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How Do I Become a Digital Compositor?

N. Kalu
N. Kalu

Digital compositors are responsible for creating images by integrating other images from multiple sources. Compositors usually work in the film, television, or print media industry. The images that they create can serve as dramatic special effects or be designed to unobtrusively blend into the background. Digital composition is a growing field and can be quite lucrative, depending on your skill level. In order to become a digital compositor, you will need to obtain certifications and build a portfolio.

A common way to become a digital compositor is to obtain a four year Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree. This type of degree focuses on teaching the fundamentals of art theory as well as practical aspect of art, such as specific tools and methods. There are many specialized art schools and larger universities that offer BFAs. While it is possible to independently study and obtain the skill set necessary to become a digital compositor without obtaining a BFA, having the diploma will assure potential employers that you have a broad base of knowledge on which to base different kinds of compositing work.

Woman doing a handstand with a computer
Woman doing a handstand with a computer

The two main types of digital compositing are image and video. Image compositors work with still images, taking elements from different sources and combining them to produce a final product. Many of these artists also work with the people who create the source images. They may not be photographers or illustrators themselves, but they are able to tell these people what they need in terms of lighting and composition. Good source material makes a compositing job much easier.

Video compositors perform similar tasks to image compositors, except that they do hundreds or thousands of frames at once and have effects that progress over time. This adds immense complexity to an already difficult field, but creates very impressive final products. Composite video is a crucial part of most modern films, where actors frequently work in front of a green screen and have exotic backgrounds added later. If you become a digital compositor and work in video, you will most likely be directly involved in filming as well as editing in post.

To become a digital compositor, you will need a portfolio. Your BFA tells your employer that you have a good foundation, and your portfolio, or demo reel, shows an employer what type of work you do and what style you do it in. A good portfolio will include a full array of your work. If you choose to specialize in a specific area, such as flame effects or fantasy style compositing, then your portfolio should still include a large variety within your chosen specialty.

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