Nice To Meet You... Lighting Lead Himanshu Khatri

Nice To Meet You... Lighting Lead Himanshu Khatri

Himanshu tells us what attracted him to Outpost Montreal and his journey through long-form animation to VFX.


27 August 2019

Reading Time

6 minutes, 23 seconds

Hi Himanshu. How did you get into visual effects? Can you start from the beginning and tell us where your interest came from?
I was always fascinated by games and computer graphics since childhood. I remember watching The Real Adventures of Johnny Quest and they had this Matrix-like world they would go into, and it was 3D! Also in the early 90s was Jurassic Park, it was one of the first big movies to use 3D graphics very effectively and that’s something that’s really inspired me. And I believe around 9th grade was when I had a summer break, and enrolled in a Photoshop class. From there, I explored 3D software. 3ds Max was the first I used and I discovered there was a whole world of possibility there. From there I decided I wanted to pursue 3D and VFX, and that’s what I did! I took a one-year course at Vancouver Film School and I’ve been in the industry since then.

So I know that after studying at Vancouver Film School, you were working in Mumbai.
There’s quite a story there actually. When I graduated, I had a decent reel for that time and had interest from companies like EA and Bioware. I accepted the offer at Bioware and I was going to be a character artist on the first Mass Effect, but unfortunately due to visa issues I couldn’t actually get the job. That’s when I moved back to India because I didn’t have a choice! So then I started working at Prana Studios, it was a big upcoming studio at that point in time. I mostly worked on long-form animation. In the early 2010s, they moved more into VFX work and projects like Tron: Legacy. That was the first real big VFX feature that I worked on. I initially wanted to go into the games industry, but due to circumstances ended up in long-form CG animation and then eventually moved into VFX.

Even with the circumstances in mind, do you think it was natural progression to go from games to animation and VFX or it was just a happy coincidence?
I think it was a bit of both. The core work is so closely related and the basics are similar. When it comes to lighting, good lighting is good lighting no matter the medium. Whether it is for games or for CG animation or VFX, you can always tell when it’s good quality. Within each format, there are different limitations and different challenges. So for animation, you have a little more freedom to play around with stuff because you are just creating it from scratch and you are not restricted to a plate, which is usually the case in VFX where you want to try and match the plate as well as possible, to integrate the elements better. So there’s a bit more creative freedom in CG animation, but on the other hand there’s something very satisfying in lighting something that matches the plate so well that you can’t tell it’s CG.

Is that one of the reasons why you like lighting so much?
Absolutely. There’s also the fact that you are contributing to the final frame. Lighting is where everything is coming together and the upstream data is finally collected in one place and you can start making it look pretty. What’s also interesting about lighting is that it gives you perspective of the overall 3D pipeline. I feel like in lighting, you can be really technical or you can be a really creative artist or a mix of both. It’s a place for everyone.

What drew you to Outpost?
I was intrigued because I knew that as Outpost had such a strong team built from the beginning, there’s no place to go but up. It was something I didn’t want to miss out on. I think it’s rare to get an opportunity to join a new studio and it’s interesting to be a part of setting up the culture and workflow.

What is it like working at Outpost? How does it compare to the other studios you’ve been at?
What I like is that it’s not a gigantic studio. Everybody is very familiar with each other, it’s a more welcoming environment. It’s also a bit more relaxed in terms of the hours; I can come in at a reasonable time and get my work done and leave! I really enjoy the freedom that we get and the unlimited vacation with Life Time.

Have you managed to use Life Time yet?
Well actually even before I joined, I had booked a two-week cruise to Spain! So I let the studio know as soon as I joined. Unfortunately, it was in the middle of deliveries but they were able to accommodate it. I was able to do a handoff to my team, and was able to make sure everything was set up while I was away and it went really smoothly!

What have you enjoyed the most about working at Outpost so far?
I enjoy the flexibility and I like that it’s a lot more hands-on work. I was leading a big team before at a previous studio, so didn’t get a chance to light shots myself – I was doing a lot more managerial tasks and setting up templates. Here I can dive in and I really find that to be a nice change.

Do you have any advice for aspiring lighting artists?
The most important thing is to be passionate about it as you are going to be doing it day in and day out. There are going to be times when it’s crunch time and it’s inevitable that you’ll be working long hours to get projects delivered. You need to love what you are doing. Also never stop learning, that doesn’t only apply to lighting artists but any artist in VFX. There’s always something new to learn!

Dog or cat? Cat
Tea or coffee? Coffee
What’s one thing you always keep on your desk? A notepad.
Sunrise or sunset? Sunset.
Are you a morning or evening person? Evening
Dark chocolate or milk chocolate? Dark chocolate, without question.
Star Wars or Star Trek? Star Trek because that’s the TV I grew up on and it holds a special place in my heart.
Fave movie? It varies but I guess The Matrix because it’s the one movie I can keep rewatching and I just find it perfect in every way.
Fave book? I really enjoyed Game of Thrones!
iPhone or Android? iPhone – I’m an Apple fan.
What would be your superpower? Invincibility maybe.
Do you have any pets? I have a cat – in fact I just adopted her! Her name is Ravioli.
Favourite thing to do to relax? Playing Overwatch. Although I don’t know if that counts as relaxation!
Fave game? I love the Uncharted series, Tomb Raider, God of War. It looks good and really inspires me. I look at them from an artistic point of view, how they designed it, how they lit it – it’s quite stunning what they are able to accomplish nowadays!
What time will you go to bed tonight? 11.
What are you currently learning? Little bit of matchmove, Mari and photography as well. I am always watching tutorials on YouTube everyday.
Rice or pasta? Rice
Ninjas or pirates? Ninjas are cooler!
Facebook or Twitter? Oh my god I hate them both! But I guess Facebook as I use Messenger sometimes!

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