Roto Artist - 3D CG
Roto Artists assist in the preparation of material for the Compositing Department. They trace live action frames to provide visual information that will enable Compositors to combine all the various elements accurately.
This process is called rotoscoping and originated in 2D animation when live action was traced as reference for movement, or to establish where drawings needed to match to areas of live action.
Rotoscoping is the first skill required by Compositors and continues to be part of a Compositor's role. On smaller projects, Compositors may do their own rotoscoping.
As this technique involves working on previously shot live action, the role of Roto Artist exists more often on special effects work, within facility houses or on projects that combine live action and computer graphics. This job can involve long and anti-social hours.
What is the job?
Roto Artists trace the areas of live action frames where computer graphics will overlap or interact with live images. This creates clear areas (mattes) within the frame to allow all elements of the scene to be layered convincingly.
If the camera is not moving within a shot, this may involve only one frame; however, mattes will be needed if the CGI interacts with moving people, moving objects or moving background elements and, in these cases, mattes may be required for every frame.
If the live action camera is moving, Roto Artists trace the relevant areas of every consecutive frame within that shot so that computer graphics can be combined accurately with the live action.
In addition to rotoscoping, Roto Artists assist generally in the preparation of material for compositing, including such tasks as painting out wires and rigs; doing basic green and blue screen compositing; or grading live action plates.
Depending on the production, it is most likely that Roto Artists will be working on Commotion, but they may be required to use Shake, Combustion, Silhouette or After Effects.
Typical career routes
This can be an entry level job, particularly suitable for a new entrant artist.
Roto Artist is the most junior role in the Compositing Department and is likely to lead on to more senior roles within that department.
Essential knowledge and skills
This work can offer a good opportunity to gain professional experience and learn more about using the software within a production environment. In most cases the following will need to be demonstrated within a portfolio submitted for a Roto Artist position:
- understanding of fine art or photography;
- understanding of composition and colour;
- evidence of neat and accurate work;
- competent drawing skills including good line quality;
- basic knowledge of relevant software.
Key Skills include:
- ability to be methodical, thorough and patient, with a good eye for detail;
- ability to communicate with colleagues and work as part of a team;
- ability to take direction and willingness to address comments and make changes;
- ability to deliver on schedule, working under pressure if required;
- respect for the procedures and requirements of a particular studio, production or pipeline;
- enthusiasm to learn and develop professionally;
- knowledge of the requirements of the relevant Health and Safety legislation and procedures
Training and qualifications
Roto Artists are likely to have gained a degree in an art-related subject, such as Animation, Design, Illustration, Painting, Drawing or Computer Animation.
Depending on their ultimate objectives, the specific degree may not be relevant at entry level but could affect the direction they take at a later stage.
It is possible that a period of professional production experience, for instance as a runner, may replace an academic qualification providing that a portfolio can demonstrate the necessary talent and skills.
Training in at least one of the relevant software packages currently in use by the industry is desirable, and familiarity with other programmes will be an advantage.
Companies have different attitudes to the amount of experience they expect Roto Artists to have had, and some expect to give the right candidates specific training on the job.
Where to go for more information
Skillset is the Sector Skills Council for the audio visual industries. The first sources of information for all jobs in the industry are the National Occupational Standards. Browse Skillset's website for links to our network of training partners, information about training and access to the comprehensive Skillset/BFI course database.
Finally, Skillset Careers is the UK's only specialist media careers advice service; for detailed media careers information and advice, visit www.skillset.org/careers.
Animation World Network (AWN) (news & jobs) – www.awn.com
3d World Magazine – www.3dworldmag.com
Skwigly Animation Magazine – www.skwigly.co.uk
High End 3D (news & jobs) - www.highend3d.com
Animation Magazine (news) – www.animationmagazine.net
Computer Graphics World Magazine www.CGW.com
Video Effects Employment Website www.vfxfreelancer.com
The Art and Science of Digital Compositing by Ron Brinkmann. Pub. Morgan Kaufmann Publishers
Digital Compositing by Steve Wright. Pub. Butterworth-Heinemann
Visual Effects in A Digital World: A Comprehensive Glossary of over 7,000 Visual Effects Terms by Karen Goulekas. Pub. Morgan Kaufmann Publishers
How to Get a Job in Computer Animation by Ed Harriss. www.EdHarriss.com
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