Compositing: Process Breakdown and Final Outcome

I decided to make a short video on the process of my compositing project.

It covers the early stages in PFTrack to compositing the final rendered stages within After Effects. Really Enjoyed the project and cant wait to do more and greater projects within Compositing and VFX.

Final Outcome


Compositing Process: From PFTrack to After Effects

Using the footage that Edward recorded, I imported it into PFTrack,

Edward’s Footage

With Edwards Footage Imported into PFtrack, I added an Image manipulation node and adjusted the contrast,brightness,saturation and gamma of the footage to make it a bit brighter and a little sharper in an attempt to make the footage easier to track.

Image Manipulator.jpg

Footage before: Image Manipulator Node


Footage After: Image Manipulator Node


After the image manipulator was added, I applied an Undistort node in an attempt to remove and blur or unwanted noise from the footage


I then started to track the footage, to begin, I applied an auto track node to the footage as a basic foundation for the tracking footage.

With each tracker, I edited its deformation attributes to pick up on Rotate,Scale and skewing happening within the footage (considering there was a bit of all 3 happening within the footage) hoping to obtain a better track  and a failure threshold of 0.700.

Auto tracked footage

After which I overlayed a User Track Node in order to obtain a more accurate track.

User tracked Footage

After the footage was tracked I applied a Camera Solver Node in order for PFtrack to determine what would the best camera animation based of the footage.

camera slover.jpg

And then used a orient scene node to determine the axis orientation and scale of our scene.

In order to make sure the orient  and perspective of my track was correct I used the test object Node

Test objects in real time

Finally I exported our tracked PFTrack scene as a Ascii file to continue working with in in Autodesk’s Maya.

With My tracked footage imported to Maya implemented my 3D object into the maya scene and adjusted the tracked camera settings in its attribute editor.

I didn’t alter the camera’s focal length as it keyed and changed the Near Clip value to 0.001 and the Far Clip value to 1000000.


When adjustments to the camera had been made and the 3D object matched with the tracked scene I started to implement lighting, consisting of a few directional lights, since the rubrics cube had a MIA preset material allied to it, the values were quite important. I ended up going for a lighting value of 0.200, this made the material visible with a render but also didn’t produce intense shadows.

light settings

Matched scene:

After which I assigned my 3D object to it’s own layer and called it beauty

The image plane (which I would use to render out shadow) onto it’s own layer called shadow.

And a layer consisting of all the objects within the scene to obtain an occlusion pass, with a sample rate of about 300.

Thinking I was finished, I rendered out the layers and composited them together however I soon realised that the tracked footage was fine but the shadows were way off.

So, returning to maya I altered some of the lights attributes and positions and this time rendered out single frames and composited them together within Photoshop to ensure everything was perfect and that I was happy with the end result before I hit render.

Test One:

Image Test_1

In this test I was trying working mainly with the shadow layer, but I thought the shadow was too dim for the scene and also strangely sharp around the edges, which confused me.

Test Two:

Image test 2

I didn’t like the results I was getting with the shadows and started looking into alternatives like using the Occlusion layer as my shadow, I preferred It must more to the shadows because of the way it naturally diffuses both on and off the cube. But I felt like it was too much for the scene.

Test Three:

Image test 3

Playing about with the intensity of some occlusion pass attributes. I found a result I was much happier with and created the illusion of shadow I was looking for.

I then rendered out the beauty layer and the Occlusion Layer Separately.

With both my Beauty layer and Occlusion layer rendered out it was time to composite everything together, in this case I used after effects.

As I learned from the tutorial mention previously: (see blog post here)

We can ensure the frame rate of our footage and rendered sequences matches up perfectly by interpreting the footage and applying the same frame rate to all of them. In my case I set everything to 24 frames per second.


With both my footage and rendered sequences interpreted to match I then started the process of  compositing everything together within the layer editor.

after effects layer settings

As seen above I applied a multiply layer effect onto my Occlusion sequences this layer effect overlayed the alpha values of the occlusion pass layers to create the soft shadowed effect seen below.


Modelling: Toys

Rubik’s Cube

Reference Used


Started off the rubric’s cube by creating a maya cube and beveled the edges found under edit mesh.


This beveled cube was then duplicated into rows three by three.


This, in addition, was duplicated two times to create the final shape of the cube.


Mia preset materials had been applied previously (glossy plastic,Black) in an attempt to re create the visible attributes in maya.


Colour was then applied over certain faces of the cube to create the varied colour design typically found on rubiks cubes.


final result



Broken Barbie Doll































































Compositing Research:From Maya To After Effects

With my scene and 3D objects perfectly set up and  and matched with our tracked footage, it was time to render it out and composite it within an other piece of software such a After Effects or NUKE.

For the time being I decided to use After Effects, where the rendered out footage would be composited using a simple layers within the software.

I came across this youtube tutorial which explains how to render out multiple layers within MAYA to be composited together later in After Effects.

Click on the title below to be taken to the video.

[TUTORIAL] 3D model into video

with STEADY CAMERA (with

Maya + After Effects)


The tutorial covers the entire process of a basic compositing project, from exporting exporting our recorded footage to Maya, to compositing together within After Effects.

Personally I used this tutorial for its process regarding the rendering out layers with different effects (such as Occlusion or shadow) into After Effects.

I have some experience using render layers during my 15 second animation project so the process wasn’t entirely new to me.

See Blog Post:Previous experience using render layers

(Thanks Again Alec!)


To render specific objects in layers within Maya we can select them and on the bottom right of the screen in the channel box and under the render tab we can assign them to a new layer.


Naming conventions that make sense also make the whole process generally easier with regards to organisation.

So for example on the image above:

Beauty layer: Will render out as much of the scene as we want it to

Shadow Layer: Will only render out the shadows of the scene

AO PASS layer: Will only render out the occlusion information of the scene.

To only render out a certain object select everything else in the scene and  in the attribute editor under render stats deselect Primary Visibility.


To apply an occlusion or shadow preset to a layer go into into the attribute editor and change its presets based of the options provided.

  • Luminance Depth
  • Geometry Matte
  • Diffuse
  • Specular
  • Shadow
  • Occlusion
  • Normal Map

If we want to test and see if our shadow layer is working, we can go into our render view and select the button that displays our shadows Alpha levels.

Image Alpha's

Before we batch render we can ensure which ones are being rendered by observing which layers have a tick or a cross to the left of render layer.

renderlayer tab.jpg

Layers with a tick will be rendered out in the batch render and layer with a cross will not be rendered.

Finally, once we have obtained our rendered out images, we can import them into after Effects as image sequences.

Finally to ensure that all of our rendered sequences match up with our recorded footage, we need to interpret our sequence.

Right click on the imported sequence within after effects, go to interpret footage and then go to main. This will open up a new window in which we can edit the frame rate of our sequence. Use this method to match the frame rate of the recorded footage with the rendered out sequences or vice versa.

Compositing: Project Update

So with multiple projects going Edward and Myself haven’t had many changes to come together and develop the car idea as much as we’d initially hoped for.

Also Blayne joined our team! Really buzzed that he wanted to work with us!

So in the end we’ve decided to simple composite a 3D object into a live action scene, our Lecture Alec suggested this concept earlier on as a good exercise to help you break into compositing, so we’re ran with that.

I think it’s a good direction to take our project because its a simple concept but can be tricky to pull off and make believable. Where we would want our composited object to fit in with our footage as much as possible, looking into proper perspective and lighting to make it realistic. Not our initial plans but plans change.

we may not be working on a project where one thing leads to another, but we can still help each other out with advise and feedback which is just as good!