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VFX-Dailies welcomes Tara Donovan, (MPC Lead animator) and Phil Bonner, (Animal Logic Modelling Supervisor) as our mentors!


Alexander Toms


@ Image Engine Design Inc.


Hello Alex! We appreciate you taking time to answer some of the questions our visitors may have so here we go:

How did you get where you are now? As an Image Engine Compositor, what’s your story?

I studied Fine Arts, but didn't have a solid career path. However, I happened to pick up a course in animation and knew i needed more specific training. After university, I enrolled in a CG class and learned about the entire VFX pipeline and I focused on compositing as it is one of the most diverse and creative of the disciplines. After a year, I received an opportunity to do a Roto training class at Animal Logic in Australia, so I dropped out and I've been working ever since. The path from Rotoscoping to Compositing was very short for me since I demonstrated my ability to learn quickly and have always dedicated myself to being a Compositor. Along the way, I also worked at Weta as a paint artist, and that experience has better expanded my skills as a Compositor since painting and roto are essential comp skills.

What motivates you and where do you get your influence/creativity from?


All the artists that work around us have great skills Often times, there are cool things our colleagues do that inspire me: Movies with great animation and VFX are big influences, especially the seamless integration of fantasy creatures and body enhancements.

Could you briefly describe your workflow? What programs do you typically use?

I mainly use nuke. It is pretty much the only thing Compositors need to do their job. I also learned Maya because it is very advantageous to understand other roles in the pipeline.

What were the most challenging experiences you ever faced as a compositor?

Complex shots that require you to rethink your workflows and layouts for efficiency whilst also running out of time to finish. Another hard task is figuring out when it is a good time to start again from scratch when something isn't working quite right or even just figuring out what clients want.

Sometimes, just getting things to look RIGHT is the hardest thing we do.

What advice would you give to Compositors that are just starting in the industry?


Be hungry to try things out, learn techniques from your peers, while also making sure to follow instruction. There will always be a better way to do something that you may have done before so give it a try but don't waste too much time in the unknown. After all, somebody can help you out and they could show you how to solve these problems, but you will never know if you don't reach out. But be sure to try it first before asking!

What do you look for in reels? How would you recommend making a Compositing reel more artistic and interesting?

Evidence of skills is obvious as well as knowing how to make things look good. With Compositing, you need to demonstrate how you make things look real AND cool. Showreels all look very much the same, but different artists always have different shots. If you can design a reel to not look like other showreels you are on the right track especially if you can demonstrate your skills.

Artistically speaking, a range of good lighting, Composition, inclusion of real and CG elements, using practical FX (effect), and seamless integration of green-screen elements (i.e. edges) would be good to see.


We hope that this article can help a lot of compositors experienced and new. Thank you for your time!

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