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.

7 years ago
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sajeel ghouri
4 years ago
cool and explanation with an example
which on one read got struck in my mind!
4 years ago
A Flower to Sam Loya - cheers to VideoCopilot

"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."
4 years ago

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.

5 years ago
Can you also set a tutorial about the transformation of an Autobot.
I like that transformation.
5 years ago
How come you make random ""s everywhere?
Srry. Not very meaningful, but just wondering.
Ryo Henry
7 years ago
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
7 years ago
ahsome... cool dude

Well explanation with a gud comparison
7 years ago

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
Igor Loss
7 years ago
hey Andrew, I have an idea for you! you can make a tutorial about how to make a black hole!
7 years ago
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.
7 years ago
I that why I love composite-ing and am pretty good at it, because I'm also a welder?
Elvis Gon̤alves РBrasil
7 years ago
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
7 years ago
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...!!!!
7 years ago
A welder and a compositor, nice comparison
7 years ago
I am a certified welder who happen to be into graphic arts. that was an exellent anology.
Ram Koshy Reddy
7 years ago
very nice and thank u my dear Ghost Guru(ghost master)Mr.Andrew Kramer
7 years ago
Richard cave: both are correct.
7 years ago
Correct spelling AK is welder,

a weldor is a type of orc from Mordor that repairs armour...
7 years ago
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.
7 years ago
@ Mohammed

I couldn't agree more...This site is called VIDEOcopilot, not AEcopilot. Great point!
7 years ago

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?
7 years ago
oh and i think if im not mistaken, it welder, i've never seen anyone personally spell it weldor. eh same difference
7 years ago
i really like the welding comparison....which is, ironically, what i am majoring in. compositing and motion graphics is a hobbie of mine.....:)
7 years ago
@dean you are so right! that's why I switch to editor ;)
7 years ago
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.


Point taken.
7 years ago
Nice post Andrew
Great analogy!
Bryan Benitez
7 years ago
AK, great analogy! Wow, I got a lot to learn!!
7 years ago
hey pvsciteach we get what some might call back pain and sleepless nights :D
7 years ago
I don't speak english, =D...

so so

messenger: vieira_bored@hotmail.com
7 years ago
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!
7 years ago
I thought it was a piece or software like Toxik or Combustion
7 years ago
This is my composite. Hope you like it.
7 years ago
Thanks Andrew!

This confirm my uncertain thoughts :)
7 years ago
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
7 years ago
Couldn't have put it any better. Well said Andrew ;)
7 years ago
yes, very interesting post! I like to see you explaining something to us!
7 years ago
Really nice spoken!
i have never seen it this way! But it is a revolving thought!
7 years ago
very interesting.
keep up the awesome work :D
7 years ago
Being a vfx artist, my workspace is very hazardous indeed. Many dangerous gases. haha
7 years ago
This must be a hint about QuickMatte?
7 years ago
Hmmm nice one Andrew. but I understand only Particular not particulate.. ;)
7 years ago
This should some it up of what a compositor is. Nice Post!
Diego G.
7 years ago
Andrew, you should make a tutorial about how to direct a movie, you are a very good director, I think :P
7 years ago

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.

Olympia Logger
7 years ago
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.
7 years ago
Martin.. I believe Joe Rule was referring to Trapcode's Particular xD
7 years ago
Good read, thanks. And Joe Rule, it IS "Particulate matter" and not your incorrect correction.
7 years ago
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?

7 years ago
Been loving the Blog lately, nice post =) I'll now refer to myself as a Digital Welder...
7 years ago
Would not be "Particular Matter" not "Particulate Matter" ;)
7 years ago
Another nice one AK.Good
7 years ago
That's interesting and different. :)
7 years ago
Ahah, they are one and the same! Nice one AK!
7 years ago
But at least a compositor doesn't get that crud under their finger nails!
Is this a prelude to QuickMatte???
Kenny W
7 years ago
interesting indeed, im liking all the posting recently andrew keep it up!
7 years ago
Cool, nice thoughts.
7 years ago
interesting thought
7 years ago
Nice post, AK! I like the welder analogy. :)