Compositing in Animation: Definition, Process & Challenges

a year ago   •   2 min read

By Gwénaëlle Dupré
Photo by Tuệ Nguyễn / Unsplash

Compositing is the phase where layers and plates are combined into an almost-final image. A layer is a group of assets organized together to be easily edited, while a plate is a raw footage used as a base for adding after-effects.

The result is a sequence of images for a shot, as well as stereoscopic (one variant for each eye) and textless (for international production) variants.

Compositing In 5 Steps

The graphic artist responsible for compositing is called a comper. The role can be divided into 5 steps:

  1. Gathering the necessary elements - Collect all the elements needed for the shot―character assets, background, props, plates, etc.
  2. Setting up the scene - Set up a digital workspace and import the elements into a compositing software like Nuke, Bender, or After Effects.
  3. Organizing the layers - Arrange the elements in the scene in the correct order, group them, and adjust their timing and positioning as needed.
  4. Fine-tuning the details - Refine the composition by making any necessary tweaks or adjustments to the individual elements or the overall shot. This can take a few retakes.
  5. Rendering the final output - Render the final composite as a single image or sequence of images.

Compositing is really a bridge from production to post-production.

Compers can also request new animations or retakes as needed. For example, when a character has the same color as its background, you’ll need one of the two to change.

After compositing comes grading and FX:

  1. Color correction and grading - Adjust the color and contrast of the elements to make them visually consistent and match the overall mood of the shot.
  2. Adding effects and filters - Apply any special effects or filters, such as blurs, glows, or lens flares, to enhance the overall look and feel of the shot.

What Tools Are Used For Compositing

There are mainly 3 categories of tools used by compers to create complex and realistic scenes:

  • A digital content creation tool - A compositing tool like Blender, After Effects, or Autodesk Flame to manipulate assets and add effects. Keeping files organized and labeled is important in a cross-functional work environment.
  • A production tracker - To quickly gather assets, collect objectives, comments and feedback from colleagues, and review shots. Kitsu, our pipeline tracker, comes to mind. Animation projects require many people with different skills and roles to work together, so you need a way to keep everyone in sync to avoid costly retakes.
  • A render farm - A service like Ranch Computing to speed up rendering while maximizing quality. You have to test your composite scene regularly to identify issues, so minimizing rendering time is key.


Compositing is a crucial step to create high-quality animations and visual effects. To succeed, you need to understand the process and how it fits in the overall production pipeline, but also master the tools involved.

If you're interested in learning more about compositing and other aspects of animation, we invite you to join our Discord community. Our community is a great place to connect with other animators, share your work, and get feedback from experts in the field. We look forward to seeing you there!

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