PERFECT Compositing

As we get closer to launching Action Essentials 2, I have been developing a simple guideline for better compositing that is broken down to 7 key points. This is by no means a ‘complete’ guide for every scenario but it should be a good place to start. I plan on detailing many of these techniques in the future but here is a basic overview. If you have some tips that have helped you out in the field, please share them in the comments below.

I call it: P.E.R.F.E.C.T.

When compositing a scene, you want to consider the perspective of your plate (raw footage) and carefully mix elements that align with your shot. A major perspective conflict can be a give-away that your shot was poorly composited.

Esthetics (aesthetics):
Make it look cool. Keep an eye on your composition and balance the elements in your scene evenly. Look at the composite as a whole and not just the area you are working on.

The world is unpredictable so you want to use variations in your compositing work. One example is when creating an army of soldiers from a small group of extras. It is important to offset the individuals by time and space so they do not look mechanically duplicated. This is also important when adding muzzle flashes and ricochets. Don’t just reuse the same muzzle fire or ricochet, use multiple clips and alter the size and rotation so that your mind doesn’t pick up on the pattern of similarity.

The way elements are blended in a scene is a top priority. Feathering is a great way to blend multiple elements together in a scene as well as performing a subtle light wrap. But don’t overuse the light wrap!

When you composite an element in your scene, ask yourself how would this affect the surrounding environment? When an explosion goes off, does it leave a hole or burn marks? Does the bright light cast on the walls around it? Be creative and think of clever ways to make your fx elements blend with the real world. You should also consider on-set action for planned visual effects. Having real interaction in your scene goes a long way to sell a shot like pillows on a couch being shot-up by a machine gun. A simple string works well to ‘toss’ the pillows around as they are blown away.

Matching color and light are essential to photo realistic compositing. Obviously you want the fx elements to match the color of the scene but you also want to match the contrast level too. Be mindful of the light direction in your scene and be sure to use elements that cooperate.

There is a rhythm to cinema and visual effects. There is action and reaction. Let your shot flow and unfold. If you force things to happen in a short amount of time, the shot may turn out mechanical and choppy.

Feel free to expand on these ideas and continue to create impressive visual effects. In the mind of an artist nothing is ever “perfect”, but I like to think of the word as an verb for a work in progress as we attempt to ‘perfect’ the art.

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kunal mazumdar
6 years ago
wow, very useful and practical advise. Easy to remember. This "PERFECT" will surely make any composite Perfect. I will use them in my work. Thanks again for sharing such advice. Regards and respect.
6 years ago
very clear,loud and vital tips on compositing.Good artwork too.Thanks AK.Joseph Rakereng,Botswana,Southern Africa
6 years ago
I know this is a very old thread but these rules are pretty timeless and a great foundation for compositing in general.
I would personally add an O to this for 'obfuscation'. The final element in the perfect composite for me.
P.E.R.F.E.C.T.O. Maybe?
Nothing is perfectly visible in reality and everything from focus blur to fall off can be utilised to make things blend more realistically into a final sellable shot. One of the major failings in a lot of inferior compositing work is trying to make things look too clear and crisp. The reality is our vision is much more clouded and obscured, especially when viewed from a distance.
Great work Video copilot, keep it up!
7 years ago
Andrew Kramer You ROCK !!!!!!!!
Learned a lot about color grading from you Andrew. This is the best we did in the last few month ( It was all shot on RED :)

THX a lot Andrew!

Best regards,
8 years ago
As good as you have always been. You are so good that i have even seen your titles in Fringe. Have you been involved in any other productions like TV shows and movies? I believe I'm not the only one who wants to see more of your creations anywhere.

Believe me, there are more people you are inspiring than you can even think of. I'm from Botswana.
8 years ago
Nice Tutorial where
8 years ago
More tips:
Don't be afraid to let stuff happen off camera, allowing only reflections, lighting, reactions, etc to show in the scene. In the magic world we say, "The human mind loves mystery; always feed it mystery." Don't over-do your composites. Let the audience put some of it together in their head.
Charles Hollman
8 years ago
Is there anything you dont know how to do Andrew? Your talents seem limitless.
9 years ago
Purrfect!. . . purred the Persian cat
9 years ago
thanx for all the explanation =D
kharge kiran
9 years ago

thankx for this information I’m a big fan of yours as well as AE.All your tuts helped me to know about the tools and the tricks.
9 years ago
Perfect Explanation …
9 years ago
what you wrote was useful and true...

