What does a compositor do?
Compositors create the final image of a frame, shot or VFX sequence. They take all the different digital materials used (assets), such as computer-generated (CG) images, live action footage and matte paintings, and combine them to appear as one cohesive image and shot.
Compositors consider visual aspects of a scene. Realistic lighting is a key one of these. Anything caused by light hitting a lens is a compositor’s responsibility. They relight in order to improve the look of the image.
Compositors do ‘chroma keying’ (also just called keying). This is where they select a specific part of an image that has a distinct colour or lighting and extract it to be used elsewhere. This method is commonly used with ‘green screen’ or ‘blue screen’ footage, where a subject has been shot in front of a singularly green or blue background, in order to be able to place the subject in a different setting or environment later, in post-production.
Compositors work as the last part of a VFX 'pipeline’ (the name given to the VFX production process). They can be employed by VFX studios or work as freelancers.
What’s a compositor good at?
- A good eye: recognise what makes an image appear realistic in terms of light, colour, composition and perspective
- 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
- 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