10 Simple Steps to Becoming a VFX Compositor

Ok, so you have seen these Nuke Breakdowns and think the glamour of Hollywood awaits you…well then…

1. Have a look around filmmaking and post-production.

2. Still keen? Then check the core skills in VFX. You never know, there may be a CG artist hiding in you instead.

3. Ok, so compositing it is! Then Compositing Visual Effects Essentials for the Aspiring Artist is your next read.

4. Master the core skills, including this one, by either – a) attending a classroom course b) taking an online course c) by doing it yourself (through free tutorials and books) or d) by becoming a runner.

5. Check out Nuke Compositing Showreels by the students of major Compositing Schools. Now you know what your goal is.

6. Master the entry level skills – roto, paint, tracking, keying, colour correction and junior level compositing.

7. To be honest – the advice on how to get into the industry (and survive it!) is in my book (it took a year to write, a year to trim down and a year to make it funny!).

8. And of course you can always ask me questions here before the next book comes out.

9. So, what are you waiting for? Download PLE of Nuke and Nuke User Guide for free.

Actually that’s not fair. Just because I am using Nuke it doesn’t mean you have to. You may want to use another compositing tool like Smoke which is also free to download at the moment. Smoke tutorials are here.

10. Hasta la Vista baby…in Hollywood, of course! Or Bollywood (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel hopefully).


  1. And that’s how you get a lot of “artists” who are really just technicians. Just some compositing courses will neither teach you the many truly artistic aspects to things, nor the truly technical ones. There simply wouldn’t be any time to do all the art history, programming, basics of other pipeline stages and whatnot if you want to be more than a one trick pony.

    Plus, unless you (the prospective compositor, not the author of this article) find all that “other stuff” extremely boring, it will help you a lot in the communication with CG artists, understanding client feedback better and extend whatever software you work with and/or resolve minor technical issues without constantly having to run to some pipeline developer, IT guy, etc. (depending on the permissions you have on your system, of course). And even if you have to ask for technical support, you’ll at least actually understand most of what they’re saying – which is less embarrassing and more productive.

    As for Bollywood, I recommend reading the following:

    • These are very interesting points and some that I have touched upon in my first book.
      1. Of course there is a limitation to what courses teach and that’s why not all students make it into the industry. The idea of the courses is to give you a basis upon which to build on, a showreel and help you get a foot into a door i.e. get a first job.
      Of course besides mastering the core skills one has to have a certain type of personality – good communicator – friendly – teamworker, have an insatiable hunger for knowledge, a good eye for detail, the understanding of composition, the colours, the lighting and so on. I do intend to post guides on these as well. The learning never really stops – I have had to learn new software ever year or two.
      2. The industry itself is divided into film, advertising and TV and there is a big difference between the demands of these, the pipelines, the work conditions and so on which I have explained in my book and which need to be considered before choosing which part of the industry one will work in.
      3. Film pipeline has changed enormously over the last 20 years and mainly because of the ever increasing demands on VFX, relatively quick turnarounds and often unrealistic budgets. The technical demands on artists have certainly increased and being “just an artist” is becoming more difficult. In film anyway. The roles are much more segmented than they used to be too. On the first few films I worked on I used Flame, the teams were much smaller, there was a contact between film director and the artists and one felt very much part of a creative process.
      4. Aaaaahhhh technical support – when you call for technical support things usually start working as soon they come in…hahahahaha…and you end up looking stupid anyway :). Understanding CG is really important but not always possible hahahahahaha…
      5. VFX Soldier is a very important industry blog that raises and campaigns on a number of issues involving the film VFX industry and I would certainly advice to follow it to keep abreast of what is happening as it is very easy to get insulated when looking into the screen with the headphones on. šŸ˜‰
      6. The best way to protect oneself is to keep learning, keep widening the skills and try to extend into the other parts of post-production like editing and grading.

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