Career Advice: Working as a Junior Compositor in a Visual Effects Studio

Career Advice: Working as a Junior Compositor in a Visual Effects Studio

Kristiania University College - Westerdals Department of Film and Media graduate, Ingvild Rein shares her journey into her first role as a compositor in a Visual Effects studio.

Recent Kristiania University College - Westerdals Department of Film and Media graduate, Ingvild Rein, is a Junior Compositor at Storm Studios in Oslo, Norway. She is also a hobby photographer & artist.  

Ingvild has done VFX work for Marvel, HBO, Netflix and Amazon Prime. In this article, she sits down with us to share her journey and advice to aspiring artists looking for an exciting and challenging career like her own.

The Journey

What's your current role and what does it involve?

I have a bachelor's degree in Visual Effects, and my current role is as a Compositor where I do everything from clean-up / prep work to green-screen removal and CGI integration.

Where do you work, and what type of projects are they involved with?

I work at a Visual Effects company in Oslo, Norway called Storm Studios, where I just finished working on Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, as my first feature film project. Currently I'm working on the tv adaptation of the popular video game The Last of Us.

When did you first realise you wanted to work in this industry?

I’ve always enjoyed art and storytelling, but I first realised I wanted work in the film industry when I started high school. However, after working in the film industry for a while as an assistant to both Producers and Directors, I realised that I found more joy and comfort being creative in front of the computer screen and using my visual skills as an artist to make movies come to life.

How did you get your first big break?

My first big break was when one of my teachers at school told us about a Netflix production he was working on, and encouraged us to apply. Me and three other classmates got hired as part time junior compositors for Nexus Studios in London, and that was my first meeting with the professional VFX industry.

Describe the journey you took into your current role?

I applied for an internship at Storm Studios as a part of my bachelor's degree, and after working hard to create a showreel I could be proud of, I got accepted as a compositor intern. After my internship ended, Storm was very happy with my work and I was immediately hired.

Why did you choose to study at Kristiania University College?

I chose to study at Kristiania University College - Westerdals Department of Film and Media because I had been working in the film business for about three years on set and in production of films and tv-shows, but only as an assistant to other artists, and I felt that I really wanted to do something more creative and challenge myself to learn a new art medium.

background plate for Leaving Earth entry to the Rookie Awards 2022 by Ingvild Rein

How does your education complement your work?

I actually learned everything technical I know about compositing from the talented teachers at Kristiania. I really did know nothing about 3D or CGI before I started, and had never touched any 3D program or compositing software. Kristiania also helped me connect with other artists and professionals in the industry.

Day in the life

Describe a typical day for you and your team?

I usually start work between 8-9 in the morning, and at around 10 we have dailies with the different supervisors on the project we are currently working on, where we get feedback on our work and catch up on client notes etc.

The rest of the day is spent working on shots, learning from other compositors and 3D artist, and we also have the occasional educational seminar about new tools and techniques as well.

What third-party and proprietary tools do you use on a daily basis?

As a compositor I mainly work with Nuke as my daily software for all compositing work, and we also use Shotgrid for dailies and scheduling and such.

What does your workflow look like?

My workflow consists of getting a brief from my supervisor or client, maybe looking up references or looking at other shots, and if there are 3D elements I talk with the CG department, and then just working on it until I have something to show my supervisor for feedback.

Which departments and key people do you work closely with?

I work closely with the CG department and the other Compositors at the studio, as well as the Supervisors.

Since I only just started working in the VFX industry, I can’t say I’ve noticed any trends yet that have changed how I approach my role as a compositor, but I’m sure it will come as I gain more experience.

One thing you’d never change about your job?

I really enjoy collaborating with other artists, and something I really appreciate at Storm is that we have dailies with other compositors and supervisors almost every day where we get to talk about the work.

I really enjoy this because I think some of the fun working as an artist is sharing opinions and experiences with other talented people.

But one thing you wouldn’t mind seeing changed is?

I mean I wouldn’t mind if AI took over rotoscoping and tracking so I could focus more on the creative side of compositing, haha!

Career Advice

Is formal education essential for someone aspiring to do your job?

I wouldn’t say formal education is necessary to work as a compositor, but for me, as someone who knew next to nothing about the work beforehand, it really helped. And my school also has a lot of industry contacts, which helped me get in touch with the right people more easily.

Rookie Awards 2022 Entry by Ingvild Rein

What tasks would you be typically asked to do as a junior artist?

As a junior artist you will often be asked to do cleanup work or prep work, which involves rotoscoping, rotopainting and tracking and such.

What skills do you look for when hiring an artist?

If I were to hire an artist I would look for someone who is good at communication and enjoys working with other people, and someone who is passionate and eager to learn more.

Describe your attitude towards your job?

I’m really motivated to learn as much as I can about compositing and to grow as an artist. We are working on a lot of exciting projects and I’m really happy about how far I’ve gotten already. And it’s only getting more exciting!

Where do you get your inspiration from and how do you implement it into your work?

I am inspired by other artists and artworks, and a lot of my inspiration comes from photography, cinematography and painting. I try to implement my skills as a traditional artist and photographer into my visual effects work as well.

Describe a project brief that you’d recommend artists create for their portfolio?

I think what’s most important to show in your portfolio is of course your best work, but also that you can finish a project.

If you could give one piece of advice to artists starting out, what would it be?

Knowing the basics of colour theory and the optics of cameras is essential for being a great compositor. I think the skills you learn as a traditional painting artist or photographer are really handy when you do compositing, because photorealism requires you to know how to manipulate light and colour correctly, and also how a camera reads this information and translates it to film.

If you could go back in time to when you first started out, what advice would you give yourself?

I think I would tell myself to embrace curiosity and passion, to find what makes me different and unique from other artists and to embrace it. And also to not be afraid to fail a lot, because you learn so much from just trying things, even when they don’t work.

You can reach out to Ingvild via Instagram and LinkedIn.