Compositing needs careful attention in details, you just wrote them down...

Im sure others Will find this useful, keep it up

a.k.a. Xenolith
9 years ago
@ Andrew> u've made it easy....THANK U.
10 years ago
the result is what matter.
10 years ago
That's great awesome work really impressive.
10 years ago
Once again I thank you! Great things to keep in mind. Now I'm off to rest it.
10 years ago
hi Andrew , I'm a big fan of yours as well as AE. I'm just a beginner . All your tuts helped me to know about the tools and the tricks. One thing i need to know is, how to render a movie with less memory usage?

Whenever i render a movie of length 10 secs with the usage of moderate effects(say glow, particles,some images ), the size of the rendered movie is occupying atleast 1GB.

Is there any default settings to minimise the memory usage(without reducing the quality of the movie) or should there be any changes to be made in the rendering settings?? Kindly help me to come out of this problem... REPLY ASAP
10 years ago
When i composite something that looks EXTREME fake, i like to add a fast blur to an adjustment layer and blur the entire scene when it happens. So the people can't see it that well. ;D
10 years ago
10 years ago
Sir you are just awesome to me....thx very much for ur great tutorials they are really helpful and effective and at the same time impressive.
Ernesto Diaz
10 years ago
Hi, Andrew.
I´m what you can call a "silent fan(atic)".
For several years I have followed your blog and collected all your tutos and eventually buyed som of your products.

Thanks a lot.

Now I have to ask you something: can you teach us how to do bullet traces in water? the kind of those you see when the guy is underwater and some one is shooting at him.

I have to do a project and really need to know it.

Tahnks again.

PS forgive my english I'm from Colombia, South America, a spanish languaje country.
10 years ago
hey there ak...
classic output with a subtle touch of refinement....
thats not what im trying to say though....

I was seeing this ad on had the transformers fold
and unfold going on...even on text...i thought maybe some anchor points and rotations might help...the output was not so good...

could u give me an idea as to how this might be achieved in ae???
currently using ae7(i know its kinda backdated..but many a things can be done in it :D) used cs4...

1 more thing...
AWESOME work so far...especially the latest update on normality!!!
I feel if the storyboard is made keeping in mind that the plugin is alone can give quite a beating to the character lighting!!!but then we need those ppl...sry guys no offence!!!
10 years ago
Hi Andrew,

I'm a video editor trying my hands-on vfx / motion graphics. I'm an avid fan of your tutorials and I think your the greatest coz you share your talent to the rest of us, even though some people take credit for your work (tutorials) and even have the nerve to put them up as their own. Anyway, I have this project shot in chroma using Panasonic P2HD. I am having trouble keying out some blowing hair. I've tried your key light tutorial, which was very helpful by the way, but the trouble is the talent is to be composited to a limbo background. Is there a special technique for keying out hair?
Thanks in advance. Thanks for sharing the love by sharing the knowledge. peace.
10 years ago

I have action essential 2, and the tutorial is very nice, and the perspective is very difficulty, because the plugins of explosion, dust wave, etc... the perspective is of one piont.... the plugins must is on 3D

Jean from Chile
10 years ago
10 years ago
From Costa Rica.
Its amazing how you transform every single video.
Can I say you are my teacher?
Do you have some tutorial to create the car lights? its the same light flare you use to the Action Essentials tittle.

Thanks so much
buddika namal
10 years ago
hi andrew
i am sri lankan boy
my age 24
this is very superb
i like it


