Digital Compositing for Film and Video : Production Workflows and Techniques book cover
4th Edition

Digital Compositing for Film and Video
Production Workflows and Techniques

ISBN 9781138240377
Published November 28, 2017 by Routledge
576 Pages 300 Color Illustrations

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Book Description

Written by senior compositor, technical director and master trainer Steve Wright, this book condenses years of production experience into an easy-to-read and highly-informative guide suitable for both working and aspiring visual effects artists.

This expanded and updated edition of Digital Compositing for Film and Video addresses the problems and difficult choices that professional compositors face on a daily basis with an elegant blend of theory, practical production techniques and workflows. It is written to be software-agnostic, so it is applicable to any brand of software. This edition features many step-by-step workflows, powerful new keying techniques and updates on the latest tech in the visual effects industry.

Workflow examples for:

  • Grain Management
  • Lens Distortion Management
  • Merging CGI Render Passes
  • Blending Multiple Keys
  • Photorealistic Color Correction
  • Rotoscoping

Production Techniques for:

  • Keying Difficult Greenscreens
  • Replicating Optical Lens Effects
  • Advanced Spill Suppression
  • Fixing Discoloured Edges
  • Adding Interactive Lighting
  • Managing Motion Blur

With brand new information on:

  • Working in linear
  • ACES Color Management
  • Light Field Cinematography
  • Planar Tracking
  • Creating Color Difference Keys
  • Premultiply vs. Unpremultiply
  • Deep Compositing
  • VR Stitching
  • 3D Compositing from 2D Images
  • How Color Correction ops Effect Images
  • Color Spaces
  • Retiming Clips
  • Working with Digital Cinema Images
  • OpenColorIO

A companion website offers images from the examples discussed in the book allowing readers to experiment with the material first-hand.

Table of Contents

About the Author



Chapter 1 - Getting Started

1.1 How this Book is Organized

1.2 Web Content

1.3 What’s New in the 4th Edition

1.4 Gold Mines

1.5 Tool Conventions

1.5.1 The Slice Tool

1.5.2 Flowgraphs

1.5.3 Color Lookup Tables (LUTs)

1.5.4 Nuke

1.6 Data Conventions

1.6.1 Floating Point Data Banding Clipping

1.6.2 Linear Light Space

1.6.3 HDR Images

1.6.4 Stops

Chapter 2 - Pulling Keys

2.1 Lumakeys

2.1.1 How Lumakeys Work

2.1.2 Making Your Own Luminance Image Variations on the Luminance Equations Non-luminance Monochrome Images

2.1.3 Making Your Own Lumakeyer

2.2 Chromakeys

2.2.1 How Chromakeys Work

2.2.2 Making Your Own Chromakeyer

2.2.3 Making a 3D Chromakeyer

2.3 Difference Mattes

2.3.1 How Difference Mattes Work

2.3.2 Making Your Own Difference Matte Making the Difference Image Making the Difference Matte

2.4 Bump Mattes

2.5 Color Difference Keys

2.6 The Blur and Grow Technique

2.7 Rotoscoping

2.7.1 Control Point Coherency

2.7.2 Shape Breakdown Hierarchical Articulation Organization

2.7.3 Bezier or B-spline?

2.7.4 Keyframe Strategies On 2’s Binary Multiples Bifurcation Motion Extremes

2.7.5 Motion Blur Spline Placement Edge Decontamination

2.7.6 Inspection

Chapter 3 - Working with Keyers

3.1 Keyers

3.2 How Keyers Work

3.2.1 Calculating the Color Difference Matte The Theory Pulling the Raw Matte A Simplified Example A Slightly More Realistic Case And Now, The Real World Matte Edge Penetration

3.2.2 Scaling the Raw Matte

3.3 The After Effects Keyer

3.3.1 Step-by-Step Procedure

3.3.2 Flowgraph of the After Effects Keyer

3.4 Typical Greenscreen Problems

3.4.1 Over Exposed

3.4.2 Under Exposed

3.4.3 Impure Greenscreens

3.4.4 Uneven Lighting

3.5 Preprocessing the Greenscreen

3.5.1 Denoise and Degrain

3.5.2 Screen Leveling

3.5.3 Local Suppression

3.5.4 Channel Clamping

3.5.5 Channel Shifting

3.5.6 Screen Correction Step-by-Step Procedure Pictographic Flow Chart Flowgraph of the Screen Correction Procedure How to Create a Clean Greenscreen

