In order to convincingly overlap 3D effects to live action footage, the Roto Artist needs to trace the live action areas where the animation will take place, and create clear areas to make sure that elements of the scene are layered correctly.
What is the Job?
The main purpose of a Roto Artist’s task is to prepare the footage for the Compositors to combine the layers of CGI and special effects in a way that makes them blend with the live action.
This process starts with rotoscoping, which consists in tracing the camera movement and creating a 3D space from a 2D footage, where the computer generated images will be placed and interact with the surrounding scene.
Afterwards, Roto Artists have to identify and tracing mattes, which are “clear areas” in which the animation interacts with the live action.
In addition, Roto Artists carry out basic VFX tasks to assist the compositor, such as painting out wires and rigs, doing green and blue screening etc…
An understanding of photography, colour and composition are necessary in order to correctly interpret and imagine the interaction of CGI with live action.
Drawing skills and experience with the relevant software are also necessary.
Precision, eye for detail and patience are the most important skills for this job, as working on a single scene may require long hours and the optimal result will only be reached if the Artist is patient and thorough enough.
Communication and team-work are essential to have a functional relationships with the other members of the VFX department. Especially with the Compositor.
How to get to work as a Roto Artist
A position as Roto Artist can be considered an entry-level job, you can land it straight after university or after some experience and skills working as a Runner in the VFX department.
It is important though, that during your academic or professional experience you keep your portfolio updated, so that you have some sample of your work to share with your future employer.
Education and training
A degree in an art-related subject, such as design, illustration or computer animation, is usually helpful to be hired as a Roto Artist.
Otherwise, gaining experience and network as a Runner, while keep working on your portfolio, can also be a good way in.
Training or attending a course in at least one of the industry standard software is obviously a requirement, while having some basic knowledge of all of them is undeniably beneficial.
Where can it take you?
Experience as a Roto Artist, usually leads directly to a Compositor position, after a few years of experience. Clearly, as all other jobs in the VFX department, Compositors can also aspire to becoming VFX supervisors.