My Post House: Charlex

Charlex Senior Lighting TD Salar Saleh

Senior Lighting TD Salar Saleh joined the Charlex team in the spring of 2010 with a high level of talent and expertise in CG animation. Prior to Charlex, Salar spent eight years at Rhythm & Hues, working on the feature films Fast and Furious, Superman Returns, Happy Feet, and The Chronicles of Narnia.

What specific projects do you currently have in the works?

We are currently very busy working on projects for brands such as Hershey's, Almay, Clairol, Charles Schwabb, and Cover Girl. We are also working on several Verizon spots, one of which recently required us to send a VFX supervisor to the shoot as well as an animator to creative the previs on set. It's been a really busy month. One of the really fun ones is a spot for Payday candy bars. It's a playful piece, and it's looking absolutely amazing already. It's nice that Charlex is able to handle projects from end to end. From design through animation, lighting, rendering, compositing, editing—the whole nine yards.

What else have you worked on recently?

We recently wrapped on a really exciting short film called Shapeshifter, which will be out soon. I'm excited for people to see it. Without revealing too much, it takes you on a dreamlike journey through a wide range of visually stunning environments.

What do you consider to be the next big thing in post?

There are at least two big trends I see coming our way. One of those is the promise of faster physics-based rendering. Traditionally, 3D graphics tend to involve a whole lot of cheating, so to speak—the inevitable mattes and compositing tweaks. Current technology does not provide the computing power to render using real-world lighting physics. But we're starting to see that change. Products like V-Ray, coupled with faster processors, are slowly making it more possible to work in a way that's very analogous to how we would light scenes in the real world, which gives us the benefit of more believable effects, but with all of the advantages of computer graphics.

Another upcoming trend is the advent of 3DTV. We're starting to see 3D stereo making its way into content for television. It's very exciting—we get to learn new tricks.

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What technology do you currently work with?

What new technology are you working with?

On the hardware side, we recently acquired a few Nvidia 3D Vision stereo viewing stations, since clients are beginning to invest in stereo content.

Software-wise, we've been toying with an interactive rendering solution called Rendition, which looks promising, despite some limitations. It's fast, but stability is still a bit of an issue.

What new products/technology are you looking forward to the most?

In general, I'm looking forward to when the technology starts to feel transparent, so to speak. As computing power increases, disk space is less costly, and software is more efficient and intuitive, we're able to focus less on the technical aspects of the work, and more on the important part: making pretty pictures.

What gets you out of bed in the morning to go to work in postproduction?

The fact that in this industry, you're never done learning. The industry as a whole is always evolving, and we as artists are always expanding our knowledge—creatively, technically, and otherwise. There are so many areas to master, that you'll never know everything there is to know. Plus, since the technology continually changes and improves and creative trends keep evolving, there's always something new on the horizon.

What is your best post memory?

Funny enough, for me, one of my most exciting memories would have to be dangling out the side of a helicopter near Los Angeles, shooting texture reference for the most recent Fast and Furious film. Heck, I'd probably pay to do that again!

What are your favorite/least favorite things about working in post?

One of my favorite things is being surrounded by such talented and passionate people. It's not a stuffy environment to work in. People tend to be casual and fun, but very dedicated. Everyone does this because they love it. Nobody's mother told them, "You better go work in postproduction when you grow up!"

On the flip side, the unpredictability of long hours can be difficult if you're not used to it.

What were you doing 10 years ago and what do you expect to be doing 10 years from now?

Ten years ago, I was doing feature film work in Los Angeles. While I sometimes miss working in features, there is something really nice about the quick turnaround and variety of doing commercial work. And let's be honest, LA's got nothing on New York. Sorry guys.

Ten years from now? I don't know. Hopefully, I'll be flying a jet pack to work!