Lighting & Compositing

Lighting Technical Director, Animator, Artist


I worked in the US Film Industry after graduate school from 1996 to 2013. For the first 8 years I was lighting and compositing. The role was called Technical Director, Lighter or Artist depending on the company and whether it was live action or animation.


  • Proprietary Tools
  • Nuke
  • Katana
  • Maya
  • C-Shell
  • Python


  • Lighter



Lighting & Compositing

The two roles are sometimes performed by one person, sometimes separated. It's a function of the type of project. Live action films have both CG and film elements so it made sense to separate the roles. Animation can be all CG so some studios want to keep everything in 3D so there wasn't much room for compositing 2D elements.

Photoshop like Tools

As a compositor I created visuals seamlessly incorporating illustration, photography, and computer generated imagery with Nuke, Composer and other proprietary tools that are roughly analogous to Adobe’s Photoshop and After Effects.

3D Tools

As a lighter I worked in a 3D software packages like Maya, Softimage or proprietary packages setting up lights so shots would feel consistent across the sequence with different camera angles. While scenes are setup like a multi camera live action stage, CG lighting at that time required many manual tweaks to make shadows and lighting believable. A normal shot would have multiple passes for diffuse lighting, specular highlights and shadows that would be rebalanced several times.  

Asset Management

A key part of the lighter's job is managing the assets that make up a shot and the rendered layers used for compositing. Communicating with the other team members about the state of elements is critical.

An Eye for Visual Detail

These visuals were done to a high standard of quality for major Hollywood films that would be projected on film or digitally, and eventually remastered for dvd and streaming. CG elements need to looked over closely for visual issues that are avoided in live action film and can make an element look artificial. These include sharp clipping of highlights, buzzing of very thin details, consistency of film grain, edge quality between sharp foreground elements and out of focus backgrounds, and the quality of blurring.

Art Directed

‍Lighting and compositing are the last phases in a CG pipeline. Your work has to pass the scrutiny of the entire creative leadership of the project. It is very subjective and there are many highly paid people whose opinions are worth more than yours. Direction can be very to the point and focused on details that most people can't see or articulate. One has to learn not to take it personally.


On film projects I collaborated in person or remotely with 200+ member crews of other artists, production, and creative leadership.


On a daily basis, my work was looked at in isolation and in the context of other elements until each shot was complete. I was responsible for saving and logging my work so that if the direction changed any previous iteration could be recreated with the asset management tools.

Technical Resource Management

Rendering is expensive so being able to iterate quickly with a small processor footprint is valued. As artists we were conscious about being economical with our resources so we could get feedback on our work in a reasonable amount of time. We worked in a command line environment that allowed us to chain processes with scripting languages like C-shell, Perl and Python.

Leading Edge Technology

These effects were pushing the envelope when they were done. A Hollywood effects film is big investment that's intended to wow an audience with spectacle and story. It is a unique environment to work on something that only exists in the Director's mind's eye and needs to be spectacular in 18 months after you've first start working on it.

Deadline Driven

Movie release dates rarely change. All the work shown is done on a tight schedule with resources re-allocated as needed to meet the deadline. The work is done to a very high standard with a lot of effort.

[Fig01] Lighting Reel


A lighting demo reel is usually sent along with a cv and a hardcopy breakdown of the work.

In an interview the artist and potential supervisors will play through the video and discuss work that might be pertinent to the upcoming movie.

It's pretty straightforward and devoid of the overt salesmanship of a design pitch meeting. We review at a lot video on the job. The need for the work is already established and the scope is not the artist's purview. Execution at a high standard is given. We want to focus on details that most people barely notice.


23 - Shot lighting

  • Lit Spiderman and Doc Ock’s arms.
  • Integrated with plate.

24 - Shot Lighting

  • ‍Lit Ock’s arms.
  • Integrated with plate

25 - Shot Lighting

  • ‍Lit glass fragments, glass and window frames.
  • Integrated with plate background

Charlie’s Angels 2

28 - Lighting & Compositing

  • Lit CG mid-to background dam in BIRPS-Prman.  
  • Integrated with foreground plate, background matte painting, and water plate.

29 - Compositing

  • Extracted biker from bluescreen.
  • Integrated with cg bullet, bullet ripple, smoke, and gun flash and background plate.


30 - Lighting look development

  • Lighting look development of Times Square parade balloons. Mention in Cinefex 90.
  • Lit Spiderman, Goblin and Glider.
  • Integrated with plate.

31 Shot lighting

  • Lit Spiderman Goblin and Glider.
  • Comp integration with smoke.



32 - Lookdev

  • Developed magnifier lighting effects and magnifier look for the sequence.
  • Developed texture painting setup for sharing maps between multiple generic ants.
  • Lighting and integration.

33 - Shot Lighting

  • Lighting and integration.
Supporting storytelling
in Live Action Film & Animation
effects Animation