of what

it was or slightly different? Yeah it was like a

CMS program so something like

like Calman or like Light illusion that we we

these days, so it was like designed for that

pipeline so so you had to read your information

from your monitor and you have film profiles so

we could match them together and mix them together

and generate the final film LUT which you could

put it on your computer on your grading software

and you could monitor what's going to be like

roughly the final material. I say roughly because

roughly the final material. I say roughly because

chemical labs were on top of the

the fluctuation of the resolver just like heavy so

every now and then we would be surprised

by what we saw on the big screen afterwards. Yeah

by what we saw on the big screen afterwards. Yeah

by what we saw on the big screen afterwards. Yeah

sometimes it was quite red sometimes it was good

so yeah. Wow, wow that's so interesting. I suppose

so yeah. Wow, wow that's so interesting. I suppose

that's still something that you have to deal with

when you've got a digital cinema projection and you

know each each cinema slightly different

their lamps might be new or old or you know running

at full power or not so not much has

changed in that respect you still put it out in the

world and cross your fingers right.

And so you were in you were in that facility for

how long roughly did you work there before you

made the move to Turkey? I think 12 years 13 years

so it was there. Yeah so I've been lucky

actually before moving to Turkey so I had the

opportunity to grade Mr. Farhadi's "Salesman"

which won the Oscar and it was after that which I

received a lot of offers from overseas so

yeah so it was like a big jump-start for me to have some

recognition to be exposed

to the bigger world. And what was that grade like like

what was that process like?

Well I would say challenging so I had the chance to

work with director of photography

Mr. Jaffarian. Back then he was one of the most

famous and experienced director of photography

famous and experienced director of photography

in Iran and I had the chance to work with him and I

had the chance to talk with him because not only

I learned a lot about cinematography from him I

learned a lot about you know life and experience

of you know the professional experience of being in

the industry because we had

we had we had three months to work together because

the movie took almost three months to grade

and we did it twice so we first we did it based on

the references that Mr. Jafarian showed me and

we did the grade and so Mr. Farhadi joined later and

he decided that we have to adjust some scenes

and add a bit of like tone and touch to it so we

just he said okay we have our grading let's do it

another time and in a different way and he was so

happy second way second time hopefully he was happy

and I've never seen someone with that much energy

in terms of working so he just worked with us

during the day until like 6 p.m and then after 6

p.m he used to go to the audio until morning and

again he was joining us for the grading I I don't

know how to explain yeah yeah yeah but and and

but he was he was quite fine I mean working with

him was quite fun it was quite an experience

working with two giant icons.

that context of working with people who had big

reputations and on a on a big film I think it's

quite bold to throw away the first grade well I

mean I suppose you probably could have recalled it

but to make that decision to not to not alter it

but actually to go back and start again I think

that's you know I remember um a colourist who I

that's you know I remember um a colourist who I

greatly admire as I was coming up, Martin Greer

saying that you need to be prepared to

you know redo things and kind of admit when okay we

need to make a change in direction even if

the client's in the room, and can you tell me

about that how when when you made

that decision to approach it again from a different

from a different direction

that's that's so true that's I

mean sometimes you have to do it

sometimes you know like um so when

when when you just make something

sometimes you have to just break it break break the

whole thing and remake the whole thing again

and it's like it's like having a second um chance

to work on the same thing so now you know the

challenges you know the issues you know the

problems but this time you're ready to tackle

the issue you're ready to fine tune everything and

you know what's the wrong what's wrong in there

there was there there there's been time that you

just work on the shot which it wasn't it wasn't

working so it just like took a day to realize

what's wrong with the shot but the next time we

were ready so that the second the second time it

was so faster and we were ready and we knew the

issue sometimes you have to break it and remake it

issue sometimes you have to break it and remake it

you know sometimes you just just fix it you

have to break it and start over yeah not all the

time maybe no yeah I know and knowing and knowing

when you should do that you know that's got to be a

skill in and of itself, I mean I think

that's really interesting what you say about like

the first pass is almost a way to you know work

out what the problems are going to be it's like

research but it's like practical research and then

the second time you grade it

you're coming to it with all that knowledge that you've

built up through that first grade.

But it's something that doesn't happen very often,

especially not in indie films,

you just don't have the time.

And I often think about like editors, you know,

imagine if your first edit

was the one that ended up

being the edit for the film.

Like they have a similar process, I'm sure,

where sometimes they'll refine a scene

or sometimes they might start a scene again.

But often as colourists,

we're not afforded that time.

I mean, even, you know, you're saying you had a

three month grade for this film.

Like even that's not a huge

amount of time to grade it twice.


I don't know what the

question is, it's more of a comment.

Exactly. I mean, we had the

luxury of time for that project.

Not so much time for that because it should have

been ready for the release

and there was like a huge workload after the

grading, waiting for the movie.

But we had the time that we

could do all the experiences.

And it's not something like you

could do it for every movie, definitely.

Yeah. But the thing is that Mr Faradi was

he was ready for everything.

So he gave us the time and Mr

Jaffarion also the director of photography.

