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Why Compositing In Animation Is Essential for Animators

ben marvazi 2020

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"Good composition is like a suspension bridge; each line adds strength and takes none away... Making lines run into each other is not composition; there must be a motive for the connection. Get the art of controlling the observer — that is composition."

Robert Henri

Compositing in animation involves combining elements like character animations, special effects, and background plates to create the final image of an animation frame, sequence, or scene, in line with the director's vision.

Since compositing in animation occurs at the end of the production pipeline, it helps animators achieve parallax, maintain the animation style throughout the video, and install the illusion of depth in the animation.

Compositors are reliable for video continuity, i.e., conveniently placing different digital art, images, shots, and animation assets to enhance the animation lighting, shadows, and motion blur where required.

To highlight why compositing in animation is essential to complete your videos, this blog looks at the role of a compositor in an animation studio, the benefits of compositing in animation production pipelines, and the use of compositing to make groundbreaking hybrid animations.

What Is The Ultimate Role Of Compositing In Animation

compositing plays a big role in an animation studio

GIF by Everdale via Giphy

Compositing in animation is one of the most critical roles in animation video production as compositors collate art from various sources and artists along the production pipeline to spot mistakes and correct them or send the work back for improvements.

It takes years of working in the animation industry to become a compositor. For instance, an animation studio can hire an animator as a junior compositor, roto artist, or modeler to prepare them for a senior role in compositing in animation.

Furthermore, studios are highly competitive in the animation, gaming, and film industries and usually favor animators with college degrees and at least three years of work experience for intermediate roles.

Animation studios do well with the skills and competencies of a compositor who is exceptional in the following apects.

  • Art: have a photographic and cinematographic eye for recognizing excellent lighting effects, perspective, color, and composition.
  • Attention to detail: be able to scrutinize color theory, image properties, animation assets, and effect compositions until they are consistent and cohesive.
  • Meeting deadlines: work within the video production timeframes and under pressure.
  • The animation production pipeline: understand the different animation roles and activities in the animation workflow process.
  • Compositing software tools: know animation software for compositing in animation, like After Effects, Maya, Houdini, Nuke, and Photoshop.

Why Compositing In Animation Is Essential For Your Videos

compositing in animation plays a big role to create high quality videos

Image by Animationsinstitut

Studios increasingly require the talents of a compositor as the preference for fantasy worlds and epic destruction and effects for virtual reality, videos, and games grows. The compositor’s objective is to create seamlessness in and between shots so that the characters and video effects (VFX) appear as realistic as possible, frame by frame.

In gaming and video effects, compositing in animation may involve creating or merging entire worlds. The compositor works with video effects and lighting artists to form compositing strategies to balance the overall aesthetics of the video.

A compositor digitally removing or retouching objects like technical equipment or utensils if they appear in the picture is another way to relay why compositing in animation is essential to complete your videos.

The specific responsibilities of a compositor in video production include

  • Blending 2D and 3D elements of a shot while balancing the technical and creative side of each element
  • Graining images, paint fixes, rotoscoping, color and grading continuity, and chroma keying
  • Stitching plates (live-action footage) together
  • Creating mattes and working with green screen effects  
  • Improving lighting and creating believable shadows within a shot
  • Incorporating rear projection into background images

During the animation production pipeline, a compositor researches numerous elements, including matching specific shots to the entire video, referencing color correction, matte painting requirements, and sourcing stock footage where necessary.

How Does Compositing In Animation Benefit The Production Pipeline

compositing in animation benefits a more efficient animation pipeline

GIF by Panic Studio via Dribbble

The 2D and 3D production pipelines vary slightly, although many of the roles within the workflow have similar responsibilities. Technological advances may render 3D compositing superior; however, 2D compositing is ideal for smaller-scale tasks since it is faster and easier to use.

An animation studio can benefit from compositing in the production phase in 2D and post-production in a 3D video production; however, in this blog, the focus is the 3D animation production pipeline.

An efficient production pipeline is critical for an animation studio to save time and money. A knowledgeable compositor understands each role along the pipeline and, therefore, is a valuable and structured team member.

To further understand why compositing in animation is essential for your video, below are all the contributions the compositor adheres to when completing the video.


  • Story development is the necessary element the entire video production serves.
  • Scriptwriting is the story in a detailed and understandable plan form.
  • Character design evolves all the visual elements described in the script into real-world visual elements.
  • Storyboarding is the first visual representation of how the video will develop.
  • Animatics bring the vision to life in an animated 3D space with camera movement and rudimentary 3D models of characters, settings, and props.