Chapter 4 - Refining Mattes

4.1 Gamma Slamming

4.2 Garbage Mattes

4.2.1 Pre-matting

4.2.2 Post-matting

4.3 Filtering the Matte

4.3.1 Noise Suppression with a Median Filter

4.3.2 Softer Edges

4.3.3 Controlling the Blur Operation The Blur Radius The Blur Percentage Masking the Blur

4.4 Adjusting the Matte Size

4.4.1 Eroding a Matte with Blur and Scale

4.4.2 Dilating a Matte with Blur and Scale

4.4.3 Blurring Out

4.4.4 Sculpting Edges

4.5 Edge Masks

Chapter 5 - Spill Suppression

5.1 Sources of Spill

5.2 The Despill Operation

5.3 Despill Algorithms

5.3.1 Green Limited by Red Implementing the Algorithm The Spillmap

5.3.2 Green Limited by the Average of Red and Blue

5.3.3 An Adjustable Despill

5.3.4 What About Blue Spill?

5.3.5 Refining the Despill Channel shifting Spillmap Scaling Mixing Despills Matting Despills Together

5.4 The Unspill Operation

5.4.1 How to Set It Up

5.4.2 Grading to the Backing Color

5.5 Despill Artifacts

5.5.1 Finding the Artifacts

5.5.2 Hue Shifts

5.5.3 Dark Edges

5.5.4 Fixing Despill Artifacts

5.6 Edge Grading

5.7 Edge Extension

Chapter 6 - the Composite

6.1 Premultiply vs. Unpremultiply

6.1.1 Premultiply

6.1.2 Unpremultiply

6.1.3 The Double Premultiply

6.2 The Composite

6.2.1 The Over Composite

6.2.2 The KeyMix Composite

6.2.3 The AddMix Composite How it Works How to Build It How to Use It

6.2.4 The Processed Foreground Method The Workflow What to Watch Out For

6.3 Compositing With a Keyer

6.3.1 Soft Comp/Hard Comp

6.3.2 "Cut and Paste" Keyer Compositing

6.4 Compositing Outside the Keyer

6.4.1 The Single Key

6.4.2 The Uberkey

6.4.3 Soft Key/Hard Key

6.4.4 The Additive Keyer

6.5 Stereo Compositing

6.5.1 Anaglyph

6.5.2 Stereopsis

6.5.3 Stereoscopy

6.5.4 The Stereo Conversion Process

6.5.5 Depth Grading Scene Transition The Dashboard Effect Window Violation Miniaturization Divergence

6.5.6 Stereo Compositing Dual View Display Split and Join Views Disparity Maps

Chapter 7 - Compositing CGI

7.1 Multi-Pass CGI Compositing

7.1.1 Process Verification for Your Renderer

7.1.2 Render Passes

7.1.3 Lighting Passes Render Passes Workflow Beauty Pass Workflow

7.1.4 AOVs

7.1.5 ID Passes

7.1.6 Normals Relighting

7.2 EXR File Format

7.2.1 Film Scans

7.2.2 Linear Lightspace

7.2.3 Arbitrary Image Channels

7.3 HDR Images

7.4 Deep Compositing

7.4.1 Deep Images

7.4.2 The Layering Complexity Problem

7.4.3 The Depth Compositing Edge Problem

7.4.4 The Re-rendering Problem

7.4.5 Deep Compositing with Live Action

Chapter 8 - 3D Compositing

8.1 A Short Course in 3D

8.1.1 the 3D Coordinate System

8.1.2 Vertices

8.1.3 Meshes

8.1.4 Surface Normals

8.1.5 UV Coordinates

8.1.6 Map Projection

8.1.7 UV Projection

8.1.8 3D Geometry

8.1.9 Geometric Transformations

8.1.10 Geometric Deformations Image Displacement Noise Displacement Deformation Lattice

8.1.11 Point Clouds

8.1.12 Lights

8.1.13 Shaders

8.1.14 Reflection Mapping

8.1.15 Ray Tracing

8.1.16 Image Based Lighting

8.1.17 Cameras

8.2 3D Compositing

8.2.1 3D compositing from 2D images

8.2.2 Pan and Tile

8.2.3 Camera Projection

8.2.4 Multiplane Shots

8.2.5 Set Extension

8.2.6 3D Backgrounds

8.3 Alembic Geometry

8.3.1 The Simple Case

8.3.2 Scenegraphs

8.3.3 Advantages Over FBX

8.4 Camera Tracking

8.4.1 Step 1 - Feature Tracking

8.4.2 Step 2 - The Solve

8.4.3 Step 3 – Build the Scene

8.4.4 Placing the Geometry

8.4.5 A Large Outdoor Scene

Chapter 9 - Color Correction

9.1 The Behavior of Light

9.1.1 The Inverse Square Law

9.1.2 Diffuse Reflections

9.1.3 Specular Reflections

9.1.4 Bounce Light

9.1.5 Scattering

9.2 Gamma

9.2.1 The Math

9.2.2 Why Do We Need Gamma?