He was so calm and like and

he knew, OK, if it's the way,

so let's let's go that way

and let's let's do it great.

So, yeah.

But this was a very particular

project that we had the luxury of time.

Most of the indie movies, especially you have to

finish it in 10 days, 12 days.

So everything should be

when everything should be ready

when you're just starting, because

you don't have the time to go back

and change everything. So, yeah, definitely. Yeah.

It's a shame that we don't get a chance to do that

kind of hands on research

on every grade, though, wouldn't that just be nice?

You think about how much how much more enjoyable

the process would be as well.

So so tell me about so after

So so tell me about so after

that, you said you got a lot of offers

off the back of that film,

winning that very prestigious award

and it helped propel your career.

And what was it about Turkey and

Istanbul that made you go, yes,

this is the one I'll head over there?

I had I had I had a great

experience working in Istanbul.

First of all, for the first

project which I was invited to Turkey

came out one of the best

selling movies ever in the history of

cinema in it was a biopic about one of the most

famous Arabesque singers

in the history of the Turkish music and the

company, the digital cinema company,

they spent a lot of time,

money, effort making that movie.

And it was another job start, actually.

So by grading on that movie

was like another big leap for me.

And then the director of that same movie

just invited me for another project that he had.

So it was an ongoing project.

Then so I was being invited to

work on different projects.

And then Netflix, because Netflix and Disney

just invested a lot of money

in terms of production in Istanbul

because of the Turkish speaking contents.

The amount of the production is just like

unprecedented. It's huge.

So they really need talents to work in there.

So I have I had the chance to

work with a variety of different

type of director or cinematographers.

But the thing that was quite

different to me was just like I was so new

to the whole industry in

Turkey was the look of the picture.

So the realism and the

realistic approach to the cinematography

in Iran wasn't quite the same practice in Turkey.

So they wanted more

pictorial approach to the picture.

And I had to update my

understanding about the whole industry

because I had to know what exactly they want.

What's the taste of, you

know, the whole industry in there.

So I started to watch tons of Turkish movies to

realize what's happening in there.

But then I realized that they

just invited me to stay away

from the mainstream look that they have.

And they wanted to sell

something, something different.

So I thought, OK, yeah.

Can you tell me more about the

difference between the two looks?

So what was what would you say?

How would you describe the Iranian look

and how would you describe the Turkish look?

It's very hard to tell these days because now

just everything just like

getting similar to each other.

But back then,

I would say Iranian look was a bit more natural.

So the eye, so there is a

saying that eye is the reference.

And what you see on set, you should like produce a

movie, but in a better way.

So you didn't used to go like

crazy far away from realism back then.

But nowadays it's like like

it's the same as everywhere else.

But back then it was like, I

don't know, maybe that was because

because most of the DPs that I work with was

come migrating from the

film work to the digital work.

So in film work, you are like

you've got a few film stocks

and you've got the chemical lab.

So you're not you're not you're not able

to do all the crazy things that

like these days are just being done.

I wouldn't say by crazy the good way.

But yeah, yeah, sure. Yeah.

But back then it was like stay to

the realism, stay to the reality.

Scheme tones should be the most

proper skin tones that you could have.

What should be like in a correct way.

So everything should be like fine tuned.

But I like that that

saying the eye is the reference.

I like that it's the eye on set.

Exactly, exactly.

I like that.

And but in Turkish cinema, it was

a bit more pictorialistic approach

the whole whole picture.

So it should have it should have had mood.

It should have had like like

glow to it.

It should have had like

color to it, contrast to it.

So I had to learn how to do it.

But at the end of the day,

I just mixed them together.

So I just borrowed little

things from different like

aspect of the Iranian looks, Turkish look like.

And DPs are so they used to

invite DPs from Eastern Europe.

So again, it was the third look that was like

introduced to the whole thing.

So also had to learn how to do it the

way they just do it in Eastern Europe.

So what's the Eastern Europe taste?

So and what was the Eastern Europe?


The most pictorialistic

approach to the picture, I would say.

Yeah, it's very hard to define.

It's very hard to define it.

But I would say like Eastern

European director of photography has changed

Hollywood picture, changed, I think at some point

in history of the Hollywood

movie making, they changed the approach, they

changed the approach to the picture.

Like Janusz Kaminski, what he's

been doing, like in contrast to like

like standard Hollywood look, which

is like very close to Iranian look.

Actually, honestly, I would say

because like most accurate skin tones.

But but feeling free to do to go beyond the

horizons of like realism.

It's a scary thing.

You have to you really need

to know what you are doing.

Yeah and like why you're doing it

surely you know like what

the feeling for the audience is gonna be

I always think as the European look as being very soft

It doesn't have as much contrast

You know it's dark and...

It's like chalky blacks

This is just in my mind, like chalky blacks but low

and subtle, and the highlights are gentle

Maybe it's for having the sun at a different angle for what we're used to seeing in Australia

Would you say that's in the ballpark?

Yes, exactly, exactly.

And it was the first time I was experiencing

working with the same material.

