Interview – Shahin Toosi (CGA 2018)

Shahin Toosi - Shahin Toosi

Shahin Toosi started his career in VFX for the feature film in 2005 on “X-Men 3″ and has since worked at Framestore, Moving Picture Company, Industrial Light & Magic and Double Negative as a Senior Compositor and Look Development then progressing on to Visual Development Artist at Dneg, Marvel Studios, Walt Disney.

Shahin’s work can be found in such films as “The Dark Knight”, “The Dark Knight Rises”, “Scott Pilgrim vs the World”, “Captain America: The First Avenger”, “Thor: The Dark World”, “Exodus: Gods and Kings”, “Godzilla”, “Captain Marvel”, to name but a few.

How are you, Shahin? We haven’t seen you for a while, actually, where were you all these years? 🙂

I’m fantastic, thank you. I’ve been everywhere really, working with so many wonderful people from all around the world and learning something new every day.

After years of traditional comping, what was the reason for you to switch to more freelance generalist artist and VFX designer in look development stage? That is an unusual path for comper working in large VFX facilities?

Double Negative has been for me a safe nurturing environment to grow. Initially, I never wanted to be a compositor because I was colour blind and felt that I couldn’t ever move out of paint and roto.
Chris Burn and Vic Wade encouraged me to slowly transition into junior comp on Quantum of Solace with the support of Colourist from the R&D department That helps me by teaching me colour sciences and developing tools and techniques in Shake to overcome my difficulty with supported by training to better myself as a compositor.
Eventually, it was shows like Prince of Persia with Mike Ellis, Scott Pilgrim with Fraser Churchill and Bronwyn Edwards that got me out of my comfort zone and introduces me to Design and Look Development more on those shows.
I guess that was when the addiction to design, story and emotions started. Luckily working with Paul Franklin helped to me to develop this further and I learned so much from Paul F, Fraser C, Mike E and DNEG that helped me to get to where I am today.


Compositing software is becoming a more of generalist finishing tool, compared to traditional compositing by adding more Lighting and Rendering capabilities. Will we eventually see compers evolving and finally becoming generalist finishing artists? If yes, how should they start their transition?

I believe Compositors are already there finishing artist actually. With plugins like KeenTools, V-ray and Eddy is Clear evidence that the transition has already started. The real question is how far will we go and where is the line is drawn?
What we are missing is a clear definition and I think the market will decide this not us, unfortunately.

Deep learning is a hot topic in the world of computer image processing. How much will it help the artist to get better results?

I think it would just change what you will do on a shot, to be honest. Less time on technical aspects like keying and more time designing sequences with more focus on storytelling and making that special moment in the story.

Looking at your IMDb page, which film would you choose as your best work and the best experience?

There are so many current projects that I’m not allowed to say but from the past projects it has to be Scott Pilgrim, Batman, Prince of Persia and Blade Runner 2049 was the most fun project I’ve ever worked on as for the best projects?

Blade Runner 2049 is a beautiful film. You joined the show at pre-production and look development stage, way before any post-production on the film has started? What was your experience working with the VFX Supervisor and have you presented your work to the Director?

I actually was working for the VFX Art Director Paul Franklin at Dneg London, my initial job from my understanding was to develop an evolutionary look to what has been established in the original Blade Runner. I’ve worked with Paul Franklin in the past as a VFX artist on Christopher Nolan Batman series so we were no stranger to working together but this time working with him in the capacity as a director and filmmaker was one of the most valuable and enlightening experiences I’ve had since Scott Pilgrim.
Paul actively made sure we engaged into the story and not what was on the screen because Denis Villeneuve and John Nelson feedback were always about Narrative and Emotion of the moment which makes the conventional method of designs redundant for this film.
As team artist, we all needed to detach from our computer and go out in the real world to re-learn and rethink what are designs from the point of the view of characters in the space they lived in and use our own emotional liberty to influence what we created under Paul Franklin guidance and leadership.
Clearly, it was successful because we are here talking about it.

What’s the biggest challenge for you – working on a period drama (Becoming Jane), 007 action (Quantum of Solace) or dystopian Dark Knight universe?

The biggest challenge of working on a period drama is staying awake when your working on it! There nothing wrong with the genre just can’t stand the colour scheme that is used in that genre!


Team Bond or Team Bourne? Thor or Captain America? Where do you stand?

I’ll have my cocktails shaken with my Asgardian Hammer beside me! 😛

What was it like for you to work on a musical, such as Les Miserables or Sweeney Todd? Does this genre make any difference for you?

Really interesting acutely, if can quote Alejandro González Iñárritu “life is a rhythm” so basing you work around music really changes the way you lay thing out. Your designs are more animated as the show is mostly about rhythm which is life. Edgar Wright is very similar in his style of film there very musical and has a musical rhythm to his cut.

Was there a movie or TV series recently that inspired you? Can you recommend us some good movies to watch?

WestWorld I highly recommend anyone how wants to learn about characters and filmmaking should watch Westworld! For me personally, it was a life changer and influenced how I think and design

This will be your first Belgrade experience, right? What are your expectations both from the city and the conference?

Good food, Good beer and Good Heavy Metal, I’m just excited to meet everyone there and would like to encourage people to grab me and ask me whatever they like. I won’t bite.

Are you maybe familiar with some of our artists or movies? Any Serbia/Balkan related stories?

I’m currently enjoying a Serbian Metal band called “Trigger” I was hoping to catch a gig when I’m there but I’ve discovered they’re not playing. So when I’m visiting. I’m really hoping to meet as many concept artist and artist as I can while I’m there.

Your CGA presentation must be a heavy metal type?

The presentation will work in a mixture of Technical challenges of the approach to designing Joi and how under the leadership of Paul Franklin and Paul Lambert we evolved the look and feel of Joi through real-world futurist ideas of how holograms will be available in the 2049. Twisting logic based designs to narrative based designs of a character from a two-viewpoint of the character “K”, then evolving to emotionally based design through the character “Joi”. The question we ask ourself “thing that you would do for love” based around the apartment sequence of “K” and Joi’s love scene and development of the 3rd person created when Joi merges with Mariette.

Thank you Shahin! See you at CGA2018.

Shahin’s showreel is more than worthy of seeing.

Once again, November becomes the month of computer graphics, as CGA Belgrade hosts its two-day journey through the latest news, trends and developments in the VFX industry. We have worked especially hard this year to expand our main program, which we are proud to announce will feature two separate tracks! For big-picture thinking and groundbreaking ideas, make sure to look for the Know It All sign. For hands-on training and insider tips & tricks, don’t miss the Know How stage.

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