  • 3D layout involves animators creating the 3D world and determining the size, shape, and interactions of all the 3D elements.
  • 3D modeling involves animators creating, texturing, rigging, and animating the 3D models according to the needs of the script, storyboards, and animatics.
  • Video effects use physics-based simulation to create complex elements such as fluids, fur, explosions, etc.
  • Lighting should be practical and artistic, i.e., light up the environment and models while reflecting mood and atmosphere.
  • Rendering in 3D involves rendering each element separately and exporting video sequences for compositing in post-production.


  • Compositing merges all the rendered 3D elements for manipulating and polishing. The commonly known types of compositing in animation that studios use are particulate-reinforced composites and fiber-reinforced composites because they allow many material combinations on different surfaces.
  • 2D VFX adds effects like lens flares, blurs, and camera shakes, which are easier to achieve in a 2D environment for mixing into different layers for hyper-realistic composite shots instead of rendering them as 3D effects.
  • Color correction occurs when all the elements are merged as composite images to even out any coloration and create a consistent, polished, cohesive look.
  • Final rendering takes place before publishing and public viewing.
finally a solution to fast productions - compositing in animation

GIF by The Bachelorette via Giphy

The Best Techniques For Compositing In Animation

Compositors can add value to an animation studio by applying physical and digital compositing techniques.

The physical techniques rely on physically cutting film to create a composite image; however, digital composition makes it easier to streamline the production process and integrate computer-generated imagery (CGI) and visual effects into your compositing workflow.

Below is a breakdown of the physical and digital compositing techniques popular for compositing in animation.

Physical Compositing Techniques:

Partial models are highly detailed and realistic miniatures to create the illusion that the scene recording is in an authentic physical environment. Compositors capture the shot they need and seamlessly blend that shot with other video footage or layers.

Glass paintings involve compositors physically painting onto a glass pane to add details not present in an original layout and visually layering them on top of the layout by positioning the glass between the camera and the setting.

Rear projection is the classical technique of projecting pre-recorded footage onto a screen to make the backgrounds seem genuine and not in a studio. A similar method—front projection, involves projecting pre-recorded footage onto the subject and the screen to make the image quality sharper and more realistic.

Digital Compositing Techniques

Multiple exposures involve layering several exposures or shots on one another. A similar technique—Double exposure, produces the same outcome but is limited to two exposures or images.

Computer-generated imagery differs from creating a composite image because CGI compositors develop everything from scratch with video effects software.

Green screen compositing, or chroma key compositing, is how compositors express their creative agility by filming on a green screen and then replacing the background with other visual elements.

The above techniques are helpful to an animation studio for matching several layers and modifying their attributes, such as depth of field and color, to avoid rendering over and over again, which consumes time and resources.

An animation studio can benefit the most from compositing than rendering in video production, further affirming why compositing in animation is essential to completing your video.

Compositing In Animation Is Better For Animation Studios

compositing in animation is a must for animation studios

GIF by Hyperrpg via Giphy

Computers process large volumes of 3D data and innumerable computations to produce 2D frames during rendering, taking a long time, even with modern animation software and equipment.

Suppose an animation studio only uses rendering; the entire production pipeline would be affected if an animated scene needs re-rendering.

On the other hand, compositing in an animation studio is quicker than rendering because compositors do not need to re-render the entire footage since they fine-tune 3D scene features using layers or render passes.

An animation studio can avoid recurrences and inefficiencies by only fixing a specific scene in the video rather than replacing it entirely.

How Can Compositing In Animation Make Unique Hybrid Animation

compositing in animation can make your work more unique

GIF by FoxHomeEnt via Giphy

Although an animation studio may find 2D animation videos more straightforward, time-saving, and cost-effective, they can be less alluring than 3D animation videos, which, unfortunately, often require more time and resources.

Hybrid animation applies these two animation techniques to produce videos economically while bringing both worlds together to reach new creative leaps and audiences.

Compositing in animation is paramount for creating stunning imagery and motion by engaging a unique perspective and blending different animation styles and live-action to complete hybrid animation videos.

Animation studios that employ compositors can combine visual realism with stylized elements to produce more engaging and higher-netting final videos.

Compositing in animation can include compositing 2D characters and live-action films or photos for the backdrops, creating worlds where animated characters co-exist with people, combining 2D characters and motion with 3D props, or 3D characters with 2D backgrounds.

Why You Need Compositing In Animation For Your Video

Whether an animation studio prioritizes a 2D, 3D, or hybrid animated video, compositing is beneficial during the production and post-production stages and helpful for all sorts of animated content, from movie backgrounds, shorts, and feature films, to digital advertisements.

As an animation studio, knowing compositing in animation is essential to make your videos complete. Composition is critical for polishing the animated video enough for publication and saving time and budget in an animation studio.

With a compositing animator, animation studios create cohesive videos and can reach new audiences by combining different animation styles to produce unique animated productions.

To understand how to start an animation studio, animators can check out the Business of Animation free masterclass and join the animation accelerator program to start and grow a successful freelance animation career.

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