Visual effects (VFX)

Compositing supervisor

Also known as: Comp supervisor, Head of compositing

Compositing supervisor

What does a compositing supervisor do?

Compositing supervisors are in charge of the department that puts together all the different elements of the visual effects (VFX) shots. They manage the compositors, who do this work, and check it for quality. They are also responsible for ensuring the continuity of colour between shots.

Compositing supervisors are very experienced in compositing. They are experts in taking different digital materials, like computer-generated (CG) images and live-action footage, and combining them to appear as one cohesive shot. They organise the team of compositors to meet the deadlines so the film or TV production company gets the VFX work on time. They may also composite shots themselves if needed.

Compositing supervisors tend to be employed by VFX companies or studios rather than being freelancers.

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What’s a compositing supervisor good at?

  • A good eye: recognise what makes an image appear realistic in terms of light, colour, composition and perspective
  • Knowledge of photography: understand cameras, cinematography and how films are made
  • Communication and leadership: be able to manage compositors and share the creative vision of the project with them, inspire them to do their best work, manage their output in terms of quality and deadlines
  • Organisation: plan workflows with a view to meeting deadlines, distribute work amongst your team
  • Knowledge of VFX programs: be adept at using relevant programs such as Adobe After Effects, Blackmagic Fusion, Blender, Cinema 4D, Houdini, Maya, Nuke, RenderMan and 3ds Max

Who does a compositing supervisor work with?

Compositing supervisors work with the compositors in their team. They also have to work out precisely what’s needed and the order in which things needs to be done. They work with the head of the whole project (the VFX supervisor) and with the computer graphics (CG) supervisors in order to do that. They also talk to the film production company and VFX producers.

How do I become a compositing supervisor?

Supervisor roles are some of the most senior in VFX. To be a compositing supervisor, you need to have four or five years’ experience in a senior VFX role, such as senior compositor or a technical director (TD) role. You can start off in a more junior VFX role, such as matchmover, prep artist or roto artist. You might find a company that’s offering a junior compositor position.

A degree in a VFX subject is useful too. Or you might want a degree in animation, computer programming or computer science. It’s important to create a showreel that shows off your abilities (even established compositing supervisors can have their own showreels).

At school or college:
You can take A-levels or Highers in art, art and design, graphic design, computing or computer science, maths, physics, and graphic communication. Or you might want to take any of the following Level 3 vocational qualifications:

  • NCFE Applied General Certificate in Art and Design
  • BTEC National Diploma/Extended Diploma in Art and Design
  • UAL Applied General Diploma/Extended Diploma in Art and Design
  • BTEC National Diploma/Extended Diploma in Computing

If you want to go straight into a job or apprenticeship, the following Level 3 vocational qualifications will equip you:

  • Aim Awards Diploma/Extended Diploma in Games Animation and VFX
  • OCR Cambridge Technical Diploma in Art and Design (3D Design)
  • OCR Cambridge Technical Diploma in Art and Design (Graphic Design)
  • OCR Cambridge Technical Diploma in Art and Design (Photography)
  • BTEC National Diploma in Graphics
  • BTEC National Diploma in Photography
  • UAL Diploma/Extended Diploma in Art and Design
  • BTEC National Diploma in Film and Television Visual Effects
  • AQA Technical Level IT: Programming
  • OCR Technical Diploma in IT (Digital Software Practitioner)
  • BTEC National Diploma in Computing for Creative Industries

Get an apprenticeship:
Apprenticeships are jobs with training. They’re a great opportunity to earn while you learn. You might be able to get an apprenticeship as a compositing supervisor or junior 2D artist. Have a look at NextGen Skills Academy VFX apprenticeships  for school leavers. These involve a lot of learning on the job working in a VFX company.

Check out What’s an apprenticeship?  to learn more about apprenticeships and find an apprenticeship to learn how to find one in your region, or approach companies directly. Go to ScreenSkills information on VFX apprenticeships for the main apprenticeship schemes in VFX.

If you can’t find an apprenticeship with a VFX company, it might be worth getting an apprenticeship in a related industry, such as games or animation, which could give you some experience to help you find your way into VFX at a later point.

Build a portfolio:
Learn the software, experiment with VFX programs and create a showreel that you can show to admissions tutors or employers. Focus on producing a portfolio which includes relevant work to showcase your immediate practical skills This is essential. Go to build your VFX portfolio to learn how. Watch ScreenSkills’ advice on VFX showreels. It’s really important to develop your appreciation for VFX. Make sure you’re familiar with what’s out there.

Get a degree:
Have a look at ScreenSkills’ list of recommended courses and select one in VFX. We recognise courses with our ScreenSkills Select award where they offer training in the relevant software, dedicated time to building a portfolio and have strong links with the VFX industry.

Get VFX industry skills:
There are various VFX image and video-editing programs in which it’s useful to receive training. Have a look at ScreenSkills’ list of training and opportunities and see if there’s anything in VFX.

Get to know people in VFX. Check out the events in ScreenSkills training and opportunities directory. Meet professionals and ask them questions about their work, while demonstrating interest and knowledge in the sector. Offer to provide them with your professional contact details and try to stay in touch with them. Go to network well to learn how to do this.

Search for jobs:
Look at the ScreenSkills jobs board. Research VFX companies you’d like to work for. Go to their websites and check if they are advertising for compositing supervisor. Even if they aren’t, send in your CV and showreel and ask them to bear you in mind for future roles or work experience. Keep looking on job websites too. ScreenSkills offers some advice from professionals on how to approach animation and VFX employers.

You might also be interested in…

Being a CG supervisor or a VFX supervisor. You might think about being an assistant games producer or games producer in a production department in the games industry. Alternatively, think you might think about being a VFX artist or learning to code and being a graphics programmer with a view to becoming a lead games designer.

Further resources