So honestly, I was so confused.

So I didn't know how to,

should I push the blacks down?

Should I keep them soft?

Should I?

So because it wasn't my usual

practice working on that type of picture.

So honestly, I was super confused.

What should I do with that kind of picture?


So slowly I learned how to,

okay, no, this should be that way.

The contrast is like, it should be soft, should be

dark, you know, skin tones are like warmish.

So yeah.

And was it the DPs that kind of helped you with

that understanding by asking

you to grade in certain ways?

Or, you know, were you close with the DPs in

learning that visual language?

For the first project, unfortunately, I was alone.

So yeah.

So the wonderful DP Martin who's

passed away this year, unfortunately.


So he had to be on another project and he was far

away from the reach of the internet or any sort of,

you know, like possible image transfer location.

you know, like possible image transfer location.

So I had to do it with the discussion and with the,

so we had like just like meeting with the director

and he tried to explain the whole thing to me.

But unfortunately, I was a little bit alone.

So I had to experience it

myself and I had to learn it myself.

But after that, I had the opportunity to work with

director of photography from Europe,

from Germany and from Eastern Europe.

And then we had more discussions

and I learned slowly from them.

OK, that's the approach.

That's the way it was a quite successful experience

in terms of learning new ways of grading.

That's so fascinating.

Your instincts must have been good

that first time when you're on your own.

I still don't know.

And it's just like working fine, but I enjoy it.

And at the end of the day, I enjoy working on that

movie because the outcome was I think it was

successful and I received a lot of compliments from

the people that I just like.

I I believe that they are just telling the truth.

So yeah. Yeah.


And you were working for sort of large facilities

both in Iran and in Istanbul.

They were both facility

positions like on-staff colorist jobs?

Yes, fortunately.

Yes, fortunately.

So there was the big one in Iran and the other two

in Istanbul, 1000 Volts and Imaj, which now it's

still they are the biggest post

production facilities in the town.

And so I had another opportunity to work with

colleagues, colorist colleagues

in there and share ideas and tools.

I love that.


You learned a lot during those

discussions with other colleagues.

So yeah, exactly.

So yeah, exactly.

They were very willing to share their techniques

and they didn't want to keep all

those techniques for themselves.

So they were really sharing, very

willing to share all those secrets.

That's that's lovely.

And what kind of did you did you work on any

particular tools or were you a little bit like open

to lots of different systems or do they have like

an in-house system that everyone was on?


So back in Tehran, we started with Iridas

Speedgrade, which then became part of the Adobe

Speedgrade and then just

like merged into the premiere.

So there is no more Iridas.

It was it was a good piece of software.

Then we moved to Resolve after after a while.

But my first experience with Baselight actually was

in 1000 volts in Istanbul.

So I invited over for to work

on a project and a feature film.

And they said, we got Baselight.

We don't have Resolve here.

And I said, I'm going to do that.

Let's do it.

So I had no idea how Baselight just works.

And I had the biggest chance in

there because it was around 2010.

I think I don't remember correctly.

But I met Andy Minneth in there.

So he was a chief colorist, a

senior colorist in 1000 Volt.

And he used Baselight and he shared a lot of

information about Baselight with me.

Now he's one of the heads

of the FilmLight company.

He's worldwide famous.

But I had the opportunity to meet him.

And it was my first encounter

with Baselight system in total.

I think the version was like

4.4m if I recall correctly.

And it was quite different from the Baselight

software that we have these days,

especially in version 6, which is awesome.

But yeah, so I was very, very

curious to know more about the Baselight.

And eventually I had the chance to meet one of the

masters of the Baselight back in then.

And yeah, from so and then other companies,

they had Resolve, which is still have Resolve.

So it was juggling between

Baselight and Resolve back in Istanbul.

That would have been

fascinating to learn from Andy.

I just can't think of a better teacher.

How fortunate.

And did you find it a challenge?

Like obviously any new software is a challenge,

but did it have any

particular challenges moving into that?

Or were you just like a duck to all?

Or were you just like a duck to water?

The first thing was, I think

it was still in 4.4m back then,

was scene-referred grading, which I had absolutely

no idea what is the scene-referred grading.

What is an IDT? What is an RRT?

Which is RRT.

So because in my normal pipeline, we had the LUTs

So because in my normal pipeline, we had the LUTs

and we had the like ShowLUT,

we had the like Display, Target LUTs.

And those like normal

situations that everybody knows about.

But the Baselight was quite different.

So again, I was super confused in the very first

thing of using Baselight,

which was like, what is

that? What's the scene-referred?

How should I set the right IDT? What's an ODT?

And fortunately, we had Andy in

there to explain about all those things.

And honestly, I fell in love with scene-referred

grading right from, you know,

the first day I used the scene-referred because

even the tools were like feeling different

and the app DDD possibilities were like endless.

So you could do the grading

and you had different ODTs

so you just like could deliver in a

different like Target displays easily.

So yeah, honestly, you know, it was like the

concept of the scene-referred grading

actually just took shape in my mind by using the

Baselight the first time.

