What is a Compositor?

What isn’t a compositor might be a better question to ask but let’s keep this article on point. In short a compositor is responsible for fusing together elements such as live action footage, 3d animation, stock footage and other sources into a single picture. Sometimes the goal is photo-realism for a motion picture and other times the goal is to exaggerate the world for a TV spot.

A good comparison might be the job of a weldor. Wikipedia has a curious description that I found particularly useful:

“Welders typically have to have good dexterity and attention to detail, as well as some technical knowledge about the materials being joined and best practices in the field.”

In order to complete some shots, a compositor might take on other responsibilities such as modeling and rendering a 3D object or element. Similarly, a weldor might need to fabricate a special tool or object needed for a custom vehicle manipulation.

When a weldor is combining various parts of a bicycle frame, it is important that the parts are fused together properly or the bicycle might just fall apart. Much like a visual effects shot that is not sound, you may see it fall apart on screen.

Knowing the tools and understanding the related jobs of this industry might just answer questions you didn’t know you had. Never stop learning and developing new techniques.

Wikipedia also has a note regarding weldors:

“Welders are also often exposed to dangerous gases and particulate matter.”

But I won’t get into that.

58 RESPONSES TO "WHAT IS A COMPOSITOR?"
September 13th, 2009 @ 6:04 pm
Nice post, AK! I like the welder analogy. :)
September 13th, 2009 @ 6:16 pm
interesting thought
September 13th, 2009 @ 6:17 pm
Cool, nice thoughts.
Kenny W
September 13th, 2009 @ 6:18 pm
interesting indeed, im liking all the posting recently andrew keep it up!
pvsciteach
September 13th, 2009 @ 6:23 pm
But at least a compositor doesn't get that crud under their finger nails!
Is this a prelude to QuickMatte???
acjb
September 13th, 2009 @ 6:32 pm
Ahah, they are one and the same! Nice one AK!
September 13th, 2009 @ 6:46 pm
That's interesting and different. :)
September 13th, 2009 @ 6:46 pm
Another nice one AK.Good
September 13th, 2009 @ 6:48 pm
Would not be "Particular Matter" not "Particulate Matter" ;)
September 13th, 2009 @ 6:59 pm
Been loving the Blog lately, nice post =) I'll now refer to myself as a Digital Welder...
September 13th, 2009 @ 7:00 pm
Something tells me Andrew really wants more compositing jobs ;) Everything seems to be leaning in that direction.

Why not take a break from mograph and get into some hard-core vfx work?


--
Kevin
Martin
September 13th, 2009 @ 7:00 pm
Good read, thanks. And Joe Rule, it IS "Particulate matter" and not your incorrect correction.
September 13th, 2009 @ 7:04 pm
Martin.. I believe Joe Rule was referring to Trapcode's Particular xD
Olympia Logger
September 13th, 2009 @ 7:14 pm
I have GOT to get me one of those.

What kind of gas does that wire welder use?
I've never seen one run a cold bead before.

That's awesome!

And virtually no slag.
Steve
September 13th, 2009 @ 7:35 pm
Andrew,

I know alot of people on here are against it, but I would love to see more 3D Studio tutorials on here. Your teaching style is amazing, and really has helped me to wrap my head around the complex subject of 3D animation. Please consider pushing more into this avenue, as there is so much to explore.