pls send u are demo cd for this add


175/a maligagodalla road,
mulleritawa new town,
mulleriyawa ,
10 years ago
hey man, what's up... how you doing? this page is so great.. i'm a fan of your work, is very cool.. i want to apologize about my english, this is not my language, i'm from venezuela... yes, Venezuela exist, and i'm from the more insignificant town of Venezuela... so, i don't speak english... well, man your so great.. explain so cool the tutorial... but, i wanna know is you dont have tutorial about 3ds max...??? or a blog so good as the your, where i can learn more... i want to do something like the chopper... is was awesome... good bye...
10 years ago
você é muito bom cara
sóu seu fã número 1
abração e
10 years ago
superb andrew
10 years ago
That is really useful. I noticed in the street explosion video you made, there was light which was reflected on the doorway (at the top) have you got any tips on how to go about doing that. Would you just get a torch and rig it up or what.
10 years ago
I call it: P.E.R.F.E.C.T
10 years ago
Hi, I write from Argentina (in full paranoia with influenza A, was ordered "holiday" and nobody comes out into the street, I only speak Spanish so paste the text and interpret I want to thank you, the value of sharing your skills in animation for free. A list of your perfect composition, summary sound also affects the surrounding sounds and noises that fx is generating almost as light also varies from different angles, trying to match the times, the sound of the explosion comes always 3 frames after the birth.
10 years ago
I love you Andrew Kramer
10 years ago
Thanks to Lionel too... That book of Disney Animation is a real classic.
10 years ago
Nice to get all this comp stuff organized .
Few thing I´ve learned on my work:
-Pay attention to the borders. 3D, vector graphics, even stock footage, come with a lot of detail, which not always (not to say NEVER)matches our client´s footage; so zoom in your comp window, and blur your layers to achieve a believable border to match the borders on your master footage.
-Become a Grain fan. Grain is the randomness of any kind of capture media, being film the Master of all. As 3D, Vector based graphics, still images, and still frames of our footage, are the most of our tools to create vfx, the absence of randomness exposes the fake. So to sell the illusion of reality, zoom out again and give your still or clean elements a level of grain that matches your original footage.

Thanks Andrew. You rock.
david lefebvre
10 years ago
david lefebvre
10 years ago
hi i love what u do i whant to be a good (monteur video) like you . tu fais un tre beau travail je t admire

10 years ago
Thank you for all you do!
10 years ago
Woow, me encantó, nice.

Me encanta saber el lanzamiento de este nuevo producto ACTION 2. y más los tips que nos proporcionan, he aprendido mucho de ustedes. felicidades.

Saludos desde México City.
10 years ago
don't know if someone will read this or will be interested in this but I found it interesting... it's not a project guideline, but rather an animation guideline...
anyway, here it is, the Disney animation principles
pay attention to numbers 2:Anticipation; 8:secondary action; 10:exaggeration


1) "squash and stretch", the purpose of which is to give a sense of weight and flexibility to drawn objects. In realistic animation, however, the most important aspect of this principle is the fact that an object's volume does not change when squashed or stretched. This action gives the illusion of weight and volume to a character as it moves. Also squash and stretch is useful in animating dialogue and doing facial expressions.
2) Anticipation is used to prepare the audience for an action, and to make the action appear more realistic. For special effect, anticipation can also be omitted in cases where it is expected. The resulting sense of anticlimax will produce a feeling of surprise in the viewer, and can often add comedy to a scene. A backwards motion occurs before the forward action is executed. A comic effect can be done by not using anticipation after a series of gags that used anticipation.
3) Staging. Its purpose is to direct the audience's attention, and make it clear what is of greatest importance in a scene; what is happening, and what is about to happen. The essence of this principle is keeping focus on what is relevant, and avoiding unnecessary detail. The effective use of long, medium, or close up shots, as well as camera angles also helps in telling the story. There is a limited amount of time in a film, so each sequence, scene and frame of film must relate to the overall story. Care must be taken in background design so it isn't obscuring the animation or competing with it due to excess detail behind the animation.
4-5) These closely related techniques help render movement more realistic, and give the impression that characters follow the laws of physics. "Follow through" means that separate parts of a body will continue moving after the character has stopped. "Overlapping action" is when a character changes direction, and parts of the body continue in the direction he was previously going. A third technique is "drag", where a character starts to move and parts of him take a few frames to catch up. Again, exaggerated use of the technique can produce a comical effect, while more realistic animation must time the actions exactly, to produce a convincing result. Thomas and Johnston also developed the principle of the "moving hold". A character not in movement can be rendered absolutely still; this is often done, particularly to draw attention to the main action. According to Thomas and Johnston, however, this gave a dull and lifeless result, and should be avoided.
6) The movement of the human body, and most other objects, needs time to accelerate and slow down.
7) Most human and animal actions occur along an arched trajectory, and animation should reproduce these movements for greater realism.
8) Adding secondary actions to the main action gives a scene more life, and can help to support the main action. The important thing about secondary actions is that they emphasize, rather than take attention away from the main action. All of these actions should work together in support of one another.
9) On a purely physical level, correct timing makes objects appear to abide to the laws of physics; for instance, an object's weight decides how it reacts to an impetus, like a push. Theatrical timing is of a less technical nature, and is developed mostly through experience. It can be pure comic timing, or it can be used to convey deep emotions. It can also be a device to communicate aspects of a character's personality. A variety of slow and fast timing within a scene adds texture and interest to the movement. Also, there is timing in the acting of a character to establish mood, emotion, and reaction to another character or to a situation.
10) The classical definition of exaggeration, employed by Disney, was to remain true to reality, just presenting it in a wilder, more extreme form. Other forms of exaggeration can involve the supernatural or surreal, alterations in the physical features of a character, or elements in the storyline itself. It¹s like a caricature of facial features, expressions, poses, attitudes and actions.
11) The drawer has to understand the basics of anatomy, composition, weight, balance, light and shadow etc. For the classical animator, this involved taking art classes and doing sketches from life. One thing in particular that Johnston and Thomas warned against was creating "twins": characters whose left and right sides mirrored each other, and looked lifeless. The basic principles of drawing form, weight, volume solidity and the illusion of three dimension apply to animation as it does to academic drawing.
12) A character who is appealing is not necessarily sympathetic — villains or monsters can also be appealing — the important thing is that the viewer feels the character is real and interesting. For likable characters a symmetrical or particularly baby-like face tends to be effective.
10 years ago
excellence guide thanks...
10 years ago
I meant to type people and portray...before some smart
10 years ago
First- Thank you again Andrew (and Sam) for contributing such invaluable resources and knowledge to this ever growing community. Second-I really think some peoplr really need to leave the tutorials to Andrew. If some people knew as much as they portrait, we would probably be reading they're tutorials online somewhere instead of the following them here. It gets a little annoying. Keep up the hard work everybody and thanks again Andrew, Sam and Videocopilot staff.
Brain Blast
10 years ago
Thnx a lot Mr. Kramer
i always put this things on my mind
this is so great because i always get in to doubt
when the way how it look, and the
way of the video goes when watch by viewers..