I know that you use ACES a little bit

in just through

conversations that I've had with you.

Were you using aces in

Baselight as well as Resolve?

Or how did you like to approach that?

Honestly, I quite like the T-CAM look.

It's only available in Baselight.

But anywhere else, I mean, aces

is like wonderful if you need it.

And honestly, I prefer to use aces on Resolve

more than Resolve's own color-managed system.

That's a personal preference and

it depends on the type of grading.

But honestly, if I'm doing grading on Baselight, I

definitely prefer to use T-Cam

because the mixture of the T-cam

and all the tools and like color space

aware tools that the Baselight

has, they've got a better relationship

between the tools and the T-cam in my opinion.

Thank you.

And what are you looking for

when you make that decision

about what ecosystem of color management you're

going to use for a particular project?

Do you look at how the footage responds under the

different color management settings

or how the tools respond or is it

a contrast or a saturation thing?

So, like, there are a lot of people who really

dislike the look of the aces

because there is a look like

because there is a look like

implemented baked in the aces color pipeline,

which is a very ''Kodaky'' look, in my opinion.

So it depends.

So the most important thing, you know, like to not

having a personal preference,

it's all about discussions with the DP and the

director and if they really like it.

So the thing is that I'll show

them all the options that we've got,

like in Baselight, it's T-cam and aces or like

maybe sometimes video grade,

which video space, which is

the basis, Baselight offers,

in Resolve in like its own CMS and aces.

So we can do the comparison.

We can decide which one is

much more suitable for the movie

because at the end of the day, the

most important thing is that, like,

what people would see on

their screens or on a big screen.

So it's not a personal preference.

And I think I shouldn't have a personal preference

because then everything would be, again,

would look like the same.

I agree with you so much about that.

And I was actually having this discussion just the

other day with a different colorist,

about having that flexibility and looking at what

works for the particular show

and not being too tied down to just

having one way that you like to work.

But when you're in a high pressure situation,

sometimes it can be really nice to just fall back

on the things that work for you

and then you find yourself doing the same things

over and over and over again.

But yeah, I really like that approach of just

seeing what works for the show and

what gets the DP and the director

to see the footage in a way that they wanted to see it, of course.

I love that. And so you must feel pretty confident

grading in all kinds of tool sets and all kinds

of scenarios. And like I know that you're kind of

bilingual with the Baselight and the Resolve,

but even within them, you know, you would feel as

confident grading in like DaVinci

Wide Gamut as you would in Aces.

Yeah, I mean, so you have to be ready

for all the challenges for each different color

pipeline would bring for you. I mean,

so Aces has got its own challenges as well as the

CMS, as well as the, you know, like the DaVinci

Wide Gamut, as well as the, you know, the TCAM. So

each of them, they've got pros and cons.

But yeah, yeah, so working enough on all of those

color pipelines would like add to your experience

as a colorist. So I think as a colorist, colorist

generally should try all of these, those color

pipeline workflows to realize what's the abilities,

what's the outcome of using, you know,

the particular color, color managed system, then

you could choose wisely which one would be much

more suitable for that show. So yeah. And do you

like to work, and I know this is getting into

the weeds a little bit, but this is where I kind of

get really nerdy and interested. Do you like

get really nerdy and interested. Do you like

to work project-wide in that, you know,

say, for example, Resolve Color Managed.

Would you work project-wide Resolve Color Managed

or would you like to do it in nodes?

- I definitely would go for the project settings.

Yeah, it's easier for me.

There is nothing wrong to

do it on your node structure.

But honestly, like if you take a look

at how BaseLight actually works,

so you set the proper color

manage system for your project

and you go through that project,

sometimes you change it to different things.

Because stacks can be color space agnostic.

So you could have different color space

for different stacks.

But generally, in an overall thing,

you have a general color engine,

which is processing your materials.

I would prefer to go like a global project setting

for the show, for the project, honestly.

- I'm the same usually.

I'm the same usually for

setting up color management.

And I know there's lots of debate around it

and some people like to work scene-referred

for some operations and

then come out of scene-referred

and do other things in display-referred spaces.

And I think it depends on the

show that you're working on.

But I like the tidiness of working project-wide.

And I also like how it kind of emulates that

simpler, telecine style of working

where you've got one contrast curve,

one tone curve for the whole show.

And you don't go outside of that.

So all of the choices that you might get funneled

through that and there's no option

to kind of go outside of that.

I think that kind of gives

you some kind of coherence

to the piece that you might break,

you might fiddle around with too much otherwise

because you'd have the option so you might try.

But in Baselight,

when you're working color management in Baselight,

do you ever mix and match your RRTs and your...

Sorry, I'm forgetting the exact terminology,

but do you ever sort of

work in TCAM on your timeline?

But... ACES for your RRT

like that or do you tend to stay?

- So you have to define if

you're working with the TCAM

or if you want to work with the ACES

because if you switch from ACES to TCAM

after like your grading, it wouldn't look correct.

- But you can use an RRT that's different.

