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Keyhan Bayegan on Forging New Paths for Working During the Pandemic

There are positive lessons to be learned from every difficult situation. During the lockdown of the recent pandemic, many of us were forced to stay home to avoid contamination. A byproduct of this was that entertainment became consumed in amounts unheard of in any previous era. The professionals behind these productions found inventive ways of collaborating in order to keep the pipeline open for an eager audience. Colorist Keyhan Bayegan found himself as busy as ever and open to adapting his work methods on a variety of projects.

This forced evolution has perhaps changed the way that Keyhan and the industry will approach their interaction and their work for years to come. This single industry and the professionals within it are setting a tone that much of the world will embrace and utilize as old rules require reassessment. Keyhan’s skill is impressive but equally interesting is his pliability when it comes to ensuring that the same excellent product can be achieved when you consider reinventing your process. 

Samsung Zflip Power And Sass
Samsung Zflip Power And Sass

Keyhan Bayegan’s resume includes some very impressive work; ranging from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (triple Oscar Nominated and triple BAFTA nominated) to Netflix’s AFI Awarded Movie of the Year Don’t Look Up, Disney’s twice Oscar Nominated Mulan, along with numerous commercials and music videos. While his skill as a colorist is well spoken for with such acclaimed productions, it’s his willingness to continually seek out challenges and learn from them which leads to such diversity throughout his career.

The physical limitations imposed by COVID were simply perceived as learning opportunities by Mr. Bayegan. In a piece for Vogue titled “How Top Model Vittoria Ceretti Gets Runway Ready”, Keyhan worked with the director on a series of remote supervised sessions to achieve the final impressive product. He describes, “Instead of sending stills and passes, we decided to do a live session. Talia (the director) had access to a calibrated monitor, which ensured she saw the accurate colors. I was able to make adjustments live and she could tell me if she liked it or not.

We also had Rachel (the DP on the call) give notes; looking at the same image with the same brightness and color range. All three of us were in different locations but able to work on the same project. With today’s technology, we can do this in other industries and we were able to adapt this approach in our workflow utilizing specific post production techniques used in motion pictures. That’s pretty cool. And it’s more efficient to work with these people like this.

It feels more collaborative and fun to do live sessions when we are geographically separated from one another as opposed to slower communication techniques. Being able to have us all on a call working live was crucial to dialing in a new look for the series. We wanted to try something new and didn’t have a lot of time. We only had a few hours to [color] grade this.” The final product speaks for itself with a 2021 aesthetic boasting poppy blues and oranges counterbalanced by the real world lighting of the exterior sun lit scenes. 

Keyhan Bayegan
Keyhan Bayegan

There were no hard rules for work during COVID. This sometimes included safe distancing work that required collaborators to be in the same room. While working on the Samsung commercial campaign “Are You Ready for This Life?” (the product launch commercials for Zfold3 and Zflip3), Keyhan sat in the same room with the key creative team to dial in the looks. A new product launch of this importance necessitated every minute detail be arrived at without question of clarity.

There’s a subtle psychology required for his approach to a project like this as Keyan relates, “There was a lot of beauty work involved. The product needed to look clean, pristine and cutting edge. When doing commercials, we are recreating an impression of the product itself. Therefore, as a colorist I have to make sure the viewer is looking at the product instead of the environment. Part of beauty work and color is to make sure elements that are not serving the story or product don’t stand out. We simplify the geometry of the image and confine the colors. Reducing the distractions will help the product to stand out.”

For projects such as the Broods music video “Piece of My Mind (Space Island Chapter I)”, Keyhan was able to communicate both in person and through the magic of technology like most of us did during the lockdown. Collaborating with the director and the DP on different continents, this video is a testament to the visual fantasy that can be achieved by the creativity of a colorist like Mr. Bayegan.

The color approach of “Piece of My Mind (Space Island Chapter I)” exacerbates the 70’s Sci-Fi personality of this music video for an exciting and unique aesthetic. No one was more enthused about the final form of this production than Keyhan who exclaims, ““The best part was being able to work with lovely people who were passionate about shooting on film. It’s so cool to see different people from around the world who share a love for the same format. And I love this song! I love working on a music video that I like to listen to every day.”

It’s that zeal for creating that permeates all his work and continues to draw others in the industry to him. An artist who thrives upon the team ethos is a highly valuable commodity in today’s production community. Equally as impressive is the determination of the creative spirit imbued in Keyhan Bayegan; he and his collaborators are exhibiting that there is a path forward in these unsteady times.

Writer: Coleman Haan