“fix it in post!”, this is a very common phrase now in the VFX/Filmmaking industry and what that sentence means is the visual effects team will fix and cope with any type of mistakes or hook-ups happened during the production step, and here the power of compositing tools and techniques come out and play the swiss-army knife role that heal and fix every shot which can’t be solved due to deadline or budget related issues, So in this brief article I’ll go through the art of digital compositing and explain its major tools.
Actually, there are many software developers who produced digital solutions that is artist friendly and help the VFX artist getting the job done, but the most known and industry standard software applications now are Adobe after effects, the foundry Nuke and Davinci Resolve from Black Magic.
Every software has its own arsenals and of course some limitations, after effects for example has a friendly user interface with layer-based compositing in addition to a wide range of effects, presets and plug-ins, also there are many famous companies like Red giant and Video Copilot which still developing special tools to enrich AE.
on the other hand, Nuke from the foundry (which is a node-based compositing software) has an advanced UI because you have to call specific nodes and link them properly in order to composite your shot, Nuke is also widely adopted by major studios around the world due to its deep compositing workflow.
Davinci Resolve was known in early days for its effective color correction/grading tools, and now it has become more powerful with more effective tools for tracking and stabilizing.
In addition to these essential applications, there are many specialized software that do a specific job like tracking (PFTrak,Syntheyes,Mocha,Boujou ….) and they are a little bit expensive for small budgets.
Shot, Comp and go!
I believe that any one with a mobile phone camera and a basic computer can do some nice stuff if he has the proper knowledge, I said the word “knowledge” because the compositing itself is a combination of equipment (Hardware and software) and a lot of art. So, before we start working on our shot we need a working set-up because that will extremely help the VFX artist to concentrate on making beautiful shots look impressive and not making terrible shots look accepted! so not everything could be fixed in post. many major studios like ILM,MPC,The Mill …. now take in consideration this rule so they plan carefully in pre-production and that will lead the viewers to feel completely involved in their visual shots.
When Compositing a live action/CGI vfx shot, we have to pay attention to the color space we are working in, and here I want to explain the importance of Working linearly, in fact, when we work in linear workflow we ensure that all light sources and different textures and materials live and exist in the same color space after rendering from a 3D software package like Maya, and by applying this method of exporting RAW images with no baked gamma correction into it, we will achieve a desired photorealistic look.
The Evolution of openEXR:
Exr is an image extension developed by ILM since 2000, the OpenEXR format came in response to the demand for higher color fidelity in the visual effects industry. (Openexr.com).
When using OpenEXR format in our pipeline we will have the most control of our rendered image because this special format can store a wide amount of light data that we can play with in a compositing software, and now we see many render engines like Arnold and redshift allowing us to store all render passes (AOV’s) in one flattened exr file so that could free us from large amount of data storage and make things well-organized especially when working on large projects.
Or darker !
My standpoint here is, if you want to start a career in digital compositing you need first to understand how the pipeline works and which work-flow is suitable for your needs, then I advise you to pick one all-round software (like AE) and master its tools and don’t waste your time jumping from one software to another, and finally get feedbacks from experts whenever you can and stay inspired.