Elysium-thanks-to-tristar-pictures_bannerElysium © TriStar Pictures

Roto Artist

Industries:
Animation | VFX
Personality type:
Creative
Departments:
3D computer animation

The lowdown

  • Tracing the areas of live action frames where computer graphics will overlap or interact with live image
  • Creating clear areas (mattes) within the frame to allow all elements of the scene to be layered convincingly by the Compositor

Is this role right for me?

To do this role, you will need to:

  • have an understanding of fine art or photography
  • have an understanding of composition and colour
  • show evidence of neat and accurate work
  • possess competent drawing skills, including good line quality
  • have basic knowledge of relevant software
  • be methodical, thorough and patient, with a good eye for detail
  • have good communication skills
  • have good team-working skills
  • be able to take direction and be willing to address constructive feedback
  • be able to deliver on schedule, working calmly and efficiently under pressure
  • show 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 procedure

What does a Roto Artist do?

Roto Artists trace the areas of live action frames where computer graphics will overlap or interact with live images. This creates clear areas (mattes) within the frame to allow all elements of the scene to be layered convincingly. This enables Compositors to combine all the various elements accurately.

The role of Roto Artist exists more often on special effects work, within facility houses or on projects that combine live action and computer graphics.

This process is called rotoscoping and originated in 2D animation when live action was traced as reference for movement or to establish where drawings needed to match to areas of live action. Rotoscoping is the first skill required by Compositors and continues to be part of a Compositor's role. On smaller projects, Compositors may do their own rotoscoping.

If the camera is not moving within a shot, rotoscoping may involve only one frame; however, mattes will be needed if the CGI interacts with moving people, moving objects or moving background elements and, in these cases, mattes may be required for every frame. If the live action camera is moving, Roto Artists trace the relevant areas of every frame within that shot so that computer graphics can be combined accurately with the live action.

In addition to rotoscoping, Roto Artists assist generally in the preparation of material for compositing, including such tasks as painting out wires and rigs; doing basic green and blue screen compositing; and grading live action plates.

Will I need a qualification?

To become a Roto Artist, it will help you to have gained a degree in an art-related subject, such as animation, design, illustration, painting, drawing or computer animation.

If you are considering taking an animation or art and design/graphics course in higher education, the following courses have been rigorously assessed by the industry 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

VFX courses awarded the Creative Skillset Tick

Alternatively, it is possible to gain this position having gained professional production experience, for instance as a Runner, as long as you can provide a portfolio demonstrating the necessary talent and skills.

Training in at least one of the industry-standard software packages will stand you in good stead. Familiarity with other software will be an advantage.

You could apply to be a 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

What’s the best route in?

This can be an entry-level job, straight from university or if you have been a Runner and gained the relevant skills and experience. Roto Artist is the most junior role in the compositing department.

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?

Having gained enough skills and experience, you could progress to more senior roles within the compositing department.

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

Newsletter

Sign up to our email newsletter for all the latest news and updates from across the screen-based creative industries to help your career, project or company.

Sign up