Back to Top

    GelaroGrace Studio | World's Leading VFX Outsourcing Partner

    What is compositing? How to composite like a pro? Everything you need to know…

    Used in various blockbuster movies, compositing is the art of combining two different video sources into one, it’s a category of VFX used by cinematographers since the very beginning of filmmaking. Back then, it was done manually by cutting physical film, but thanks to the advancements in VFX technologies, now it can be done digitally with the help of a software solution.

    So, let’s dive deep into what is VFX compositing and how it’s done in today’s time.

    VFX compositing… What is it all about?

    Compositing is a word derived from the Latin word, the actual meaning is to bring together. From photography and films to painting, compositing is used in almost all kinds of visual mediums. The actual goal of compositing remains the same, and that is to create a single image with the help of multiple sources, of course, the methods used by artists can vary significantly.

    Keying can be called one of the most common methods of compositing, green background is used in this specific method. Then, the green background is made transparent with the help of the ‘chroma keyed’, and then the background is filled as per the specific needs of the filmmaker. The magic of keying can be seen in various movies, especially the movies in Marvel cinematic universe.

    French director Georges Méliès was probably the one who used compositing in its early stage. He came up with astounding cinematic special effects in the late 1800s, and his short film named Un Homme de Tete in which he comedically removed his head and placed it on a table. This dramatic effect was achieved by him with the help of various exposures and substitution splicing.

    Allow us to introduce you to another compositing technique, it’s called matte painting. If you have seen the film Sleeping Beauty by Disney, this is the one where matte painting is used. Some of the most exciting backgrounds were painted by artists onto glass panels. These were layered with other drawings and frame by frame, it was filmed to create the final output.

    Today, matte painting is used by various designers who are capable of creating some of the most fantastic landscapes and backgrounds that we see in today’s movies.

    Rotoscoping is another compositing method. Here, animators do the tracing of movements of live actors and they make their own animated characters that appear more realistic and believable. Star Wars is where you can see the modern version of this specific method. On top of the live-action footage, all the colored glow and sparks were rotoscoped.

    Motion capture technology is taking VFX to new heights. Here, actors can be seen wearing some special suits which are replaced with digital animations all while following the real facial expressions and movements

    Compositing and VFX…What’s the difference?

    There’s a difference, not all VFX can be called compositing as compositing is the form of VFX. VFX is all those special effects that are added to a movie in its post-production stage with the help of a computer system. The actual goal of VFX here is to make everything look realistic while enhancing the story. In compositing (the part of VFX), all the elements are collected together to come up with a single video. let’s have a look at an example- Jurassic Park, a separate program that has been used to create all those 3D animated models of dinosaurs as well as their environments, and they have been brought into the film with the help of compositing.

    How to composite like a pro?

    Know these important techniques.

    • Blue or Green Screen

    If you are preparing a shot for post-production compositing, then using a blue or green screen is probably the easiest way. On these boldly colored large screens, actors will perform in front of these big screens, and with the help of chroma keying, you can pick the footage, remove all the shades of blue and green, and you can feel free to add a new image to that blank space.

    In most films and movies, this method is used widely where all those backgrounds look realistic. For instance, the film Zodiac was expected to be in San Fransisco, the scenes were first recorded on a blue screen set and then all those city streets were created digitally.

    • Masking

    Here is yet another important tool in video compositing, masking allows you to select a specific area of the image which you want to edit, and all those changes you will make will appear only on the selected part. Video editing tools generally allow you to quickly and easily cut out some kinds of shapes, circles, squares, and you can be a little more accurate with the help of drawing tool to trace around specific objects.

    If you want to adjust how opaque a mask is or the harshness of the mask edges, you will find some settings that will allow you to achieve such tasks. According to the layers they are placed on, the masks will move and transform, you can also lock a mask in a specific place or move only the mask, there are tools for almost every task.

    • Blending modes

    Also called transfer modes, blending modes are those effects that can be added to a layer of visual effects composition and this will affect the colors of the layer under it. It can be related to adding a silhouette, color keying, or color effect.

    Let’s have a look at some common blending modes:
    • Screen:

    This blending mode helps in removing all the dark areas of a new layer, you can add a layer with a black background, and the composite scene can be created by removing the black background. The addition of snowflakes on the black background can be a great example in this regard. What screen blending will do here is it will remove all the black areas while leaving only the snowflakes on top of your image.

    • Multiply:

    Just the opposite of the screen, this can help in removing light areas from a new layer. If you want to make an image look old or dirty, you can make use of this tool.

    • Color Burn

    Color Burn is a perfect choice for those who want to create a vintage or burned look in the video. It helps in darkening the overall image, it retains the highlights and blends into the background.

    • Add:

    Somewhat similar to screen as it helps in removing the dark areas of the image, and this also adds some of its own color values to the image, you will end up having a brighter image as compared to the original one.

    • Overlay:

    Make use of it when you want to change the colors of the mid-tones. It is a popular tool to add stylized elements to any image.

    Can you make use of stock images or videos?

    All you need to do is download the stock media to your specific video editing software, of course, it can be a great start for those who are learning from scratch. Now, you can make use of all the compositing tools that are available. Stock images and videos have grown in terms of quality as well as quantity in the last few years. Stock videos can surely help in enhancing the final video production, given that you must be well aware of what kind of media you need to pick and how you need to work with them.