this is really reaalyyy


you roccccccckkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk!!!!
10 years ago
It's very useful for me,I like your tutorial,because it's very easy to know what your think.Thank you very much.
10 years ago
Hi Sir

First Thing First...You Are Doing Wonderful Job. Today, The World Is Running Behind Shake, Smoke, Nuke Like Compositing Software. But Because Of Your Lesson's In AEF, People Are Thingking Of AEF. I Stay In Mumbai (India), Over Here Employers Ask For Shake Or Smoke Software. But Now They Ask Do You Know AEF.

Andrew Sir....Keep Rocking

10 years ago
on which date ur product will launch
10 years ago
cool when were you in London? you should of said! lol
10 years ago
omg that looks so good. i really hope u make a tutorial like that!
10 years ago
Hello Andrew and all of you thanks for all your tuto that help me each day on my works.

I have jsut a question , you write in the point "Randomize" : One example is when creating an army of soldiers from a small group of extras;

That is ineteresting me

Can you Andrew or one you explain me ( by few words or steps ) or send me to a links or tutorial this technique that is using a lot in movies ( gladiator braveheart)

Thanks to all of you
10 years ago
Yes yes very interesting! Thank you so much Mr. Kramer!
10 years ago
A Amazing
N New
D Dynamic
R Real
E Essentials
W Wild

K Kool
R Real-time
A Allways-ready
M Miscelanious
E Editor
R Reversed
10 years ago
10 years ago
Hail God of After Effects,

I shall worship you for the rest of my life... ;-)

You have made all the difference. You have given me the tools that I thought I could never attain unless I went to some film or graphics school which I can't really afford...

If I'm ever lucky enough to make big budget movies someday, I will definitely give you guys the contract for the special effects team. Andrew Kramer will be the FX supervisor. AWESOME!!!

Thank you for everything you are doing Mr. Kramer, sir. Don't ever stop!

10 years ago
Oh my god andrew that was so funny The audio Demo 4 pro scores .. Im looking for a Stick... did any of you guys here it hahahah one arm cop .. oh you for got about using a 3d program.. placing shadows...
10 years ago
I am doubting any body will read this, but the other thing to keep in mind is the framing.

there is the rule of thirds, saying that if you were to slice the shot into thirds horizontally and vertically, the important elements should lay upon those lines/intersections.