- Yes, but--

-Do you ever do that?

- That's too complicated for me.

- You keep it simple.

- Yeah, yeah, when we just,

like most people I use like

fixed note trees in Resolve

because it gives peace of mind

and simplifies the whole process.

So for instance, node number, whatever,

it's just always my skin tone nodes

and node number one and two and three

is just like my basic gradings.

So I don't need to think about how many nodes

I'm gonna make and keep it simple.

I mean, just like makes the whole life easier.

If you keep everything just

like as simple as possible.

- I love that.

Do you like to work with looks or LUTs

or anything like that?

Do you have a little set of secret sauce

that you like to bring out?

You don't have to tell me exactly what it is.

- Oh, no, that's fine.

There is, there is,

after the internet, there is no secret sauce anymore

because people are sharing

ideas all over the internet

and so yeah, yeah.

And these days like if you search about anything,

you could find it.

- Well, I prefer a few scene referred

look development tools,

which I really quite like it

because then when the look is just like work

for the same referred color pipeline,

you will have access to different variety

of for ODTs or DRTs.

So you just use a particular look for your Rec 709

and that same look works very good

for your P3 sometimes,

Rec 2020 depending on the type of the curve

that you're using.

But you're not limited to

very like limited Rec 709 LUTs

that you might be using for in your pipeline

then because if you shift it to different ODTs,

which these days you have to deliver

a lot of different deliverables

in terms of color space and contrast

and curves and everything.

So you have to be,

I mean, it's easier, it makes life easier

to develop a look in a scene referred space.

So there are particular softwares to do that.

Honestly, we had the opportunity assigned

and thanks to you, I mean,

so you explained a lot about the chromogen

in baselight version six,

which is a scene referred look development.

So it's much easier.

And the point is that if you use this chromogen

for instance to develop your

look on ACES and baselight,

you can share it to resolve,

you can share it to VFX departments.

So everybody would be in the same page

in terms of using the same look.

So it's not like variety as different

and you can have different variety of the same look

in Rec 709, P3, which almost looks the same.

So yeah, I would love to use the look designing

and look development programs, plugins slash.

- Yeah, chromogen is really

something special I think.

I've never seen anything like it before.

For people who aren't familiar

with what we're talking about here,

version six of base light has

version six of base light has

a new operator called chromogen

which is a primary operator.

And it gives you the color space sort of like

you can almost bold it and shape it

using what they're called stages.

So you're directly molding the color space itself,

not doing secondaries or anything like that.

It's one of those things

that you almost have to do.

I can't really explain it without showing it

but they visualize the color space either as a cube

or as a...

or as a...

- EAB color model.

- Yeah, it's the EAB color model

but what's that other shape?

Well, I don't know why I can't remember

the name of it right now.

Anyway, they've got a different couple of shapes

that they visualize this color space in

and you use stages to define things like contrast,

color cross talk, the amount of saturation

and different parts of the image,

things that you might otherwise use curves for

like hue versus hue or hue

versus sat you can do there.

And you can develop really quite intricate

and specialized looks.

You can define densities for different tones

You can define densities for different tones

and different shades of colors.

And you can come up with

something that's really unique

and you can also, I think you could emulate

references pretty precisely

with something like that as well

but it's quite new and I'm

sure that the possibilities

with it are just gonna open

up as people start to talk

about how they're particularly using it

like all things.

So the workflow that we're discussing now would be

to sort of use that tool to,

within a color managed project

to then output a look in like either a cube form

or whatever form you can output.

And then you can pass it

around to various different parts

of the production.

So you might use it on a

split or in the camera on set.

You might use it for dailies.

You might use it for visual effects.

And then you might also use that as your show look

that you're grading

underneath when you get to the DI

or you might refine it in the process as well

because it's always gonna be open.

But that's a lot of talking from me.

I should stop and actually talk to who.

- I don't know if that's a

- I don't know if that's a

comprehensive explanation

because it's already new and

I think it's gonna be a very,

it's gonna be a favorite tool

for many colorists very soon.

- Yeah, and I think DP's are

gonna really like it as well.

- Yeah, because it speaks in the same language

as the DP's language, yeah.

- Yeah, yeah.

I can really see that being quite useful

when you're sitting down and

doing that look development

at the start of a show.

So we've gotten as far as Istanbul

and how long were you in Istanbul for?

- It was an on and off situation.

- It was an on and off situation.

So it was coming in, oh,

like it's like coming and going.

I think it was started from 2017,

but I think from 2020, I just moved to Istanbul

because I wasn't enjoying any more working

in Iranian productions.

It was quite a bit different from the day

that it just like worked

and worked with like masters

of the industry.

So I thought it's time to move

and I just move to Istanbul.

And yeah, spending time in Istanbul,

I had the opportunity to move to Melbourne.

So now I'm in Melbourne

and try to find my position.

And fortunately I've got a wonderful friend,

DP friends here.

So now we are working together

and slowly, slowly the whole business

is just like developing here as well.

- Yeah, so when I first met you,

your little, not little,

but your shop in Melbourne had just opened

like the week before.

