Although this seems to be the ‘compositing’ part of this course, compositing isn’t separate from the rest of the filmmaking process. It’s broken down here in order to focus on its technical and creative components.

Course Outline

  1. Introduction
  2. Visual Development
  3. Digital Representation of Visual Information
  4. Image Manipulation + Compositing
  5. Matte Creation and Manipulation
  6. Time Manipulations
  7. Tracking + Stabilization (optional)
This class is tool-independent. This means that we will employ a variety of tools to achieve the same effects and to focus on what are doing instead of how we do it! The course follow three case studies (not necessarily in that order):
  1. Compositing Traditional / Tradigital Animation
  2. Compositing CG Elements Together
  3. Compositing CG Animation Over Live Action BG


We are going to use 3 different tools to learn about the compositing process:

  1. Adobe After Effects – tutorials –
  2. The Foundry’s Nuke – Tutorials
  3. Toonboom’s Animate Pro – Tutorials – Workshop Outline
I expect students to follow each set of introduction tutorials for each tool independently so that class time can be focused on compositing real shots. If students are already familiar with a tool they can skip the tool tutorials – however everyone is expected to be familiar with the basics of each tool when coming to class. When Basic Tool Tutorials are supposed to be completed and assimilated is indicated on the class schedule.


Work is assigned depending on the film the students are working on. For group projects students are evaluated individually on the shots they have composited. And there is one written essay.
Lectures occur on the first weekly class. The technology required to do the exercises is introduced on the second weekly class for use for the following week’s assignment. The results of the exercises are due a week later. Occasionally and randomly a 10 minute quiz might be given about the assigned readings (first weekly session). Readings are not all text, they can be web sites, movies, songs, podcasts etc. Students are required  to maintain a blog/multimedia journal demonstrating their work in the class.


  • Midterm project / presentation: 20%
  • Final project / presentation: 40%
  • Essay: 20%
  • Final quiz: 10%
  • Class participation, weekly assignments, attendance: 10%


1500 words +/- 5% – choose from one of the two following subjects

  1. Choose an animated film and critique the lighting, texturing, rendering, compositing. Provide annotated film frames to support your argument. Critiquing doesn’t necessarily mean pointing at what is wrong or could have done better! Build an analysis of a compositing and visual development strategy / vision of the filmmakers. It is highly suggested that you view the film in BluRay on a properly calibrated screen. Research the visual development that formed the foundation of the film’s look.
  2. Prepare questions and go interview a compositor in a studio in the area (or conduct the interview with Skype). Focus on the key skills required to be a good compositor. Questions and answers about the tools used are not very important here. What is important is to illustrate how the compositor is instrumental in implementing the vision of the director.

Term Project

Passing this course involves having composited shots on a finished film. Seniors can bring their capstone project and use the class and the resources to composite their film. If they are making a team film it is recommended that a lead compositor be assigned to the task of supervising the overall compositing process.
Juniors can also bring their Junior Studio film in the class as a term projects. Same conditions as for seniors.
If a student has no project s/he can join the compositing team of the Junior or Senior film. If that is not possible they are required to complete an animated 15 seconds identity piece with their name for their demo reel. Another possible project is the production of a blog making-of segment about the pipeline project of the senior or junior films.


This course takes place over 15 weeks and meets twice a week

Week 1 
Class: Introduction – Visual Development – Introduction to Toonboom Animate Pro
Readings: This Syllabus!
Tool Tutorials: Toonboom Animate Pro – Getting Started with Toonboom Animate – Sketching a Character
Assignments: film specific. prepare visual development for film.

Week 2 
Class: Compositing Traditional / Tradigital Animation – Animate Pro (importing scanned animation, painting, tones, exporting, TGA4, AE Import/Export)
Readings: Color Tutorial @ Cirque Digital – Animate Pro Hot Keys
Tool Tutorials: Toonboom Animate Pro – Drawing, Tracing and Cleaning – More Drawing Tools – Adding Colour
Assignments: prepare visual development for film – get started on compositing production schedule

Week 3
Class: Compositing Traditional / Tradigital Animation – Animate Pro (textured brushes)
Readings: Photoshop blend modes
Tool Tutorials: Toonboom Animate Pro –  Scene Set Up – Tradigital Animation – All About Timing – Rendering and Compositing
Assignments: Compositing Production Schedule & Projects Visual Development are due (beginning of class) – also due is the farmer clip (less than one MB on FTP site) colored and composited against a BG.