9.3 The Affect of Color Operations

9.3.1 Lift

9.3.2 Gamma

9.3.3 Gain

9.3.4 Offset

9.3.5 Saturation

9.3.6 Color Grading vs. Color Correcting

9.3.7 Increasing Contrast with the "S" Curve

9.3.8 Histograms

9.3.9 Channel Swapping

9.3.10 Premultiply vs. Unpremultiply - again

9.4 Matching the Light Space

9.4.1 Brightness and Contrast Matching the Black and White Points Matching the Midtones Gamma Slamming

9.4.2 Matching Color Grayscale Balancing Flesh Tones The "Constant Green" Method of Color Correction Daylight Specular Highlights

9.4.3 Lighting Direction

9.4.4 Quality of Light Sources Creating Softer Lighting Creating Harsher Lighting

9.4.5 Non-linear Gradients for Color Correction

9.4.6 The DI Process

9.4.7 A Checklist

Chapter 10 - Sweetening the Comp

10.1 Layer Integration

10.2 Interactive Lighting

10.3 Edge Blending

10.4 Light Wrap

10.5 Creating Shadows

10.5.1 Edge Characteristics

10.5.2 Density

10.5.3 Color

10.5.4 Faux Shadows

10.5.5 Shadow Warping

10.5.6 Contact Shadows

10.6 Atmospheric Haze

10.7 Adding a Glow

10.8 Grain Management

10.8.1 Grain Characteristics

10.8.2 Regraining Techniques Regrain Tool Lifted Grain Grain Rescue

10.8.3 Grain Management Workflows Live Over Live Live Over CGI CGI Over Live CGI Over CGI Still Photos

10.9 Managing Clipping

Chapter 11 - Camera Effects

11.1 Lens Effects

11.1.1 Lens Distortion

11.1.2 Depth of Field

11.1.3 Vignetting

11.1.4 Lens Defects Spherical Aberration Astigmatism Chromatic Aberration

11.1.5 Glows and Flares Lens Flare Lens Filter Flare Diffraction Glows Veiling Glare

11.1.6 Grain

11.2 Lens Distortion Workflows

11.2.1 CGI Over Live Action

11.2.2 Live Action Over CGI

11.2.3 CGI Over CGI

11.2.4 Live Action Over Live Action

11.3 Matching the Focus

11.3.1 Using a Blur for Defocus

11.3.2 How to Simulate a Defocus

11.3.3 Sharpening Sharpening Operations Unsharp Masks Making Your Own Unsharp Mask

11.4 Rolling shutter

Chapter 12 - Digital Color

12.1 Color Spaces

12.1.1 Primary Chromaticities

12.1.2 Units of Measure

12.1.3 Transfer Function

12.1.4 Gamut

12.1.5 HSV and HSL

12.1.6 Log and Linear

12.2 Working in Linear

12.2.1 What Exactly is Linear?

12.2.2 Color Operations

12.2.3 Transformations and Filtering

12.2.4 CGI

12.3 Metadata

12.4 OpenColorIO

12.5 ACES Color Management

12.5.1 The ACES Workflow

12.5.2 The ACES Gamut

12.5.3 What About Video Productions?

Chapter 13 - Image Blending

13.1 Image Blending in Linear Light Space

13.1.1 Image Blending Operations

13.1.2 Compositing Operations

13.1.3 Matching the sRGB Look in Linear All sRGB Color Space sRGB Within Linear

13.2 Alpha Compositing Operations

13.3 Image Blending Operations

13.3.1 The Screen Operation Adjusting the Appearance

13.3.2 The Weighted Screen Operation

13.3.3 Multiply Adjusting the Appearance

13.3.4 Maximum

13.3.5 Minimum

13.3.6 Absolute Difference

13.4 Adobe Photoshop Blending Modes

13.4.1 Simple Blending Modes

13.4.2 Complex Blending Modes

13.5 Slot Gags

13.6 Retiming Clips

13.6.1 Constant Speed Changes

13.6.2 Variable Speed Changes

13.6.3 Interpolation Methods Nearest Neighbor Frame Average Motion Estimation

13.7 VR Stitching

13.7.1 Workflow Overview

13.7.2 Removing Lens Distortion

13.7.3 Building a Matching Computer Rig

13.7.4 Projecting Onto the Panosphere

13.7.5 The Stitching Process

13.7.6 Coping with Parallax

13.7.7 Exposure Correction

13.7.8 Visual Effects

Chapter 14 - Transforms and Tracking

14.1 Geometric transforms

14.1.1 2D Transforms Translation Float vs. Integer Translation Source and Destination Movement Rotation Pivot Points Resize vs. Scale Pivot Points Skew Corner Pinning

