A Day In The Life Of a Junior Compositor

By Brook McGowan | 14th February 2019

Compositors are at the end of the visual effects process, we take all the different computer generated or live action images and make it all fit together in one space to make the shot look realistic. Our days change during the course of a show. Early days are quite relaxed and it slowly gets more intense towards delivery and finally some small tasks just to wrap things up.

When I get in the first thing I do is check my Shotgun schedule which is our production database that gives us our priorities and details any changes to our shots. Production will come round to each artist to double check we know what we need to work on that day and any possible issues that have come up the day before or to discuss with us if we can't meet the days schedule for any reason; like waiting for things from other departments or technical problems.

When I pick up a shot I have a look at what the task is - first look, work in progress (WIP) or final. A first look can be creative; I see what I can add to the shot to help the story telling, sometimes giving the director a few options for flexibility. With a WIP task I am just working up the shot, removing the green-screen, adding in the latest CG/FX, matching the colour to make it look like it was filmed in the same space, getting the right focus and many other variables! With a final task, it can be as simple as updating the new assets, however sometimes the assets need fixing and there's no time to send it back to another department so we will "fix it in comp". For example, if a creature isn't animated over a few frames, we will make it animate in comp! If the raindrops are moving too fast, we will fix it in comp! If the director has changed their mind about how many times they want a character to blink, we will fix it in comp! If a spaceship door doesn't close as it flies off, we will fix it in comp!

I will then submit the shot to 'dailies' to be reviewed by our supervisor for feedback. Dailies happen in a review suite which have huge screens to see the shot in all its glory! They will zoom in, play it frame by frame, expose up and down to see everything! When we get notes, we address them and get the shot back in for the next dailies session which could be in 2 hours time. During the early days of the show we will have time to address all the notes to send back in by at the end of the day, later on we do as much as we can to send back in for the next session. Eventually we get a "send for final" note.