10 years ago
merci beaucoup!
10 years ago
great stuff. launching my marketing site soon and your site is a daily must visit...thanks andrew
10 years ago
the "action and reaction" is one of the most important principles of the 2D (and 3d) animation!

thats because i think work in after effects also is animate!

thanks andrew!!!

the one who wants know more, "12 basic principles of animation" (for Disney) google it!

my regards from Argentina
10 years ago
I call it: P.E.R.F.E.C.T.

You should do a short tutorial on all the things you listed!!!

I also CAN'T WAIT till "ACTION ESSENTIALS 2" Launches!!!!!!
10 years ago
Very nice, thanks Andrew! Those are very useful tips!

One thing worth mentioning is the Environment again.

Usually the FX look much better than the real world in the shot. Try to avoid this by changing the resolution to match the quality of the footage, apply noise or color correction etc.

Best wishes from Bulgaria!
10 years ago
Not a bad idea Tech. Andrew, I call everything you do B.A.D.A.S.S. Being Awesome Daily Always Sells Stuff.
10 years ago
This is some great stuff, hoping to see more from this angle,

10 years ago
This is totally a photoshop. I can see the pixels around the bus. You changed it's color to red, but it's apparent that it was blue before. And holy shit, who took that picture? there's an explosion going on, he got great timing to take such picture
10 years ago
Max Powder
10 years ago
Don't forget grain, when you're talking about color. Most people forget to match it.
10 years ago
Dammit, i'm so looking forward to action essentials 2. I really can't wait much longer before i kill myself :P
10 years ago
Not too bad Andrew

Cheers mate!
10 years ago
thisis driving me crazy , dud you are a P.O.E.T, hmm...
10 years ago
N - N . A . N . C. Y


10 years ago
Hey Andrew. I've really enjoyed your last couple of tuts, and it's always great to re-emphasize the importance of a GOOD workflow and composting. (i feel that to many people often have a decent product, but are just missing that one one simple but key thing!)

I always brake things down like this in my head to help me remember things - this is one that I will definitely be keeping in mind.

A good, simple way to keep these vital things in mind whilst working.Its easy to let something slip when rushing for a deadline on a hasty project!

Cheers mate, looking forward to the next batch of tuts

10 years ago
W.H.E.N. !!!!!

When are you gonna drop your

Hot & crazy Action Essential 2 and

End the world !!!

Now !!!! please now !!!
10 years ago
Hey any chance soon there will be a tutorial on how to bring out the color as in this photo with plain footage? I think it is a major component not yet covered, because we all desire that dingy dark film look more than any other effect
10 years ago
Andrew Kramer needs to get on

10 years ago
Thank Man your my Hero. we love you and we pray 4u, good job!
Ami lyimo from Tanzania
Dipo Dipe
10 years ago
You rock, you're the guy any day.
Dipo, Lagos
Jimmy C
10 years ago
very very usefull!
Sometimes when I have to work fast I forget about this details and the comp doesn't look like like i want. I'll write it down whit a permanet marker on my desk.
Jimmy From Buenos Aires
10 years ago
Whhoohooo! This is R.E.A.L.Y. A.W.E.S.O.M.E.
10 years ago
hi kramer has an official date been set yet i really want ame2 and funny thing is i already had a plan a little like this
10 years ago
me gusta el color!! esta muy bueno.. la composicion :D
10 years ago
btw, omg, i just woke-up, sorry for the typo and the english
10 years ago
Obvious tips so far for the no-beginners :P
Who's more difficult is to wait for AE2...I know i gonna buy it as soon its released.

A little word for Andrew who have those little things we can't teach, as the talent, the curiosity, the feeling to always improve and go further... and who have a fucking clue to of how to get amazing ressources like audio and footage! I really would like to know how did you get this last point ! :D

Btw, rebel cc looks like a nice shortcut.

Phil (counting the days while caressing his visa)
10 years ago
Andrew i dont believe i can wait another day for Action Essentials 2. i honestly check this site more than my facebook. cant wait its gunna make my summer action movie 10x better!!!!
10 years ago
Can`t wait for Action Essentials and more tutorials.
10 years ago
Waw, this looks really good and perfect
Andrew you are perfect man :), can`t wait.
10 years ago
I am interested in purchasing this product. But I am a total newbie. Would it be possible to include a tutorial on how to convert to SD. I am a public access t.v. producer and they don't support HD.
10 years ago
Click on the link for price and product info.
10 years ago
Any idea on the price of the nwe Action Essentials?
10 years ago
nice tips for you andrew i'll keep that in mind thanks...
10 years ago








10 years ago
10 years ago
Nice tips for new and experienced compositors alike =)

Nice...very nice, like the sample pic =)
Aegis Kleais
10 years ago
I always go by a saying of:

"The illusion of reality lies in the believable creation of reality's imperfections."