And I met yourself and your business partner

and you had two stories.

One of them was with production gear

and the other one was for post-production.

And you of course were

heading up the post-production.

You had a couple of pretty impressive systems

there for grading.

And what was it that brought you to Melbourne

to begin with though?

Was it that business or was it the study

that you did at RMIT?

- Most probably it was RMIT's study.

So I thought, so I had, you know,

So I thought, so I had, you know,

like my progress through the years

was mostly towards the

technical part of the spectrum.

But I really had,

actually I really was super keen

to know more about the theory,

know more about why I'm doing this.

So I did a bit of research

and I actually finally applied

for a Master of Photography course,

which after a few interviews with lecturers

of RMIT, so they just like picked me.

And it just, the outcome was like unprecedented.

I wasn't thinking that, you know,

how the outcome would be, but it was massive.

I had no idea how they're gonna change

my whole perception and perspective

to the world of the colour and imaging

and digital imaging and everything.

- Wow. - So yeah.

So at least when I started new movie,

I got like few whys, big whys

and big question marks in my

mind that I have to answer.

So why should I, why I'm doing this?

Why I'm choosing that colour palette?

What's the correct approach to that movie?

So the way that I'm just doing the grading

is quite different from the

way that I'm just been doing it,

just like by following the instructions

and following the techniques.

So it's like a balance of the theory

and the technique altogether.

So it was, and now I feel it was quite necessary

to realise why you should

choose that particular colour palette

for that particular movie.

Is it all about the genre?

Is it all about the feeling?

Is it all about the

subconscious effect of the colours

on the audience's mind and, you know,

the feeling of the texture of the picture?

And everything is just involved.

And I had the opportunity to meet masters

of the industry at RMIT.

And I'm quite thankful to all of them.

All the lecturers were fantastic.

So I feel much more confident these days

in terms of approaching to a picture,

even just for editing.

It's a quite different practice these days for me.

- Oh, you make me want to go on to a master's

at the photography, that's awesome.

- And I mean, I think it's great

when you're coming into a country

that you haven't lived in before to, you know,

I mean, when you were going over to Istanbul,

you were going into work environments

where you were meeting people,

but coming out to Australia to be part of a course

and to have that kind of built-in network

that you get when you're studying, you know,

that's really great, you know,

because it can be hard to make friends as an adult

when you move.

I've moved a couple of times

as an adult and I've found

that it's not like it was

when you were kids and you just, you know,

oh, we're in the same class, so we're friends

or I've got a little boy and he's just like,

oh, you're my age, let's be best friends, you know.


It's a bit harder when you're an adult.

- I've been lucky.

I've got the best friends at RMIT,

you know, from the classes, which I love them.

I wouldn't think that I could have those friends

in my life in Australia.

So yeah, those are the best people

that I just met already and I quite appreciate it.

Yeah, some of them are just like huge photographers

based in Adelaide, based in Melbourne,

based in Sydney, but yeah, yeah, yeah.

- That's fantastic.

And you met your current business partner

who's somebody who you actually knew from Iran,

who happened to meet him in Melbourne

and came up with the idea of

teaming up to open AZ Studios.

So that was a good chance meeting as well.

- Absolutely, so he's got a big rental house.

Still he's got a big rental house in Tehran,

so he's quite active in their,

like providing equipments for big productions

and he realized that I'm here

and I realized that he's here,

so we had some few meetings with each other.

And we thought, I don't see why not,

we should do something in terms of what we love

and what we are gonna do.

And he provided all the necessary infrastructure

for the post-production

and now he just developing his production part

of the business.

And I think in the next few years,

the whole production would be,

post-production production of the AZ Studio

would be a very successful business hopefully.

It depends, it's hard to start when you arrive,

but it needs a lot of effort,

it needs a lot of extra hard work

that you really don't need to do it after a while

that you really don't need to do it after a while

when you publish your business somewhere else,

but you have to do everything

else again from the zero point.

This is what it is, but it's fun.

- Yeah, so I think that's true of anyone moving

and working in a new market,

whether you're starting a business

or whether you're a freelancer

who's just entering a new market,

because you're very established

and extremely well known overseas

and you're just now starting to get to know

Australian directors and DPs

and building that reputation here.

So can you tell me a little bit about

what that process has been like for you

and what kind of work you're working on now?

- Well, honestly, this is a very slow process,

knowing people, getting to know people,

and this is all about the trust

because nobody wants to work with someone,

they don't have trust on

them or they don't know them.

So you should slowly,

slowly get to know more people.

And this is the process that we are just doing it.

And every day we meet new people,

we meet new production houses,

we meet new DOPs, we meet new directors,

and we try to have as much

as possible meeting with them,

speaking, talking, sharing ideas with them

and grow the market in a positive way.

But honestly, it's a very slow process

and it needs quite a bit of time.

But again, it's a big challenge,

but it's the very lovely

and very delightful challenge

because that's what I love to do.

So it's like all the new ground to play,

all the new people that I meet, so why not?


