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Visualization Artist Mahshid Sadoughi Shares a Glimpse of Her World Behind the Scenes

Art is universal; that’s one of the most beautiful things about it. No matter where in the world one is from, it isn’t uncommon for an artist’s love of their field to develop when they are young. That’s exactly how it went for Mahshid Sadoughi, a senior visualization artist from Tehran, Iran, who realized her passion for the world of animation and visual effects while analyzing behind the scenes features back in high school. Eventually, all that examination and rewatching of her favorite films made her realize it wasn’t just about enjoying the movies themselves, but also enjoying the process of learning and knowing how they are made. From that moment forward, she knew she didn’t just want to be among the audience members of films, Sadoughi wanted to be behind the scenes herself. She wanted to be a part of the creation of it all.

While studying computer science during her undergraduate years at Sharif University of Technology, Sadoughi took every opportunity she could to learn more about art and animation. “I attended many art and animation classes, and I did a lot of self-education by reading and watching a lot of videos online,” she said. Her drive and dedication to her craft paid off with an acceptance to the Academy of Art University in San Francisco in 2014. There, she pursued 3D animation and visual effects, where she also became the lead animator for the graduate animated short films at the school program. With her unfaltering determination to succeed, Sadoughi even made the time to pursue her own work. “I used to stay until midnight in the school’s lab working on my projects until they would kick us out.”

Post-graduation, Sadoughi began an apprenticeship program at the world’s leading visualization studio, The Third Floor. However, only a few weeks passed before they hired Sadoughi to be on the previsualization (previs) team of The Walt Disney Company’s feature film Jungle Cruise (2021). There, she began to truly learn what a fundamental stage of the filmmaking process visualization is. “It’s something that is actually not taught in schools much, so I didn’t really know about it until after I started my career in the industry. It’s like a combination of everything we learn and practice in school: animation, layout, cinematography, composing, editing, and effects, but in one role.” That one role is called a visualization artist.

The Flash (2023) Credits

The job of a visualization artist is much broader than that of an animator. Where animators focus deeply on performance and polished final versions of animation, a visualization artist must know the basics of animation and be able to execute the basic principles of it. Essentially, it consists of one or more of three parts: previs, techvis, and postvis, which Sadoughi broke down: “Previs is when we draft the first pass of the scenes in a 3D virtual environment. We bring the vision of the director from the script/story boards on the screen. We set the scene, animate the characters and layout the camera and materiaize creative concepts into visual blueprints so the director can see how the shot should or would look like. Techvis helps us to evaluate the accuracy of our previs work in reality. We calculate and measure the technical aspects of the scenes to facilitate the execution of the cameraman and crew on stage; helping translate the work from the virtual world to the practical world. Postvis is when the film has already started shooting. There is actual raw footage (aka “plates”) of the movie that needs compositing and adjustments to look the way it’s supposed to. Examples of postvis work include removing the green-screen or painting out parts of the set, adding effects or CG elements to the live action footage, and adjusting color or lighting.”

The Flash (2023)

Sadoughi shared that it can easily take over a year to complete a project, with gaps in between each stage. The visualization team is usually involved from start to finish, which was the case for her work on The Flash (2023). “We were doing previs early on during Covid – that was when they were doing pre-production, and the very final shots were still coming back to us for revisions until earlier last spring. A lot can change during production, and it certainly changes the timeline. Productions don’t like to pass deadlines and that’s why we face a lot of “crunch” time in our industry,” Sadoughi recalled.

Jungle Cruise and The Flash are only two of the several notable films Sadoughi has contributed her expertise to over the years. Her resume as a visual artist spans numerous renowned projects, including Avengers: Endgame (2019), WandaVision (2021), Eternals (2021), Don’t Look Up (2021), Hocus Pocus 2 (2022), Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2023), Haunted Mansion (2023), and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem (2023), to name a few. While “every project has its own fruit,” Sadoughi mentioned, getting to work on Eternals was one of the most pivotal. “That movie challenged me the most and taught me to become the skilled artist I am today, and I’m very grateful for that. I did a lot of fight scenes and close up shots on Angelina Jolie’s character Thena. It was very beautifully done.

Angelina Jolie as "Thena" in Eternals (2021)

Similarly, Sadoughi fondly recalls working on Avengers: Endgame as a time where her dream of working on a Marvel or Disney movie literally came true. “It was the most exciting and nerve-racking Marvel movie I have ever worked on because of the gravity of it all and how epic the movie was. It was the end of an era, and there was a lot of pressure to make sure it was perfect. Watching the audiences’ reactions in the premiere screening was a priceless experience.”

Even with the resolved writers’ strike and ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike that have overwhelmingly ground the industry to a halt for the last five months, Sadoughi has been fortunate enough to be able to still move forward with some of the projects she was staffed on prior. Two major, much anticipated films she worked on have upcoming releases. “One of them is a Zack Snyder Sci-fi movie on Netflix coming out later this year. The other is a remake of a classic musical from the 80s produced by Oprah and Spielberg that will have a theatrical release. They both look great, and I can’t wait for people to see them,” she said.

For more information on Mahshid Sadoughi, please visit:


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