In other words, "perfection is in the detail".
10 years ago
Really nice job.
10 years ago
You call it PERFECT.. Because it is PERFECT ;)
10 years ago
and yea, soory for my bad english :P
10 years ago
I think, what is very important in this job
is that you are able to observe the environment, the atmosphere, the wall, the tree..leaves...the texture, because the texture it's not just a tex. without the environment, to see a situation...
For exapmle, when you are walking down the street on the seaside maybe and you feel a smell of sea, or you are in some urban environment it's nice but it's cold somehow..
try to put that emotion to the shoot...and then add a situation (explo., or something)...
am hope that I was not to confusing...
but when you working on something you need to observe...
i think that andrew post is grat...
and it's not just a tehnical advice...
i think that what he wanted to say is that you have to feel the scene...
10 years ago
Awesome!!! Can't wait!!!!!!!!! is the explosion for Action Essentials HD???
10 years ago
g.o.o.d.n.i.c.e. :)
10 years ago
Thanks, AK! This is a great post. Will help me a lot.
Oliver Navarrete
10 years ago
A.W.E.S.O.M.E. Andrew Oliver from NICARAGUA
10 years ago
Hey Andrew! As usually another awesome masterpiece of yours!
I just can't believe how fantastic your whole tutorial and website and everything is. When I first started looking into AE and watching a good friend of mine watch your tutorials, it was vague at the beginning. But now your website has become daily toast for me. I'm always enjoying your great tutorials and learn lots from them.
Just another big thanks to you and the whole VCP-Crew!
You guys are the best.
All the best, Rutger from Holland
10 years ago

Another very important thing Which i think should be included in the P.E.R.F.E.C.T list...
Either while adding objects in a real live footage or while adding objects in a 3d tracked scene while creating objects in a 3d program.

MANIPULATION of Physics Involved

Assuming we have a shot which involves some interesting encounter of physics. For examples Andrew's tutorial example of THE METEOR, we need to understand what basically happens around the shot..
Things to be noted are:

1. The meteor when it arrives before it reaches the ground as the meteor approaches the ground the light or illumination of the environment increases which should be of course natural otherwise

2. DURING THE IMPACT.. wat really happens...
ROAD BREAKS - small particles large particles
DUST - Dust due to collision and dust from meteor(maybe small sparks too)
SMOKE - trail of the meteor and smoke due to explosion
Dust settling down and smoke rising up.
Trail on the road due to impact at an angle.

MORE PARTICLES- involves friction from the ground so drag and other forces involved in it..
During impact illumination of the enviroment again..

ADDITION of more details and a complete study of what a real life scenario would ask for could really add to the value of the composite.
10 years ago
HEY Elliot thanks for the word on "Rebel CC":

"Elliott MontelloJune 8th, 2009 @ 3:33 am:
When matching color i find a useful tool is the ‘Reble CC’ pulg-in from its free "
Noel Mullen
10 years ago
This Kramer guy is a genius.
10 years ago
that´s a really creative way to present it.
10 years ago
My biggest saving grace in compositing has been arrive at the location a few days earlier and take a picture, then create a story board to outline what i need to get on film/tape.

I agree with this list, if anything, all the demo videos posted should start looking a lot more professional. Thanks AK.
10 years ago
Thx, And I wonder how long did it take for you to come up with that 'perfect' name :D

Love you!
10 years ago
Is there a date to releasing the Action Essentials 2?
10 years ago
Very nice tips Andrew... Feathering is my favourite. I am from Argentina and don't know English very well, but I think I found a mistake, you wrote "for" twice in this line:
"This is by no means a ‘complete’ guide for for every scenario but it should be a good place to start."

Is it a mistake or is it OK?