- Yeah, yeah, yeah.

No, I get you.

That idea of a lovely challenge is quite nice,

but it is like, even

though we live in a global world

and you have colorists who are quite famous now,

people know who they are.

And I could probably name 10 colorists in London

who I've never met, who I'd be happy to work with.

It's different now than the way it used to be

when I first started where it was like,

what's a colorist, who's a colorist?

It's more widely known.

But at the same time, I don't know if it's because

Australia is quite small,

but it seems to be a tough,

it's a tough market to crack into.

And you've got a lot of networking that happens

and what am I trying to say?

I suppose relationships,

like you say, take a long time

and you kind of grow up

together in the industry in a way.

In Australia, there's like a lot of,

oh, we met at film school and

we're still working together

after 15 years and all of

those people start to get bigger

and bigger jobs together

and they've got these little networks.

And I can only imagine that would be quite tricky

to crack into, but your personality is so warm

and so kind and I think that people do enjoy

having a chat with you.

So that's gotta definitely help.

- That's so kind of you.

- I don't know if that's a question either.

That's just a statement.

- Well, thank you so much for that.

Yeah, I mean, it's the same as everywhere

if you just want to start over even in Iran,

I'm not quite sure how is the situation these days,

but everywhere else, especially these days,

which like being a colorist is

not as hard as like years ago,

2009 and 2010, because you

had to spend a lot of money

and infrastructure to run a studio,

but thanks to the development of the technology,

it's not harder these days.

So the competition in the market is higher than before.

So you have to work harder,

you have to compete harder

and you have to work much, much more than before

to establish, re-establish at least yourself.

But again, at the end of the day,

these are the challenges that you accept

when you just move to somewhere else.

And so the goal is to be successful,

but at the end of the day, you have to try.

- Yeah, totally. - Yeah.

- Totally, I know exactly what you mean.

You just have to go into it

going like, this will work,

just give it enough time.

But I mean, also speaking

about being in a global world,

my understanding is at the moment

that you're working mainly on foreign productions,

working remotely and working

in the cloud a bit as well.

So can you tell me a bit about that?

Because I think that's a really cool thing

that you're able to pick up and move

about as far away as possible

and still be able to work with your clients

over in Istanbul.

- Yeah, so the cloud is just like a savior.

- Yeah, so the cloud is just like a savior.

So it doesn't matter any more wherever you are.

And remote work is like easiest than before.

So years ago, you had to have a huge infrastructure

to work remotely, but these days,

thanks to all the technology, it's much easier.

So I still have ties with my

clients all around the world.

And when they prefer to work with me, for instance,

it's not that hard anymore.

So I don't have to be in there to work with them.

So still I have ties with projects

that just happening in Turkey.

So at the moment I'm working on a Netflix project,

it's a mini series.

At the same time, I'm working with a feature film

from Germany and projects from Australia,

not feature films like mostly commercials.

So the whole thing is just much, much easier.

And you really don't feel

that much difference these days

between being in the same location

or being far, far away from the location,

but working with the same people.

It's much easier these days to work remotely.

And sometimes it's even

better because now for instance,

like my director sits in his suitable room,

which he prefers to be in it, not in it,

like those unpleasant situations

that he really don't want to be,

but I would say the person prefers to be.

And I'm sitting on my favorite chair

few thousand kilometers away,

but we worked there like we

were sitting in the same room.

So yeah, it's easier.

And I think in the future,

people would prefer to work remotely,

remotely much more than even now

it's been practiced these days.

- Do you have any particular technologies

that you utilize for these sessions?

Do you use like Zoom or Colorfront

or remote monitoring or anything in particular?

- Yeah, of course.

So I started the same project.

So when I did the same Netflix project here,

when the studio, AZ studio didn't exist actually.

So the first part of the

project was happened in Postlab.

And they were using Colorfront solutions

for the real time streaming, which was fantastic.

I quite liked it.

And then Resolve introduced

their remote monitoring system,

which is also good.

And Baselight is also having their own kind

of remote monitoring solution.

So there are a lot of technologies around

and almost all of them are quite reliable.

So not quite different state of the issue there,

but it's good enough.

It's good enough to work

with any of those technologies.

- And how do you handle the

issue of different screens?

Do you like send an iPad over to your directors

or do you just ask that they look at it

on something they trust?

How do you deal with that?

- So for this particular

project that I'm working on,

we have a list of possible

monitors that they could buy.

So they bought almost the same monitors

as we have in studio.

- Oh, great.

- We are looking at the same picture, but some-

- Oh, that's perfect.

- Yeah, yeah.

I mean, it's impossible to

control the situation everywhere,

but yeah, sometimes iPads are working.

Like now most of the displays can be calibrated

as much as as close as

possible to the right picture.

So I would never know that if they are looking

at the same exact picture as me,

or if we follow some instructions,

at least the pictures are much, much closer

in terms of contrast and

color and gamut and everything,

but impossible.

I mean, at least in my situation.

- Oh, it's so good that

you've got almost the same monitor

or pretty much the same monitor going on

because that's the ideal scenario.