Week 4
Class: Compositing Traditional / Tradigital Animation – Animate Pro / Flash / After Effects
Readings: Watch Paperman and this making-of segment – How to create a tilable texture
Tool Tutorials: Toonboom Animate Pro – Effects – Sound
Assignments: Senior and Junior Films – TBD – Class assignment: on FTP post clip (mp4<5MB on FTP) of camera trucking on chicken in pen showing multiplane movement.

Week 5
Class: Compositing Traditional Animation – After Effects
Readings: Glossary
Tool Tutorials: Cycore Butterflies – After Effects (chose what you like from VideoCopilot or AE.Tuts+)
Assignments: composite and color some old 2D animation of yours using CC Toner in After Effects. Use at least 3 colors and use masking. (mp4<5MB on FTP)

Week 6
Class: Compositing Traditional Animation – After Effects
Readings: Watch interview with Tim Gibbons – Compositor at ILM
Tool Tutorials: After Effects (chose what you like from VideoCopilot or AE.Tuts+)
Assignments: work on butterfly

Week 7 
Class: Compositing CG Animation I – After Effects / Nuke
Readings: Interview with Bill Spitzak (Nuke’s creator)
Tool Tutorials: Nuke Tutorials – User guide – Compositing Basics – Tracking
Assignments: animate your first name with letters formed with butterflies  (mp4<5MB on FTP) – use CC Particle World, masking and several layers.

Week 8 – MIDTERM
Compositing CG Animation II – Nuke
Readings: The Optical Printer – FXPHD
Tool Tutorials: Nuke Tutorials – Keying [skip Primatte section if using PLE] – 3D Integration
Assignments: for the midterm (3.6.13) a professional presentation of your individual/group progress is expected. Duration less than 15mn per film/project. Be ready to discuss and answer questions about the progress on your film. Outline for essay is due (post a PDF in your folder on the FTP server)

Week 9
Class: Compositing CG Animation III – Nuke
Readings: Glossary – Files and Formats – Aspect Ratios
Tool Tutorials: Nuke Tutorials – Keying [skip Primatte section if using PLE] – 3D Integration
Assignments:  composite the race car and change its color to blue and place a Woodbury Logo on the door (mp4<5MB on FTP)

Week 10
Readings: Glossary
Tool Tutorials: Nuke Tutorials
Assignments: see individual/team assignments email.

Week 11
Class: Lecture – Art and Science of Compositing (Arno Kroner) – Part I
Readings: class presentation slides and notes are located here
Tool Tutorials: Nuke / After Effects Tutorials
Assignments: see individual/team assignments email.

Week 12
Class: Lecture – Art and Science of Compositing (Arno Kroner) – Part II
Readings: TBD
Tool Tutorials: Nuke / After Effects Tutorials
Assignments: see individual/team assignments email.

Week 13
Class: Compositing Animation over Live Action I – Nuke + After Effects
Readings: TBD
Tool Tutorials: Nuke / After Effects Tutorials
Assignments: see individual/team assignments email.

Week 14
Class: Compositing Animation over Live Action II – Nuke + After Effects
Readings: TBD
Tool Tutorials: Nuke / After Effects Tutorials
Assignments: see individual/team assignments email.

Week 15 
Final Exam (written test for 1.5 hour) – Papers are due by emailed PDF. Since everyone in the class has a film they are working on compositing will be graded at the final review. Please note that the compositing of each film was pretty much the only big assignment in this class. Fully composited films are expected.

Recommended Books

Although they are not required I highly recommend that students own first two following two books. They are the best career companions for someone involved in Visual Effects and Animation. For a student who is serious about having Nuke on their list of technical and compositing skills it is highly recommended that s/he works the tutorials in the two Nuke books.

All other resources can be found online, especially using the links on the right.


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