Behind the Scenes: VFX Compositing & Animated Motion Graphics

August 9, 2022

The third phase of your video project is post-production, more commonly understood as the editing process. It’s when all footage captured during production is compiled for the editor. Post-production is a sifting and sorting process that is meticulous in nature and usually quite time consuming. It’s where we implement all the fun features that give a video that movie magic feel. Let’s take a closer look at VFX Compositing. 

1. What is VFX Compositing? 

Boy in classroom watches construction scene

VFX compositing bridges the gap between live action footage and digital imagery. It’s blending something into a scene that didn’t exist in the live action shot in a way that feels seamless for the viewer. And, usually it’s something real that exists in that world, but simply didn’t make it into the shot.

In the shot above for an NCCER project, we see a building that did not exist in the background in the real live action footage. In post-production, our editor performed a process called masking, which is essentially cutting up sections of the footage to add in the missing feature. 

2. Inside v. Outside: Considering Lighting 

Can we fix that in post? It’s an often used phrase with little known implications. And, nowhere are the implications more important than when a fix is needed via VFX Compositing. 

First, the editor tracks the masks because everyone was moving in the scene. Then, once the building is added into the shot, lighting becomes the focus. While VFX Compositing can be a long process in post-production, the possibilities are endless. But, endless possibilities take time. 

In this shot, the viewer sees a boy sitting inside of a classroom looking out of the window at a building. In addition to the building itself, there is another element of challenge as the addition occurs outside. So, the editor’s task is to ensure that the building not only flows with the live action footage of the boy, but approximates the correct lighting for the building outside. 

“Whenever you’re looking at a scene outside, the sun is at a certain point, therefore it casts shadows at a certain point. So, whenever you’re adding, say, this building, the same light has to be interacting with the building in the same way. In post, we can do a lot of things to adjust things like this. I had to add some artificial light to make it look a little bit more like it was part of the scene. It’s possible. But, that’s just another layer in compositing that most people don’t really think about.” – Taylor Stoma, Editor 

When dealing with any outside scene, the location of the sun affects the location and appearance of shadows. When adding a feature, like a building, to an outside scene, the lighting of the sun needs to interact with the building in a way that looks natural. Using artificial light, the editor can create a seamless look through another layer of compositing. 

3. Animating Motion Graphics  

Man portrays Microsoft Hololens

Holographs. Explosions. Cartoons. Oh my! Sometimes we need to add something to a shot that doesn’t exist in the natural world. Animation and motion graphics are a great way to elevate the intention of a video and what it can convey. 

For the “We are HBCU” project with Engaged Media, we wanted to highlight the company’s partnership with Microsoft. So, in this shot, our editor created a graphic based on the HoloLens, an up and coming augmented reality technology by Microsoft. 

“I had to approximate mixing in the actual look of HoloLens and the actual look of the interface that comes with that and interpret what that animation should look like based on the gestures of the man in the shot. So, you have to consider both the cinematic effect and the interpretation of the look to make most sense with the shot that we got.

In the animation you kind of see it shift over to the left side of the screen, and there it’s got a y-axis rotation. So as it’s shifting over, you have an expansion in a 3D space, which gives it more of the illusion of being this virtual reality thing that you’re holding in the palm of your hands.” – Taylor Stoma, Editor 

Want more behind the scenes action? Visit our BTS page for project inspiration, technical insights, and stories from our crew. 

Learn More About Behind the Scenes here. 

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