So You Want to Learn Compositing?

Compositing is a very interesting subject that doesn’t get explored a lot. You can find a lot of solid tutorials on modeling, lighting, animating, some on texturing, but not many about compositing! The ones there are out there though are really good.

The most prominent has got to be Andrew Price from BlenderGuru.com – I’ve linked to tutorials of his before and he’s very well known for them, but if for some odd reason you don’t know him yet go check the site out. If you need an example to be convinced of how well he dances with the compositor, there’s no need to look any further than his last tutorial (at the time of writing of course):

That's the render before compositing. Already good looking.

Now that's after compositing. How about that?

And that is a pretty simple setup for him. Impressive, huh?

If you follow his tutorials there’s usually a bit of compositing in the end that can teach you some tricks, so if you watch them all you can probably put together a nice body of knowledge about the compositor (and the rest of the stuff of course). But what if you want a resource that compiles it all in one place?

That I know of, there are two places to go to:

  • Andrew Price’s Wow Factor. If he hadn’t done it yet he would have to do it – he compiled his knowledge into an e-book that will teach you how, when and why to achieve compositing effects in an (apparently, more on that later) well structured fashion. Together with the main e-book comes a Node Encyclopedia that explains each node in detail (if you’re thinking “that’s what the official wiki manual is for”, here’s the word from the site: “Every definition is explained in plain english without any of the jargon. Unlike the wiki, this book is written for artists, not programmers.”). Also included are a few other bonuses like interviews with VFX artists and video tutorials.
  • Sebastian König’s Blender 3D Compositing. This is a 5-hour-long video covering the nuts and bolts of the compositor. It is broken into chapters for easy access to what you need when you need it. In the end it teaches you how to composite your CG with real footage, so that’s a pretty cool bonus.
I got Sebastian’s video recently and I’m still going through it. What made me pick that and not the other? What are the pros and cons? Well that’s for you to decide, but I’ll tell you what I think the main differences are:
  • Andrew seems to have taken a “effect-driven” approach, while Sebastian seems to cover the core concepts. Notice that I’ve used the words “seems to” in both cases – I haven’t read Andrew’s book and I have only started Sebastian’s video, so this is my impression from the information I have so far and I could be totally wrong. But what I’m trying to say is maybe with Andrew’s you’ll learn how to achieve those effects and then you’ll have to investigate to come up with other things, while with Sebastian you’ll probably get a solid compositing knowledge and then have to investigate to put the pieces together to achieve certain effects. Kind of top-to-bottom vs bottom-up approaches.
  • Andrew’s is an e-book, while Sebastian’s is a video with voice over. This goes down to personal preference and I’m fine with both. It’s on you. Word of caution though: Sebastian’s video is only accessible on the website’s video player. You won’t be able to download it (not without any maddskillz anyway). I’m fine with that, assuming I won’t need it somewhere without an internet connection and of course assuming the company won’t go out of business before releasing the materials its clients paid for.
  • I can tell you from what I’ve seen of the video so far that Sebastian explains things very well. From all the stuff I’ve seen from Andrew I can tell you that he also explains things very well, so even though I haven’t read the book I’m sure it’s top quality.
  • The price tag is pretty much the same for both, close to $50, so no difference there.

Well that was inconclusive! I still haven’t told you why I picked Sebastian’s video! Here’s why. To be honest, I had a problem with the price tag. This may not make sense to you, but I tend to value things in relation to others, so when most of the solid books that have been published are available for half that price I find it hard to give $50 for these materials, especially in times like these. I’m not bashing the valuation, I understand it and know where it’s coming from, like I know you can’t compare things like that. But I guess it’s a personal thing I can’t help. It turns out though that the website providing Sebastian’s video has discount offers every now and then (make sure you follow @s_koenig and @cmivfx on twitter to hear about these discounts). Without signs of a promotion on Andrew’s side,  I took advantage of a 50% discount to get the video.

If money is not an issue to you, good luck! You’ll have a hard time picking between these two. Just pick both ;)

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