The field of film, video, and photography has so many techniques to use to create works of art; we’ve used some for decades, some are newer and all of them just keep advancing and getting better and more realistic. Compositing plays an essential role in video and photography; we see it everywhere. Read on for all the goodies on compositing.

What is Compositing?

Video editing is full of magic. A great video editor knows all the tricks and how to implement them to make a beautiful, effective production. One of these techniques is compositing. Even if you don’t know the name, you know it. Think about the weather piece you watch every evening. The meteorologist and the screen are composited together. Let’s read this definition together from

Compositing is the process through which two or more images combine to make the appearance of a single picture. The composite process can be done on-set and in-camera or during Post-Production. There are dozens of different ways to composite shots but perhaps the most common example is when a weatherman is placed in front of a greenscreen with the weather details behind them.

So you have the metrologist and you have the information behind them. They aren’t really standing in front of that, but the video editor has created a single picture with both images there. That is the art of compositing in simple terms. This technique isn’t just used in video. Many photographers and artists use it in photography to either edit or create works of art with their photography. Or just a great photo. In photos, it’s still the same technique. Photoshop composite is multiple images combined into one. This composite image is a collage created from several images. Each image is on a separate layer. Some layers have special effects, such as frames or drop shadows.

Photographers and video editors use this technique on a regular basis. It creates the images they want even if they can’t actually capture them. This is a perfect example of art mixing with editing.

A Bit of History

Studio Binder tells us that the birth of compositing can be traced back to the turn of the 20th century with the works of Georges Méliès, one of the best movie directors of all timeIn fact, most any article you read on compositing will mention Méliès. He used this technique over a hundred years ago to create fantastical images, including one of his best-known pieces. In this one, he employed the technique of compositing to show himself playing seven different instruments in a band. All at the same time and all him.

We also probably all know the art of background or rear projection if we’ve ever seen a film from the mid 20th century. You know, the actors are riding in a car and the background is whizzing by. They’re not really driving through the beautiful countryside or on a dark rainy night, but with the magic of compositing, the creators made them look like they were. Well, sort of. Film has come a long way, right?

Matte paintings were one of the original techniques.

Matte paintings are one of the original VFX techniques used in filmmaking. Originally used in photography, matte paintings have evolved from painted glass panels to entire 3D digital worlds.

Think of the big scenes in Gone With the Wind. Many of the large background landscapes were paintings. Alfred Hitchcock used a lot of matte paintings on glass, which was another technique. You can see these in North by Northwest and The Birds. Another great example is in the 1960’s film Mary Poppins. We watch Mary float over the city of London with her umbrella thanks to the art of the matte paintings. We’ve got to include the epic scenes from the Star Wars films, too.

The big shift

This style of compositing shifted towards digital towards the end of the 20th century. Rocketstock tells us one of the last great films to use matte hand-painted mattes was in the 1997 epic, Titanic. As digital grew for compositing, fewer films used actually backdrops. Most of the work was done digitally, but you’ll still find the traditional form here and there, like in  Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban where six 100-foot canvases were put together and used behind the set.

Compositing Today

Compositing has had quite the journey. It makes the films the magic moments they are. Much of this has to do with the editors and designers. In fact, background designers are integral in this field and create loads of magic with their talent. A background artist or designer is the person responsible for creating amazing backdrops for media and multimedia projects. Background designers have a huge hand in the compositing process. Video editors also add their magic to this process.


Let’s take a look at compositing today in photography

Starting with photography seems like a good place to begin. Let’s talk social media for a bit. You’ve seen the cute photos, you know, a bucket of fried chicken with a tiny adorable dog embedded as a piece of chicken, one person at a dinner party with five of their own selves, and perhaps a unicorn in the midst of a cityscape. So how do they do this? It’s all compositing. And now it’s digital.

We love this description from

They’re some of the most compelling visuals you can incorporate into your website and social media accounts, and they’re…

Well, to put it bluntly, they’re fake.

Composite images are made up of two or more photographs, which are combined to create one image.

Sure, they’re fake, but really, so what? Compositing in photography can make some great art, and it’s a great skill. If you are looking to raise the bar with your social media or branding, you may want to think about working with a designer to get you there. Compositing is a fun way to edit your media to make it stand out in the crowd.

So think photo editing and far beyond. With the use of a few tools, a handful of skills, and some creativity, you can create magic with your photos. And if you’d like to hand over the task, a designer or editor would be happy to help.

Compositing in film and video today

Referencing Studio Binder once again, we learn that green screen capture, computer capture, computer-generated imagery and rotoscoping are all techniques artists use in compositing. Green screen techniques are one of the most common compositing techniques we see today. Green screens often make us think of the news, but it’s far beyond that. Lots of action films use them, but there is now a transition to LED screens. Sometimes it’s tough to keep up with the latest technology trends.

These are some great techniques to know and use in the world of video compositing. Remember, you can unlayer what you already have, too. That also counts as compositing. The techniques will make your video amazing!  Check out Shutterstock for more info on these:

  1. Cloning
  2. Transition with Foreground Objects
  3. Fake Depth
  4. Retime Dialogue Scenes
  5. Remove Objects

Animation uses a lot of composting as well. It’s anytime multiple images are combined into one screen. We all know the transitions of animation through the years, and like anything technology related, it’s always getting better and better. Here’s a little summation of composting today from Studio Binder (we always love a Star Wars reference):

Remember: compositing is simply the process of taking two or more images and combining them to make a single picture. These “images” could be as small as the light-effect on a lightsaber or as big as a desert background on Tatooine.

Should You Hire an Editor to Help With Compositing

If you’re a photographer or editor, you probably know all of this already. But if you’re looking to up your visual game, you may want to consider either taking a class, watching some tutorials, or maybe even hiring an editor to help you out. There are tons of freelancers out there who would love to take on a project. And with the ease of sharing digital work, proximity isn’t an issue. You can also work with a service like Bunny Studio, and we will help you find just the right pro to work with.

On the other hand, if this is totally your skillset, you may want to consider freelancing with your own skills. It’s a great field, and people always need help here. Compositing and film and video editing aren’t just for the big things, people also want it for branding, blogs, business, and social media. If you think you’d like to work in this field, check us out at Bunny Studio. We’re always looking for exceptional pros.

Summing It All Up

Observing the trends in photography and video is an amazing ride. It’s one of the areas you can really see the effect of the development of technology. And it’s ever-changing. Though compositing has been around for over a hundred years, it’s still evolving. We can see old films and photos with compositing. And though it can make us giggle now, it’s all part of the big steps of editing and creation. Here at Bunny Studio, we have amazing video artists and graphic designers with top-notch skills to make your visual media stand out. Reach out to us if you’d like more information.

Not only is it fun to look back at what compositing has been before, but we also love to look ahead. Who knows what we’ll be doing with this in a few years, but we can’t wait to see!