Is it really just about software..? Opinions on what makes a good Flame op

Hey all, I’ve been talking to a few people about a plan to encourage the many Education establishments out there to design some additional modules/post grad courses/summer camps to help rectify the dip in Flame op graduates. My first task is to write a ‘what and why’ document to wet the apetit of the relevant boards and commitees involved.

I thought i’d ask this keen panel of expert (thats you) do you consider yourselfs different to a compositor and if so, what unique skills or combination of skills separate you as a Flame op from a Compositor.
Can you imagine any of these being taught in schools/university? or is it all experience in industry?

Is it really just about software…?

Thanks in advance.


A lot has been said in this topic relevant to your questions.

I think it’s a lot about being a technical person, a social engineer and an artist all rolled into one. Most of the veteran users here have extensive client skills, and a wide spectrum of technical and artistic experiences apart from being “just a Flame operator” - and I’ve been called that :joy:

Teaching this stuff is not really possible but I’ve told my juniors that they need to communicate with the client, talk about movies, sports, photography, comics, books, whatever you can find in common and get to know them and let them get to know you. So, you won’t be someone pushing the tablet but a a human being with ideas that they can relate to and would like to meet again.


thanks for your reply Sinan. The client experience is definitely not teachable - but don’t you think the role is something that can be prepared for in pre-work education? The combination of timeline and comp for instance isn’t often taught as far as i know. d

When you say timeline and comp, it reveals the two separate dimensions of an edited sequence. Where the timeline is shots edited together on the horizontal axis, okay it even has a vertical axis with different tracks, the comp would be the third dimension with the depth.

This is another analogy I use when explaining the user interface of Flame.

Where a Flame artist works with all dimensions, editing on the first and second and comping on the third, a compositor works only on one dimension going to the depths of a single shot.

As Flame artists we edit, grade, comp, finish, version and deliver. The training curriculum should include all aspects of post production delivery.

On a side note, we do need some more love on audio functions.

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I think it can be.

Once the students become proficient enough to “drive a simple session” then you setup a client session. Bring in a room full of fake clients and do a session based on a tutorial like assemble and finish a simple spot. The teacher can then interject with how to communicate with the clients at particular stages of the session. Even obvious things like asking the client if they’d like a coffee and how to deal with that if you are the only one around…and keep the session going.

I once helped a film school do something similar. The students in this case were the clients/creatives and each group had a 4 hour session to online their project. It was a way to show them what happens in a facility type session.

my 2c


I wonder how realistic it is to become a great Flame op right out of school (maybe extended apprenticeship notwithstanding)? Having worked on many other apps over the years, Flame seems more like the destination of a journey rather than a trail head.

You need deep technical experience, you need sound artistic judgement, you need good project/client skills, above all you need perseverance, curiosity, ability to balance going deep but not getting stuck, and you need to have seen the inside of a lot of projects not just in the box, but how they came to life and where they ended up. That’s an overwhelming curriculum to master, and some of this also takes personal maturity not often found in 20 somethings.

In this age of instant gratification where people don’t tend to spend years learning, a more fruitful path maybe to learn some of the aspects overtime on the job, and then come to Flame when you’re more experienced. Spend a bit of time as an editor, colorist, painter, tracker, 3D model builder, etc. You can start earning a living along the way and then put it all together when you move up to Flame.

If there’s a shortage of FlameOps are there people working in other apps be incentivized to move over? I know a lot of people who are fascinated and intrigued by Flame, but have a million and one reason why they haven’t tried it on.


The technical switch from ae/nuke to flame just needs some weeks for the basics and a few months for the confidence.

The real flame part (talking about commercials) are the clients. There can be good flame artists selling the client a good special task, even if it’s peanuts, for days, just because they are great at selling. Or other good flamers, where the client asks when to come back tomorrow for the changes. But the answer is ‘after one coffee’ and it’s done when they’re coming back 15min after.


Yeah, a lot of it, though university learning will always be different than on-the-job learning, so I don’t know that I’d make like simulated client sessions.

ON THAT NOTE: Clients take basically zero skill and our fear around how much of a psychology wizard one needs to be to lead a job is holding back progress getting new blood. If someone can speak in complete sentences and use the r-replace on the timeline, they can lead a job.

I’ve learned exactly two important things regarding clients:

  1. Do not indict yourself or those you work with
  2. Make your producer be the one to say “no”

that’s it. do those two things and you’re golden.

and maybe I’m shit with clients, I’ve never talked them into anything in over 20 years, but that proves my point; clients like me and I’m successful at Flame!

anyway, if the kids are taught the timeline and some basic non-3d comp (color correct, 2d tracking, gmasks, keys) they’ll be ready to lead right outta school.


Thanks so far - all of this is really interesting - Just an extension on this thought… if there were no software like Flame - Would you still offer the package of skills you currently bring to the table - and if so what label would you put on your job description? @Sinan @andy_dill @johnag @allklier @hildebrandtbernd @randy

What we do is probably a subset of the definition of a VFX artist. But online editor, colorist, offline editor, and animator are all hats we wear from time to time. There are other software packages when put together can almost do what we do with Flame.