-Steve
Diego G.
September 13th, 2009 @ 7:40 pm
Andrew, you should make a tutorial about how to direct a movie, you are a very good director, I think :P
September 13th, 2009 @ 7:40 pm
This should some it up of what a compositor is. Nice Post!
Jal
September 13th, 2009 @ 7:41 pm
Hmmm nice one Andrew. but I understand only Particular not particulate.. ;)
Qw3rtium
September 13th, 2009 @ 8:22 pm
This must be a hint about QuickMatte?
NickT
September 13th, 2009 @ 8:27 pm
Being a vfx artist, my workspace is very hazardous indeed. Many dangerous gases. haha
September 13th, 2009 @ 8:33 pm
very interesting.
keep up the awesome work :D
Matthijs
September 13th, 2009 @ 10:14 pm
Really nice spoken!
i have never seen it this way! But it is a revolving thought!
Tanel
September 13th, 2009 @ 11:45 pm
yes, very interesting post! I like to see you explaining something to us!
September 13th, 2009 @ 10:54 pm
Couldn't have put it any better. Well said Andrew ;)
wenluc
September 14th, 2009 @ 12:30 am
Im a welder the process on the pictures is called MIG/Mag welding. Metal Inert Gas / Metal Active Gas.
I hate it!!! You got a helmet on your head for 8 hours a day. And you have to have a special hat on It's to hot!!!
That's why Im working on video's. haha
Sebastian
September 14th, 2009 @ 12:50 am
Thanks Andrew!

This confirm my uncertain thoughts :)
September 14th, 2009 @ 1:10 am
This is my composite. Hope you like it.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J5U9QwYukfQ
andi
September 14th, 2009 @ 1:33 am
I thought it was a piece or software like Toxik or Combustion
Mohammad
September 14th, 2009 @ 1:59 am
Some people on this site I"ve seen post things like "THIS SITE SHOULD ONLY BE ABOUT AFTER EFFECTS, YOU GET THAT ANDREW?!" and I don't think you should listen to those folks AK.

Whether it be tutorials in Maya ( ;) ) or boujou/pfhoe or tips on directing/shooting your films, I think it all has a place here. It's info that will broaden our knowledge base and help us do more and be more versatile. If people don't want to learn about 3dmax or maya or boujou then they have the option not to watch that tutorial, but for others who do want that knowledge that you think will be beneficial please put up any of those tips/lessons.

Thanks andrew k!
September 14th, 2009 @ 5:19 am
I don't speak english, =D...

so so

messenger: vieira_bored@hotmail.com
Brazil
September 14th, 2009 @ 5:55 am
hey pvsciteach we get what some might call back pain and sleepless nights :D
Bryan Benitez
September 14th, 2009 @ 6:08 am
AK, great analogy! Wow, I got a lot to learn!!
September 14th, 2009 @ 6:29 am
Nice post Andrew
Great analogy!
Dean
September 14th, 2009 @ 6:41 am
I worked with a few heavy industrial welders in my previous career. They whine a lot, yell at their helpers a lot, come up with many new and unusual ways to curse, and consume massive amounts of stimulants.

hmm.

Point taken.
wenluc
September 14th, 2009 @ 6:48 am
@dean you are so right! that's why I switch to editor ;)
l_bert17
September 14th, 2009 @ 8:39 am
i really like the welding comparison....which is, ironically, what i am majoring in. compositing and motion graphics is a hobbie of mine.....:)
l_bert17
September 14th, 2009 @ 8:42 am
oh and i think if im not mistaken, it welder, i've never seen anyone personally spell it weldor. eh same difference
Russ
September 14th, 2009 @ 9:24 am
Andrew,

What do you call a person such as myself who runs a small production company that does the writing, storyboarding, shooting, editing, compositing, authoring, and the best part...collecting the check?
Russ
September 14th, 2009 @ 9:26 am
@ Mohammed

I couldn't agree more...This site is called VIDEOcopilot, not AEcopilot. Great point!
Remix
September 14th, 2009 @ 10:01 am
Actually, what you didn't know that the compositor's job is the hardest job of all. Because he has to actually trick the audience to think that several 3d renders, footage and stock photos are actually filmed in the same environment. Yeah, it's a really tough job, but what I like to do is, when I actually make the color for one movie I make a preset and use it for the whole movie. It's really useful and really cools down painstaking hours of color correcting every composition separately.

