Like many people in the industry around my age, I was inspired to pursue a career in filmmaking after seeing Star Wars in 1977. In 1994, I switched from film production to computer animation and digital compositing. I quickly discovered that compositing is one of the most satisfying, creative, and challenging areas of the film industry.
In 1994, I began working at Buena Vista Visual Effects (the small digital effects division of Walt Disney Studios). I was asked to help out on The Santa Clause. Without any training, I jumped in and quickly learned Disney's Computer Animation Production System (CAPS). Two years later, I was working at PDI/DreamWorks on Antz and Shrek. As with many large studios, the lighting department was tasked with compositing the shots using proprietary software. I've since moved on to a combination of freelance animation, independent producing, teaching, and book writing. Compositing remains one of my favorite pursuits. Hence, the cover of this book was composited in After Effects using video footage and digital stills (see Figure I.1).
Compositing has changed tremendously in the last 30 years. The brilliant minds behind Star Wars made do with tedious and temperamental optical printing techniques (see Figure I.2). Today's compositors have a slew of rapidly developing digital software programs. This book, in fact, features two software packages: After Effects and Nuke. After Effects is the most widely used package in the world and is accessible to ...