User Showcase: Aliasgar Mirzayev

You (our readers) are filmmakers, creators and videographers. In our profession, it’s very important to share and talk to each other about our creative processes. However, we often don’t have this opportunity. Well, that’s why we decided to interview people within the field to ask them all the questions you might be wondering about. General, awkward, ordinary, extraordinary…all sorts of questions. We ask. They responded.

Today, we talked to Aliasgar Mirzayev from Azerbaijan. He is a young, ambitious, and outstanding professional in videography and coloring. He has worked from TV and commercials to cinematography and in the field also known as Ali “WMG”, where ‘WMG’ stands for the brand name of the company he established.

Aliasgar, we are highly thankful that you found time to talk with us. You are a quite successful colorist, and you are just 27 years old. Can you tell us a bit more about what has brought you to this field, and what made you progress further?
Aliasgar ‘WMG’: As I mentioned before, there was no straight way to the profession. I have soaked up experiences and taken all opportunities. Talked to people, looked at their work, and worked hard by myself. I started as a videographer. I worked on making films, advertisements, short films, fashion videos, and quite a few promos and videos for business. Overall, I would say that I have a pretty wide range behind me as an editor and videographer, before getting into color grade.

What is the most important in your job?
Nowadays aesthetic and cinematographic sides of the video are equally important as the technological side. Color correction not only gives a base color to a video, but also plays a huge psychological role. The color does impact us unconsciously. Let’s say you’re promoting a brand, and the main color of the product is yellow. If you would create a whole video that’s yellowish, viewers will associate the color yellow with the brand. Even if they will see something yellowish in real life and not in the video, ideally speaking of course. That is why color grading and the ability to create a video which may have an unconscious effect on viewers is a very crucial part of our job as a colorist. But, it’s not just color correction that plays a role in this process. You can’t do it without a decent pre-production stage, and so on. I would say that the most important aspect in our job is the ability to combine technology and aesthetics.

Do you believe that you have developed your own personal style?
(Smiling) I wouldn’t say so, it probably has been developed by itself. But that is what I can’t admit. It’s always better to ask viewers about your style, rather than explain it. However, as a videographer, I mostly make corrections the way the director or editor suggested. All changes need to be done in a way to enhance the video, which is usually in favor of the editor or DOP. It mostly depends on a project and its purposes, and not only on your own ideas and style. Depending on these purposes, you either underline one or another angle or object for your video… Well, I guess in that kind of job you definitely may have your own unique style, but It’s hard to judge yourself.

What influences you the most in the way that you work?
Mostly I follow colourists from the USA. To be exact, those who work in Company 3, even tried a couple of times to do my job. To be honest, it’s a part of my future plans to work in Company 3.

Do you have anyone near you as influential as Company 3?
Unfortunately not, I wish I would. But, with all my respect, I have to admit that Azerbaijan is way behind Europe or USA in videography or color correction. Here, specialists in that field are extremely rare. I can literally count them. To be honest, among colourists here, we mostly see people who do post-production, rather than color grade itself. However, that story is not about me. I wish to keep up exactly as a colorist. That’s the job I really enjoy doing.

Let’s talk about your job in more detail. Do you have a main tool in your work as a colorist? And in general, do you have a favorite material to work with?
I wouldn’t say that I use mainly one or another software, it depends on what exactly I need to achieve. Let’s say that if I need grain effect – in 90% of all cases I would go for FilmConvert Nitrate. If I need to achieve another effect, well, I may pick another plugin. It’s important in our job to be flexible in technology choice, as well as open-minded.
Usually, I get a well-edited piece of video which just needs to be finalized with color grade, so that’s what I do and the project is finished. Pretty much any well-edited video is fine to go. However, I personally prefer working with cameras like ARRI or RED. If I go out to make a video by myself, I would rather go for Canon or Blackmagic Design 6K.

You said that usually you get videos that need the color grade to finalize. How do you decide which exact colors and styles you will apply?

Well, that’s easy because in real life you always have to follow your clients’ desires. Quite often they may give me a reference, which makes work much easier. If not, I may adjust and try my best. However, I would not recommend it, especially for young colourists to start working without references from the customer. Because overall, your job is done when your client succeeded in their objectives. Never sooner. Therefore we have to understand clearly and precisely what exactly our client needs to see on a screen. So references are important. The starting point which is the quality of the RAW video is also essential. Based on those two factors we, as colorists, have to try our best to make the best possible outcome which will fit the client’s needs.

Do you remember your most iconic work?

No hesitation, no shyness, I love many of my projects. Basically, I mean that once goals are set and achieved – I already like them. From a creative point of view, I also have a few of my absolute best. I will do a compilation of my most loved works and send it to you.

That would be nice, Aliasgar. The last question for you is: what would be your advice to someone, who just got into the field?

Well, if I need to choose, then it would be “don’t panic!”. Believe in yourself and don’t panic, because things will go wrong quite often. It’s not about being perfect, but knowing how to adjust to failures. It’s very important to watch a lot of good movies in good quality. Always learn from what you saw, trying to amplify the techniques you mentioned. Broaden your knowledge about the light, how light works and how we work with light. It’s highly important. And last but definitely not least is to remember that screen is our eyes. Set up your screen as precisely as possible and rely on it, because it needs to be set so colors look accurate and as they’re supposed to.

Thank you very much for the interview.
Aliasgar “WMG”