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Compositor

Industries:
Animation | VFX
Personality type:
Creative
Departments:
2D computer animation | 2D drawn animation | 3D computer animation | Stop Motion

The lowdown

  • Constructing the final image by combining layers of previously-created material, including rendered computer animation, special effects, graphics, 2D animation, live action and static background plates 

Is this role right for me?

To do this role, you will need to:

  • have the talent to make artistic judgements
  • have the technical skills to make practical decisions 
  • be able to analyse and solve problems
  • possess extensive knowledge of current compositing software such as after effects
  • have knowledge of various other programmes including Photoshop
  • understand the 3D animation process, particularly lighting
  • have a good eye for composition, colour, light and shadow
  • have good knowledge of the keying process
  • have a methodical and thorough approach to work
  • pay close attention to detail
  • have good communication skills 
  • be able to work as part of a team
  • be able to take direction and be willing to address constructive feedback
  • be able to work with a minimum of supervision
  • be able to deliver on schedule, working calmly and efficiently under pressure, if required
  • have respect for the procedures and requirements of a particular studio, production or pipeline
  • have knowledge of the requirements of the relevant health and safety legislation and procedures

What does a Compositor do?

Compositors are responsible for constructing the final image by combining layers of previously-created material. They work at the end of the production process. They receive material from various sources including rendered computer animation, special effects, graphics, 2D animation, live action and static background plates.

Although it is primarily a 2D role within the 3D world of CGI and VFX (Visual Effects), Compositors need a thorough understanding of the computer-generated animation process combined with relevant artistic skills.

They creatively combine all the elements into the final image, ensuring that the established style of the project is respected and continuity is maintained. To achieve this they enhance the lighting, match blacks and other colour levels, add grain where required, add motion blur where required, and create convincing shadows. They make sure levels combine together seamlessly, keying, rotoscoping and creating mattes where necessary.

They work closely with Lighters and need to have technical knowledge of how 3D lighting works in order to understand the 'multi passes' that the Lighters create. They also work closely with Render Wranglers to progress work through the department.

Will I need a qualification?

To be a Compositor, it will help you to have a degree in an art-related subject, such as animation, design, illustration, painting, drawing, photography or computer animation.

If you are considering taking an animation, photo imaging or art and design/graphics course in higher education, the following courses have been rigorously assessed by the industries and awarded the Creative Skillset Tick for the high standard of education they provide and the degree to which they prepare you for a creative career:

Animation courses awarded the Creative Skillset Tick

Graphic Design and Visual Communications courses awarded the Creative Skillset Tick

Photo imaging courses awarded the Creative Skillset Tick

By the time you reach this role, you will need a minimum of two years’ professional experience. You will also need showreels demonstrating your artistic talent and technical skill.

As a Compositor it will be vital for you to have a thorough knowledge of the relevant software currently in use by the industry, such as After Effects.

What’s the best route in?

Your most likely entry route will be to enter the compositing department as a Roto Artist and work your way up.

Alternatively, you could gain an understanding of compositing in layers for 2D Animation using programmes such as After Effects.

There are several levels within the compositing department. The role described here is that of a mid-level Compositor.

You could also apply to be a VFX Trainee through Trainee Finder, which gives you hands-on experience in the industry and helps you build those all-important contacts that are essential when competing for a job:

More information about Trainee Finder

Where might the role take me?

With the right talent and skills, you could progress to become a Sequence Head, a Senior Compositor or a Compositing Supervisor. If you excel, you could aim to become a VFX Supervisor.

Interested? Find out more...

Websites

  • Animation Magazine - a US magazine about the business, technology and art of animation and VFX
  • Animation World Network - production news, interviews, jobs and a big archive 
  • Shooting People – community-driven site, founded by filmmakers, and providing opportunities, news and animation jobs 
  • Skwigly Animation Magazine - the longest running UK based animation magazine and community. Offers news, interviews, reviews, podcasts, videos and tutorials 
  • Toonhound – website about cartoons, animation, comic strips and puppets in the UK
  • Own-it - offers intellectual property (IP) advice, information and learning resources for the creative sector 
  • Animation Nation - Animation industry news and useful links
  • 3D World Magazine - international magazine for CG artists, covering the fields of animation, VFX, games, illustration and architecture
  • Computer Graphics World - magazine covering innovation in computer graphics technology across various industries
  • Cinefex - quarterly magazine devoted to motion picture visual effects

Books

  • The Art and Science of Digital Compositing by Ron Brinkmann (pub. Morgan Kaufmann Publishers)
  • Digital Compositing by Steve Wright (pub. Butterworth-Heinemann)
  • Visual Effects in A Digital World: A Comprehensive Glossary of over 7,000 Visual Effects Terms by Karen Goulekas (pub. Morgan Kaufmann Publishers)
  • How to Get a Job in Computer Animation by Ed Harriss