- Yeah, exactly, exactly.

- And then you think if both are calibrated,

you should be pretty much right.

- Yeah, yeah.

- Can you tell me before we wrap up

because I have taken a lot

of your time this evening,

can you tell me like what

you think the differences are

between these different

markets that you've worked in?

Is there anything that sort of is glaringly

obviously different between them

or is it just filmmaking's

filmmaking everywhere you go?

- Well, I think the Singapore language

is almost the same everywhere.

And people also, the contractions,

the relationships, the talks,

the terms are almost the same.

But I would say, man, if I'm gonna do a,

like a global comparison

between the Iranian and Turkish

and Australian cinema,

the approach to the picture and the final result

is a little bit still different.

I mean, in terms of everything,

in terms of the whole workflow,

which sometimes in Iranian projects,

we don't have such a show LUTs.

So every decision is just like made

during the grading session in Istanbul,

it's like a 50-50 person, some director photography

is really like to have their show LUTs.

And in Australia also is like a 50-50 person.

As my experience, I don't

know if it's correct or not.

So you know better.

But again, the final picture,

if you just put the same picture

from three different locations,

it would be like three different pictures.

So the taste of the region, it could be different.

But again, thanks to the digital platforms,

now everything just like

getting closer to each other

because like these are nowadays

are the references of the pictures.

So everybody wants to follow the same references,

which I think is not a very good thing,

but this is what it is, it's happening.

- Yeah, yeah, there does seem to be

a bit of convergence going on.

I mean, I think that just looking at your work,

and this is something that's

hard to know about yourself,

but I think you've got a bit of a style Hootan.

I really do.

And I think that when

people want you as their colorist.

as they're probably thinking,

I want a little bit of that

Hootan flavor on my work,

because when I look at your footage,

it's always, you're a very

well-controlled kind of gamut.

You shape your color ranges down and compress them

so that there's not a lot of

sort of disparate kind of colors.

You tend to choose a color scheme.

Like you usually use a like duotone

or tritone complementary color scheme.

And I tend to see like lots of cool tones

throughout your pictures as well.

And you tend to be like low

range in the mids usually.

And you don't do sort of

like real poppy bright stuff.

I wouldn't sort of think to myself,

that's a Hootan grade

if I saw something really bright and poppy.

Yeah, I think it's hard to

know that about yourself,

but even with all of these

different regional tastes,

I think that you're bringing something

that's a little bit you to

all of them, to be honest.

I try to not to do it, but it may be.

I know, but it's snazzy, right?

I mean, when you work on something,

even if you make something out of wood,

you put some of yourself in it.

Something from your soul,

something from your touch.

Impossible not to do that,

but what I've tried to be as much as possible

in a work in the favor of the picture.

So that was my goal, but again, you're super right.

You're absolutely right.

It's impossible not to.

I think there's just a little flavor there,

but it's not to say that your work is all the same.

I think that you just have an aesthetic approach

and everyone probably does,

but I think it's easier to see from a distance

than when you're in it.

Thank you so much.

I think it's a really beautiful aesthetic.

I'm definitely not saying

that they're all the same at all.

And of course you're gonna approach them

looking for the best things in that picture.

But yeah, you just have a

way of shaping your colors

that I think is really, it's

got a lot of subtlety to it.

And it's also really painterly.

And that might be that

European influence that comes through

because it's not all, you don't use heavy mid-tone

pivoted contrast that has lots of highlights

and lots of crunchy blacks.

It does have a lot more

range to the image I noticed.

And I think you also tend to have that duo

or tri-tone color palette

and you can have a little bit more saturation in it

when you aren't going as hard on the contrast.

I think these are things that

I would say from the outside.

That's what I see in your work,

but it's all very beautiful.

Thank you so much.

I mean, the first DP, the first lecture

I mean, the first DP, the first lecture

that just introduced me to the whole board

of the post-production,

he was one of the most pickiest people

in terms of color matching.

So we used to work together

and in the middle of the picture,

we used to say, go to the first shot.

And we just jumped to the first shot.

Oh, this is one point red, reduce it.

And it was that accurate.

So I learned to be accurate in that terms.

But again, you're right.

I loved that European approach to the picture

and it just stick to my mind somewhere in my mind.

So I really prefer that approach to the picture.

But again, yeah, these are happening

without you knowing it in your subconscious mind.

without you knowing it in your subconscious mind.

Maybe, maybe yes.

- Yeah, for sure.

I mean, oh, working with

somebody who's that precise,

that'd be definitely a good training ground.

But I can see how at the end of a long week,

you might be like, I've had enough of that now.

- Yes.

- On that note, I should probably wrap things up

- On that note, I should probably wrap things up

because I have taken a lot

of your time out this evening.

Thank you so much for talking to me, Hootan.

It's been absolutely great to get a sense

of your incredible traveling career.

So for Mixing Light, this is Kali Bateman.

Thanks very much.

- Thank you for having me, Kali.

It's been an honor to have a chat with you.

Thank you so much.