So some labels I would feel OK would be:
vfx artist extraordinaire
superior online editor
nocturnal tracker
panicked-client pacifier
producer shocker
dark-brew master

Before i started using Smoke, then Flame, my job description was quite unwieldy…editor, cameraman, sound recordist, director, dubbing editor/audio mixer, graphic design, 3d cg, photographer and barista (because good coffee is a definite asset in a studio).

Now that i use Flame for 99% of all non audio tasks, i would still describe myself with all the above, mainly because most of those i meet have no clue about the software used for any of those tasks, and “flame artist” sounds to the uninitiated as a pyrotechnics show off, not a multi faceted post production creative.

I don’t know of an all encompassing job description that covers everything my skillset covers. It would certainly make it easier to explain but conversely may just trivialise over 30 yrs of striving to learn all i can about my profession.

And even after all that, i still have imposter syndrome and often feel i’m barely scratching the surface of whats possible.


I currently brand myself as ‘Post Finishing Artist’, after a long journey through different parts of post (not unlike to what @Lightningad described). I also work with other apps and on differently scoped jobs. Flame is just the premium offering in my portfolio at this point. This title seems to resonate and is easy to explain. Paraphrasing an old BASF tag line: “I don’t make images, I make images better”, though my email signature for the last decade has been “Creativity meets German Engineering” (I graduated as software engineer in the mid 90s).

I’ve also seen that a lot production companies hire out ‘Flame work’ or for ‘Flame Artist’ that actually gets done in other apps, usually on lower budget. That could be a combination of Nuke, Silhouette, Resolve/Fusion etc. The work can be done there to decent quality, just take longer, but if the rates are lower it still works out for everyone.

Flame is both a product and a category of work, which makes this a more complex question. And Flame has become more affordable, so it’s feasible to pair it with other offerings, though of course you want to keep it high in the mix as it offers the best margin. So it depends on who looks at that, the business or the person in the chair.

ha, Dark Brew sounds V interesting! @Sinan

your not alone @Lightningad

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@allklier i hear finishing artist a lot. But in my experience having all the tools in one place makes it perfect as a Starting tool - i look to develop a great deal - how does this fit into the picture i wonder?

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It depends on how you look at ‘finishing’. If I read your reply correctly, you are thinking of the last tool in the chain before delivery (which Flame is well positioned for). When I use ‘Post Finishing Artist’ it’s meant in the context of the whole production pipeline - to take materials from set and do all the post / or work across all disciplines. I’ve had jobs where I took the footage from set and handled edit, color, vfx, sound, and delivery. So take your image and ‘finish’ it, rather than sit at the end for the last mile.

Primarily what I wanted to get away from was being pigeon holed as ‘colorist’ or ‘vfx’, or have a long list of ‘I do x, y, z, and b as well’ which doesn’t read well.

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I’m on set right now where we’ve stopped filming the TVC and the social media team are taking over: filming their segments. I think it’s interesting because it’s another dimension in advertising. It has its own magic that clients love and use to justify budgets with figures rather than sexy images, which they don’t seem to be able to quantify in Excel sheets.

I think what I mean to point out is that when flame started out, TVCs were the top of the food chain. Flame would service that with pretty pictures. TVCs are clinging on to that pole position. I wonder how flame, and we artists, can take advantage of this situation. I think it’s great to get flame into universities because new blood will bring in new ideas.

Look at the explosion of creativity on TikTok. It’s ace.


I agree @johnt and that’s def the goal. The big Qs to help solve are - what is the Roll that we’re saying education should adapt for? I could say Flame ops/artist… but what is that, if not just another type of software. And i guess quite important for them - who would want to employ these new graduating students?

While the industry has changed a lot on the 30 years that some folks here have worked as Flame artists, the change of pace has picked up more in recent years. We iterate faster over technology as cameras advance, color spaces become more complex (SDR/HDR), 3D, VR, there are more delivery channels and formats, etc. At the same time lots of established tools have fallen by the wayside as they got obsolete, or their companies lost the race of one kind or another. Also the client landscape has changed, while almost everything used to run through agencies or specialized in-house departments, you have a lot more direct clients and less experienced art buyers and producers, that nevertheless have decent budgets and huge expectations.

When you think about developing people you have to think about decade long careers ahead of them. Now it would be cool if Flame has another 30 years in it. Maybe, maybe not. But you have to prepare these folks to navigate a rapidly changing landscape. To me those are two soft skills: one is be able to ride the waves of an industry in flux with the ability to remain at the top. The other is to be in service of the image and the client. To keep sharp of what the best of the best visual medium looks at any point in time, and help whichever industry needs that get access and even help them develop new use cases. To remain perpetually curious and innovate at the same time as you deliver premium products.

You don’t want Flame Artists to be the WVa coal miners of the 2040s (no disrespect to miners, my grandfather was one).


No. I’d be a shot compositor.

I can operate edit software, but I don’t have the skills to be an editing rockstar and I’ve seen how fast Heiro operators try to get out of that particular hole, so yeah, I’d just do shots if it wasn’t for Flame.

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