It doesn't matter. Continue doing tutorials and helping millions of people from every part of the world.
10 years ago
Lol, thx Andrew as always... thx Zvi, thats funny :)

You're the man Andrew!
10 years ago
Peace be upon you
First I want sad to Elliott Montello
if it is not ashamed , do what you want
Thank you, Andrew Kramer, professor of this mighty effort, I say: the power is not in science , but in the education of science
Thank you once again for your trouble my esteemed brother for our education
We are awaiting the Action Essentials 2
good lak
10 years ago
I don't know if this is useful and it's also covered partly in environment, but reference wasn't explicitly mentioned so I'll do it: reference is god, so look at the real thing if you can. Youtube's a good start =)
10 years ago

Great list/information. I know you do this for motion graphics but this information is helpful for compositing still/Photoshop images as well. This will be on my CampPhotoshop Top 5 this week!
10 years ago
Great tips Andrew.

Another tip would be to meet with live SFX crew before the shoot to know how your editing skills can combine with their live FSX to blend together seamlessly. Sometimes I see films with great SFX in editing, but horrible SFX in the live shoot, so they don't go together well.

I am looking forward to the Action Essentials to come out.
10 years ago
Andrew :D

Really useful stuff and tips that i will apply to my work!

Any release date for Action Essentials 2?
10 years ago
I think between your P.E.R.F.E.C.T and Zvis's P.E.R.F.E.C.T, I'm covered. I can't wait for this to come out!

Keep up the good work
10 years ago
That looks awesome! I cant wait for this!
Is there a release date??.. ^_^
Prodat TV
10 years ago

Your P.E.R.F.E.C.T. is very usefull Kramer
the Zvis's P.E.R.F.E.C.T. is too

I will practice both

10 years ago
Great Tips!
Great Combination!
simply PERFECT.
I suggest that you should also mention the shadows.
although you already mentioned the 'light' in color section. that should to be 'light and shadow' because you know that light and shadow are two independent things in computer graphics.
Imagine the world without shadows. there will be no perspective. shadows can tell what the time of the day,
what is the weather condition .even the seasons.
so shadows are something cannot be ignored.
10 years ago
Great list Andrew! PERFECT! ;)
10 years ago
Don't forget the main things you will need BEFORE starting your effects, to get you through the day...

I also call them P.E.R.F.E.C.T.

Be sure to have the number to your local pizza place. Soon enough, when working with effects, time flies by and before you know it, your fridge is empty. The pizza number will come in handy.

I know lots of people do their effects way into the night at times (including myself) so sleep well and gain energy. You will be surprised at your creativity skills when your mind is clear and not fueled with caffeine.

If you are like me, where your computer is on 24/7, be sure to restart it at least once a week or right before starting on a major project. (PC users) This will help clear your RAM and close unnecessary DLL's and in short, will help your system run better.

Make sure you still have friends to hang out with. If your friends are avoiding you, you are spending way to much time on your effects. Work to have fun. Don't have fun just at work.

Be very eellogofusciouhipoppokunurious at what you do. Learn new things every day. Today you learned that eellogofusciouhipoppokunurious means "good" (

Be creative in your work and I don't mean the obvious, but I mean that even though we need to try to make our scene "believable", this doesn't mean it has to meet all laws of nature. If a 2KG package of C-4 is placed by a wall, you don't have to do research to figure out how much of the wall should explode.... Just blow up the whole wall!

Make folders for your project files, assets and exports BEFORE you start your projects. If not, in about 30 minutes into your projects, it will start getting messy. 1 - 2 hours in, finding stuff will be a pain. 5 - 6 hours, you will need to use Microsoft Search to find your things. Bad.

That's my 2 cents.
10 years ago
John Robbins
10 years ago
Excellent tips, Andrew! Anything that speeds up my compositing workflow is welcome. Sometimes it's a kick in the pants, sometimes it's a useful acronym. Thanks!
Ryan O
10 years ago
Andrew, is the picture suppose to link to a higher res version of it? I don't know about anyone else, but on my machine running firefox, it just links right back to this page.

Great post. Even in commercial work that only have a few seconds (ie :30s, :15...rarely :60s), composition is still incredibly vital...

10 years ago
Can't wait for AE 2!
10 years ago
awesome andrew, you never fail to amaze!
10 years ago
Aunque la he leido con dificultades pues no soy bueno en el ingles agradezco esta guia practica y sencilla sobre los fx que me permite sentirme mas seguro en los pasos que voy dando en mi flujo de trabajo en la postproduccion.
Un abrazo desde Argentina!
10 years ago
In some scenes camera shakes are good, but level and amount should be controlled according to whats going on in the screen. I prefer to do it in after effects rather than using the actual camera itself, obviously more control that way.
10 years ago
Hey Andrew

Looking at the picture, there is some matte painting from photoshop, right? It could be so nice if you could post a photoshop tutorial on how to matte paint a destroyed building for example? :D

10 years ago
DEPTH,DEPTH,DEPTH....i used to hear that words come out from my boss....couldn't say its a turn on..
Ed Wood
10 years ago
Very good post. Thanks Andrew.

