A video compositor fuses images from multiple sources into the same frame. In films involving large numbers of visual effects, the quality of compositing makes the difference between a consistent, believable movie and a series of disjointed, distracting images. You should thus spare no effort or expense when hiring a freelance compositor, selecting only those with the experience and care to do the job effectively.
Know what you need
Hire someone with experience using a variety of editing programs. This will allow them to be flexible if a particular program proves inadequate for your film.
Although the vast majority of compositing involves digital software, practical effects are superior in certain situations. Look for a specialist who has experience with non-digital effects and is willing to incorporate them.
A compositor’s job isn’t just to decide if an effect looks realistic to them. They also have to predict how others will interpret the effect, ensuring that all audiences can enjoy the film.
What to look for
No matter the film’s nature, the compositor must be able to:
Directors and screenwriters often begin projects with strong ideas about what effects to include. Compositors can review their ideas and advise them on what is realistic given their budget and other plans.
For any scene involving visual effects, your compositor must predict where the effects will be and advise actors on how to interact with them.
Once you have finished shooting the film, the compositor must implement and edit the effects.
Questions to ask a potential candidate
How much money have you had for past video projects?
Visual effects budgets are often among the most significant sources of spending during video production. Compositors must know how to manage such budgets, no matter their size.
How closely have you come to meeting past budgets?
Look for specialists who have come close to their budgets without going over. Those who spend more will waste your money; those who spend significantly less will not take full advantage of the resources available to them.
How much time have past projects taken you?
Because most compositing must be done after the video has been shot, it can represent a bottleneck that prevents an otherwise-ready film from reaching audiences. Look for specialists with a history of meeting or beating deadlines without sacrificing quality.
Have you ever refused to include a visual effect? If so, why?
Directors and screenwriters may go overboard in their visual plans, including so many effects as to distract or confuse the audience. A good compositor will tell them when their visuals are excessive.
How do you gauge the success of your previous projects?
Look for a compositor who pays attention to what people say about previous films they have worked on, seeking out specific information on the quality of the effects. This ensures that they will learn from past experience and improve their craft over time.