Regards, Alek.
September 15th, 2009 @ 2:52 am
Correct spelling AK is welder,

a weldor is a type of orc from Mordor that repairs armour...
Knight
September 15th, 2009 @ 7:04 am
Richard cave: both are correct.
Ram Koshy Reddy
September 15th, 2009 @ 1:23 pm
very nice and thank u my dear Ghost Guru(ghost master)Mr.Andrew Kramer
tony
September 15th, 2009 @ 2:29 pm
I am a certified welder who happen to be into graphic arts. that was an exellent anology.
Pradeep
September 15th, 2009 @ 10:05 pm
A welder and a compositor, nice comparison
Dutta
September 16th, 2009 @ 11:47 am
WOW...hang on there cowboy sign gave me a shock...but...anywayz...i think wiki maybe right...most of us are exposed to dangerous gases.....more intentionally than not....
video copilot started at a time when we worshiped the "cow"(plz 4give the pun)...back in those days when ppl wud say "whats that!?" if u told u were a compositor.I started following videocopilot since demonmorph...since then i found a total new meaning to comp and fx...and...well...i also found Sam being subject to evil genius AK's experiments time and again...among other things.
Bottom line...
1: andrew my man...ur site rocks...alwayz believe in ur ideas!!! those are our next tutorials!!!
2: Compositors are welders...in the pipeline that is!!!
3: maybe the machinery in the pic behind the sparks is a bit too dark...err..nevermind...!!!!
Elvis Gon̤alves РBrasil
September 21st, 2009 @ 11:02 am
I find it interesting to study the background or as a profession and made Augo so I could give more depth and realism, in which case the wirkpedia and a wonder
Geyck
September 21st, 2009 @ 8:14 pm
I that why I love composite-ing and am pretty good at it, because I'm also a welder?
September 28th, 2009 @ 1:22 pm
I'm preparing an exam for uni about compositing. Too bad our professors never taught us anything about how to actually do it. "In star wars they did like this, in the lord of the rings like that". Those were our lessons.

Kramer was my real teacher in the end.
Igor Loss
October 25th, 2009 @ 10:54 am
hey Andrew, I have an idea for you! you can make a tutorial about how to make a black hole!
J P
October 26th, 2009 @ 8:51 am
@Giulio

exactly the same with everyone in my compositing class (which i'm sitting in right now). the fact that i'm browsing videocopilot instead of listening to my lecturer proves it :D
dvhbr
February 1st, 2010 @ 2:20 am
ahsome... cool dude

Well explanation with a gud comparison
Ryo Henry
April 7th, 2010 @ 6:12 am
Hey, Andrew ... I've managed to edit the video onesize picture where only use images and the camera projection technique. I actually only capital of a digital camera and computer that have been installed after effect ... I was very surprised and pleased with the results I have achieved...awesome
January 2nd, 2012 @ 2:08 pm
How come you make random ""s everywhere?
Srry. Not very meaningful, but just wondering.
Elias
February 12th, 2012 @ 1:34 am
Can you also set a tutorial about the transformation of an Autobot.
I like that transformation.
October 16th, 2012 @ 9:30 pm
Hey,

I thought this to be a good place to share my film.
A year ago, I tackled a film, that tries to answer the question "What is a compositor?"

Psychologically that is.

https://vimeo.com/48786951
romanbruni
February 24th, 2013 @ 7:18 pm
A Flower to Sam Loya - cheers to VideoCopilot
http://vimeo.com/60363784

"After years and years observing & learning the time has come to give best regards
to that guy that we all can be grateful to: without sam loya, there would be no advanced filmmaking ! this video is dedicated to the best teacher in the moving arts, Andrew Kramer from VideoCopilot.
May your travels be good, live long & prosper.
''my video'' was done mainly with that strange new element 3D 1.5 with some max heat."
sajeel ghouri
July 15th, 2013 @ 10:47 pm
cool and explanation with an example
which on one read got struck in my mind!
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