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Compositing is a common visual effects technique in film, animation, and photography.

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What Is Compositing?

Compositing is the process of combining multiple images to form a single, cohesive image. It's a common visual technique in photography and film. In the early days of film and photography, compositing was done by manually cutting and pasting together photographs or film prints. Today, compositing software makes it possible for digital artists to add and remove elements digitally.

Compositing in Photography and Still Images

Compositing is a technique used in both fine art and graphic design. The more old-fashioned method is to cut, rearrange, and layer elements from different photographs and then photograph the resulting composite image. Now, you can create layer images digitally with image editing software such as Adobe Photoshop. Through photo manipulation and selection tools, you can cut, resize, or change the opacity of photos. Sometimes the resulting image undergoes retouching, so the final image looks seamless.

Compositing in Video and Animation

Compositing in video is a type of visual effect, or VFX for short. When compositing video, images from separate sources are added to live-action video footage, and the entire image undergoes color correction to create one cohesive moment. For example, in the Star Wars saga, the lightsaber glow was added with compositing, and the fantastical landscapes were computer-generated and added during post-production. Compositing software, such as Houdini or Adobe After Effects, can create these special effects.

One of the earliest uses of compositing in cinema was through animation, where animators traced over the movements of live actors to make their animated characters more realistic in a process called rotoscoping. In 3D animation, compositing creates colors and a realistic depth of field for digitally rendered images.

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3 Types of Compositing Techniques

There are several techniques for creating composite images. Some common techniques used by digital artists include: