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Posted Mar 04

7 career tips for compositors in VFX

by Giovanna Borges
7 career tips for compositors in VFX by Giovanna Borges

We asked compositors at MPC Film, Mr. X and Mill Film – all with varying experiences and backgrounds – to share their best career tips for anyone wishing to work in compositing in visual effects. 


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Get creative with problem solving

Daisy Bonar, compositing artist at MPC Film, says: "The best skill for a good compositor to have is to know the ins and outs of the functions and tools in Nuke. We are artists, and Nuke is our paint, canvas, and brushes. Get creative with your problem solving. Sometimes things just don't work the way you expect them to within your script, and you have to improvise, and come up with completely different ways to get to the end goal. Ask the people around you what they would do, try new things, and always have the finished piece of art visualised in your head to work towards.


Study the great masters in person
Charles Angus Taylor, compositing department manager at Mr.X, says: "If there is one thing that’s very important, it is a sound creative eye. Technical skills can be taught and learned, but without the aesthetic sensibilities to direct them, they are useless. The fundamental question a creative eye answers is: what looks good? 
Ultimately, the secret to a successful process is iteration. Iteration is a feedback loop of repeated applications of the process and is critical because it naturally converges on an optimal solution. With a sound creative eye, every iteration will bring you closer to producing beautiful images which please your supervisor and the client.
So, how to develop a creative eye? Study the masters. Rembrandt is my favourite artist, and perhaps the greatest of all time. His mastery of composition, light, shadow, and emotion is without peer. If you can, study the great masters in person. Beyond studying past greatness, get out there and create outside of VFX. Draw, paint, write music, take photographs. Be critical of your work, but kind to yourself."

Educate your eyes

Luddnel Magne, 2D compositing supervisor at Mill Film, says: "The compositor role is to merge/blend different materials (live plate, DMP, CG) to create one final image, totally reliable and close to the reality. To become a good compositor, you need to educate your eyes and create a vision and analyse to match any material based on color, contrast and sharpness. This is my golden trio! Everybody can learn how to use the software, but technique without a good eye doesn’t make a good compositor."

Balance art and science
Perrine Michel, compositing senior artist at Mr. X, says: "Some advice from my mentor when I started at DUBOI: 'A good compositor is someone who has a good eye, a good brain, and first and foremost, a good heart.' Which I have personally translated into having a good eye, having good techniques, being virtuous and having a certain common sense to balance art and science according to the situation."

Challenge yourself for something different

Xenia Pirojenko, compositing key artist at Mill Film, says: "Compositing is all about making the final image as realistic as possible using CG, 2D manipulations and very often your own resourcefulness and creativity! Achieving this always requires a well-balanced mix of technical skills within the software and having a good eye for details and composition. 
Always look at what senior artists are doing, study their image to find what makes it look more realistic, try to recreate the same look by yourself and don't be scared to ask for advice and help. And remember that when things seem to be too easy and simple, you need to challenge yourself for something different and more complicated. You will only learn by trying things that are hard and seem impossible."


Seek the solution your leads and supervisors suggest

Susanna Josef, compositing key artist at MPC Film, says:  "A good eye for details is probably the most common advice you'll hear to be a good compositor. In my experience, I wish someone would have given me a little tip added to that, which is the courage to ask questions and seek the solution your leads and supervisors suggest. This industry is rapidly developing, there are always new tools and techniques, and it's easy to get lost in this knowledge. However, it's always straightforward and time-saving to ask what your supervisor prefers as solution to be able to finish your task properly while of course being able to offer other solutions yourself to showcase your knowledge, too."

Have a combination of creative and technical skills
Ralph Reinle, compositing lead at Mr. X, says: "A good compositor should possess a combination of creative and technical skills. It's essential to have a good eye for detail and problem-solving skills. A background on photography and arts is of advantage." – thefocus.com

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