14.1.2 Managing Motion blur Transform Motion Blur Motion UV Motion Blur Speed Changes

14.1.3 3D Transforms

14.1.4 Filtering The Effects of Filtering Twinkling Starfields Choosing a Filter

14.1.5 Lining Up Images Offset Mask Lineup Display Edge Detection Lineup Display The Pivot Point Lineup Procedure

14.2 Image Displacement

14.3 Warps and Morphs

14.3.1 Mesh Warps

14.3.2 Spline Warps

14.3.3 Morphs

14.3.4 Tips, Tricks and Techniques

14.4 Point Tracking

14.4.1 The Tracking Operation Selecting Good Tracking Targets Bad Tracking Targets Tracker Enable/Disable Offset Tracking Keep Shape and Follow Shape Pre-processing the Clip Coping with Grain Tracking Workflow Cleaning up Tracking Data The Stability Test Reasons for Failure

14.4.2 Match-Move 2D Transforms Corner Pinning

14.4.3 Stabilizing The Repo Problem Motion Smoothing For Rotoscoping

14.5 Planar Tracking

14.5.1 The Planar Grid

14.5.2 Drift Correction

14.5.3 Exporting Data

14.5.4 Roto Assist

Chapter 15 - Digital Images

15.1 HD Video

15.1.1 Frame Formats

15.1.2 Anamorphic video

15.1.3 Scan Modes

15.1.4 Working with Interlaced Video Deinterlacing Scan Line Interpolation Field Averaging

15.1.5 Color Subsampling

15.1.6 Keying with 4:2:2 Video

15.1.7 Frame Rates 24, 25, 30, 60 fps 23.98, 29.97, 59.94 fps

15.1.8 Timecodes

15.1.9 Video File Formats

15.1.10 Telecine The 3:2 Pull-down The 3:2 Pull-up

15.2 Digital Cinema Images

15.2.1 Digital Camera Advantages

15.2.2 The Bayer Array

15.2.3 Sensor Crop

15.2.4 HFR – High Frame Rate

15.2.5 The DCI

15.3 Film Scans

15.3.1 Grain

15.3.2 the "Safe-to" Window

15.3.3 Apertures

15.3.4 Aspect Ratios

15.3.5 Film formats Full Aperture Academy Aperture Super 35 Formats Cinemascope Working with Cscope 3 Perf Film VistaVision 65mm/70mm IMAX

15.4 Log Images

15.4.1 What Are Log Images?

15.4.2 Why We Need Log Images Human Vision Data Compression Working with Log Images

15.5 Light Field Cinematography

15.5.1 How it Works

15.5.2 The Impact on Visual Effects Deep Images Arbitrary Depth of Field Depth Maps Stereo Through a Single Lens Volumetric Optical Flow Position Pass Point Clouds Mattes Normals and Normal Relighting Camera Tracking

15.5.3 When, and How Much?



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Steve Wright is a visual effects pioneer and a 20-year veteran of visual effects compositing on over 70 feature films and many broadcast television commercials. With extensive production experience and a knack for the math and science of visual effects he is a world-recognized expert on visual effects compositing. Since 2005 he has been a master trainer in compositing visual effects, providing staff training to over 25 visual effects studios around the world including Pixar Animation Studios, Disney Feature Animation, Troublemaker Studios, New Deal Studios, and Reliance MediaWorks, along with many others. He has also trained over 1,000 artists in compositing.

Visit Steve’s training website at


"This book covers both the basic fundamentals and the advanced techniques of compositing, but Steve also presents the reader with a deeper background on the task at hand. You're not just getting a how-to manual, but an understanding of why you do it."

—Patrick Tubach, VFX Supervisor, Industrial Light & Magic

"Digital Compositing for Film and Video is the must have book for all compositors at all levels. I always keep copies close on hand for my artists to use and still refer to it often myself. The book covers the skills all compositors must know and the techniques needed when you are fighting tricky shots."

—Jeffrey Jasper, CTO, JTS Productions, LLC

"What’s astounding about this book is that, for the last 16 years, every edition has been ahead of its time in terms of teaching and explaining the different techniques, technologies, and tools used on a daily basis by compositors around the world. Steve Wright has managed, once again, to stay ahead of the game and spearhead the education of current and future compositors."

—Ara Khanikian, VFX Supervisor, Rodeo FX