Maybe I would also add "Tracking", even if this point is already partly covered by the Perspective section. A non properly anchored nor stabilized element composited in your moving scene will indeed waste everything.
10 years ago
I wouldn't oversimplify it Ben, I'm sure there are many more fundamentals to consider, these are a great start. Grain and contrast would likely be part of the color section but you make a good point about matching dof, something I see overlooked on occasion.
10 years ago
you named this topic perfect compositing,and u forgot that you are perfect andrew........
10 years ago
I feel there are a few key points that you missed Andrew:

You never want the darkest black in the image you're compositing to be darker than the darkest black in the footage. It will break things if you do!

Always consider where about the elements in your shots are being placed. If they're in an area with heavy depth of field, you'll want to blur your element to match. Likewise if your footage is naturally blurry, your elements should be blurred to match as well. This goes with grain too! All footage (except for the RED camera at times) has grain, and it's one of those subtle things that everybody seems to miss that is needed to sell the shot!

People often disregard what's happening outside the frame. For example: if you're making a lightsaber duel and your lightsaber blade travels outside the frame you shouldn't just stop the effect when you can't see the glowing blade anymore. The glow will still linger inside the frame for a few frames, even after the blade is gone!

I think that just about covers it!
10 years ago
Another useful blog entry, Andrew.
Always been a fan of using live action interaction to couple with effects, it works really well if you do it effectively.
I'm getting really excited about the release of AE2 now - wondering whether the set date is remaining a secret or whether you'll spare us this suffering and let it slip? :P

Keep up the good work!
10 years ago
you are a true teacher of action and cool effects

i am learning alot frome you thanks alot mr kramer !


10 years ago
Elliot, it's part of a training demonstration that is in progress...
10 years ago
awsome . realy you are the best motion grafics compositor in the world.
10 years ago
Sorry to say this Andrew but in the photo for this post, isnt the bit of stock-footage you composited overlapping the leg of the person sitting on the bench?
10 years ago
When matching color i find a useful tool is the 'Reble CC' pulg-in from its free and just makes the process a bit faster and easier :) Cant wait for Action Essentials 2 its gunna kick ass!
10 years ago
Nice tip :-)
10 years ago
Thanks Andrew sir, as Fabian said without you it wont be possible to have such great resource. God bless you
10 years ago
I check your blog every day for new tutorials, but tips like these are just as good. A good way I love to use to match color and contrast between visual elements and footage is the good old A.-Adjustment layer. I match everything as good as I can and then add global color correction using an Adjustment layer. It realy makes things blend together really good. I know I'm not saying anything new, but this is a thing that can not be forgotten. YOU ARE THE BEST ANDREW! :)
10 years ago

I seriously can't wait till this product comes out!
10 years ago
wowww kramer thanks
10 years ago
Thanks Andrew,

Since I discovered guidelines it made my whole life a lot easier. Now I always make guidelines for everything I do, even for writing comments like these, I have a 4 step comment guideline
Step 1. Opening
Step 2. Thanking you for the hard work you put in these blogs / tutorials
Step 3. Making my initial comment be it serious or witty
Step 4. Closing

I use mind maps to think of new ideas and to come up with guidelines to give my life some solid structure.

Thanks again Andrew, without you everybody would still be staring at the Help index of AE and not even making half as cool stuff

10 years ago
Great Stuff Andrew, Whens Action Essentials 2 out? :D
10 years ago
Awesome Very useful tips

Really can't wait for Action Essentials :D
10 years ago
Is that London's Financial District? When were you over here?
10 years ago
Thats London!!
10 years ago
A.W.E.S.O.M.E. (2)
Dilli Vv
10 years ago
too good
10 years ago
perfect guide ;)
Shin Hito
10 years ago
you put down almost everything, you forgot the Pizza
10 years ago
Very useful!

I think its safe to say we are all extremely excited for the release. No doubt I am!
10 years ago
Thanks Kramer, these are some very good tips
10 years ago
"Who cares which technique you are using, as long as the result looks freakin' awesome"


10 years ago
looking forward to it AK u simply rocks