How to Improve Your VFX Compositing

Do you compose Visual Effects for video post-production?

How about improving your Visual Effects compositing? That’s what we will cover in this post! Visual Effects a.k.a. VFX can be created in many video post-production programs, but the best techniques for creating this type of audiovisual media are the same, no matter what software you use!

Let’s discover ways to improve your VFX compositing.

VFX Post-Production Compositing Tips

Work on the VFX Quality to Always Match Live-Action Footage

It’s important to compose VFX assets that have the same image quality as the live-action videos that the VFX will be added to. Live-action videos are images of real life recorded by cameras. In other words, live-action videos aren’t digital.

If the video footage was recorded with a DSLR or with a Mirrorless Camera that has a certain image quality, you will have to compose VFX with the same image quality so that the VFX elements fit into the live-action without standing out or “popping up” as if not included in the scene.

Try to avoid compositing VFX with much higher quality than the live-action footage, otherwise it will distract the viewers and they will notice that VFX is very different from the live-action footage. Remember to integrate the VFX movements with live-action footage to make it look natural and smooth as a real part of the footage.

Also, be careful with video grain (image noise) that can appear in live-action videos, that issue is also called “video granularity”. You can zoom in and analyze the details of the VFX assets to see if they seem to be inserted into the live-action footage or if they seem to be popping out of the screen as if floating around on the footage.

Then, work on the sharpness of the VFX assets to make them match the live-action quality, or vice-versa. You can also try other tools of your Post-Production Software that deal with image grain and image noise.

VFX Compositing Tips and Tricks
VFX of an Explosion and Dry Ground Applied to Live Footage of a Girl Skating

Work on the Focus of VFX Included in Live-Action Footage

If you’re compositing VFX assets to add to live-action videos rather than editing purely digital VFX (such as pure animated 3D images), it’s really important to work on the focus on each VFX asset that is part of a live-action footage. The visual effects you create need to give the impression that they are well embedded in the video footage in a realistic way, they cannot be too close or too far (from the viewer’s point of view). Maybe the VFX assets need more focus, maybe they need less focus.

Example 1: if you need to create a VFX asset of fire flames that will be added to a live-action video of a building, you need to realistically insert the VFX flames into live-action video with the right video depth possible, so that the VFX asset really look like they are part of the footage.

Example 2: if you need to create a VFX asset of a 3D clock to add to the top of a building filmed by camera, the3D clock needs to actually seem to be hanging from the top of the building, and not seem to be “popping out” of the screen.

Use the blur and noise tools of your Post-Production Software to make digital images quality look as similar as possible to the quality of live-action videos. You can use sharpness and blur tools too. The important thing is that no VFX asset should look too distracting when it’s included in a live-action footage.

Use Color Grading and Color Correction for Compositing VFX

You can use color grading and color correction techniques for compositing VFX assets with visual cohesion. That’s good both for VFX assets that you create to be integrated in live-action videos and for VFX assets videos made only by digital images, such as 3D animations that have multiple VFX.

In short, color grading is how you enhance or change the colors of your VFX compositing, you choose a color scheme to style your VFX assets and to add a visual identity to them. Color correction is, in short, how you adjust the VFX white balance, exposure and contrast to ensure that future color adjustments are no longer necessary.

You can use the Vectorscope of your Post-Production Software (or install a Vectorscope plugin if needed) to make sure that the color levels of the VFX assets match those of the live-action footage. Hue/Saturation curves are also a useful tool for matching colors.

Remember that skin tones must be matched and look as natural as possible. Color grading and color correction always have a wide impact in the final composition, so work on those with patience to get the best results possible!

Tips for Improving Your VFX Compositing
VFX of the Moon on the Ground

Work on the Black and White Levels

When a live-action video (shot with the real-world) is too colorless, you can work on its Black and White levels to correct that. One thing you can do is use the Waveform Scope of your Post-Production Software to check how bright or dark the live-action is before and after you add the VFX assets, which may differ a little or a lot depending on how similar the color space of the live-action is compared to the VFX color space.

That means that the VFX assets will be much brighter if composed in a normal color space that is not colorless, or too dark when compared to the live-action video. If that’s the case, you need to match the VFX assets and the live-action brightness/contrast levels to avoid getting some parts of the VFX assets overexposed or with too much color/contrast.

To adjust that, you can use LUTs (LookUp Tables) to match the VFX brightness/darkness levels with the live-action brightness/darkness levels. Another thing you can do is change the color space of the VFX assets and change its levels of Hut/Saturation and brightness. Remember to keep using the Waveform Scope (or install a Waveform Scope plugin if needed) to see if the changes are making any difference.

Learn About Lighting and Shadows for Compositing VFX

To create good (VFX) assets, you need to understand VFX lighting and shadows. That’s useful both for creating scenes that are completely digital (3D animation) and for creating scenes that mix live-action footage with 3D animation. In summary, VFX lighting techniques aim to match the lighting of 3D assets with the live-action lighting to better integrate both types of image (live-action and 3D). So you can search for tutorials of how to work VFX lighting and shadow techniques to use in your compositions, no matter which Post-Production Software you are using.

Improve Your VFX Compositing


Great! Now you know how to improve your VFX compositing by working on the VFX quality to always match live-action footage, by working on the focus of VFX included in live-action footage, by using color grading and color correction, by working on the black and white levels and by learning about VFX lighting and shadows! So don’t hesitate to put what you’ve learned into practice!

You can also share your thoughts in the comments below!

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