Reel Opportunities

Compositor

Also known as: Compositing Artist, Finishing Artist, Visual Effects (VFX) Artist

What does a Compositor do?

Compositors create the final image of a frame, shot, or sequence of a film, television show, or animation. They take all the various digital materials used (assets), such as computer-generated (CG) images, background plates, graphics and special effects (SFX), live-action footage, and matte paintings, and then combine them to appear as one cohesive image and shot.

Compositors consider visual aspects of a scene, such as realistic lighting. Anything caused by light hitting a “lens” is a compositor’s responsibility. They relight in order to improve the look of the image. They also create shadows and motion blurs as necessary to improve the shot.

Compositors are also responsible for continuity; making sure art from different sources and different artists looks the same. They make sure the blacks and other colours match each other in the image. They spot mistakes and either correct them or send the work back through the pipeline to be improved. Compositors ensure the overall style of the film is consistent and in line with the director’s vision.

What's a Compositor good at?
  • A good eye

    Recognize what makes an image appear realistic in terms of light, colour, composition, and perspective. Be able to scrutinize the media and work on compositions until they appear cohesive and consistent

  • Knowledge of photography

    Understand cameras, cinematography and how films are made

  • Knowledge of compositing programs

    Be adept at using relevant programs such as After Effects, Blackmagic Fusion, Houdini, Maya, Nuke, and Photoshop

  • Knowledge of the animation production pipeline

    Have a thorough understanding of the computer-generated animation process

  • Collaboration

    Be able to work with other VFX artists, use each other’s resources effectively and efficiently

  • Working to deadlines

    Work within given time frames, be able to complete work under pressure

Who does a Compositor work with?

Compositors work with the Visual Effects Supervisor to understand the final expectations. They also work with the various artists that create all the different elements such as:

Lighting technical director (TD)

There is some overlap between, and blurring of responsibilities of, the work of Compositors and Lighting Technical Directors (TDs), as lighting is such an important part of a film. Lighting Technical Directors are incharge of managing and creating the artificial lighting in a scene to match the scene requirements. Whether that be to match it realistically or add more of a fun lighting scheme.

Roto Artist

Roto Artists work closely with Compositors, as the mattes which Roto Artists produce serve as important layers for Compositors to work with. Often, Roto Artists work towards being promoted to a Compositor position. Compositors are expected to know how to rotoscope.

Compositors will also often work with Background Designers, Matte Painters, and Compositing Supervisors.

How do I become a Compositor?

It takes many years working in the industry to become a Compositor. However, some companies have Junior Compositor roles, which give you the opportunity to develop into a Senior Compositor position. You might get into a Junior Compositor role straight after college or university, or you might start in a related role, such as a roto artist or modeler, and work your way into the compositor role from there. The most important thing that you can do to become a Compositor is to create a showreel to illustrate your abilities to potential employers. A degree in VFX is useful too, especially as it gives you time to build up a portfolio.

Build a portfolio: Learn the software, experiment with programs, and create a showreel that you can show to potential collaborators or employers. Focus on producing a portfolio that includes relevant work to showcase your immediate practical skills. This is essential. Make sure you’re familiar with what’s out there.

More tips

For more tips on finding job opportunities, lists of training programmes, and other great resources, check out our Career Resources page.

Professional Organizations Associated With This Role

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Job Profile Design by Dave Gray. Based on an original concept by Ian Murphy/Allan Burrell.