The Colourful History of Compositing

Thanks to Andy for having me on Logik live today.
I was nervous so I hope that it came through in a legible fashion.

Green screen and compositing history has been a topic that I have long been interested in and although I briefly mentioned it I could have easily have filled the entire hour rambling on about optical printing, hand painted mattes and the way visual effects use to be done. Instead I thought that I would share a few of my internet sources, videos that have inspired and educated me into some of the incredible history.

Some of you may have bridged the gap but when I started in the industry in 2001, most of the visual effects were being done in the computer using digital scans of the film so I missed all of the physical celluloid manipulation. Maybe this is why I find it all the more fascinating.

Like many of you I have a copy of Ron Brinkmann’s “The Art and Science of Digital Compositing”, which I studied when I was starting out. Then my research sort of stopped. Everything from then on was practical. An apprenticeship. It wasn’t until recently that I started to get back into the research. Maybe it is middle age. That is usually the answer to the question. Middle age or clamping.

Anyway let me share a couple of links with you. Maybe you have some you can send back to me. I find all of it interesting but if anyone has any examples of red screens I would love to see them. Apparently used for incredibly accurate mattes when shooting miniatures. I haven’t been able to find any yet.

# The Colorful History of Green Screen Compositing
An incredibly concise look at the evolution. I highly recommend watching the video on Blue Screen by Mark Vargo which I will repost here:
# Blue Screen 1980 a Mark Vargo film

# Home Alone Without CGI [Special Effects Breakdown]
These are the little nuggets that I am hoping to uncover by looking at the history. Curious uses of old techniques that might help me solve a problem at some point. Pepper’s Ghost was an illusion technique used in theatres, amusement parks and later in film and television. John Henry Pepper popularised it in 1962 and here is is popping up in Home Alone from 1990.

# Art of Keying
This article from Mike Seymour at FXguide talks about the evolution of digital keying. It was written in 2005 so is a little out of date but a fascinating read.

# Super Mario Bros.: the other huge VFX film from 1993
This article talks about the first use of Flame on the 1993 Super Mario Bros. film. Such a good read. I recently uncovered a making of video. It isn’t very good quality I’m afraid but a little better that the next one I am going to share with you.
# The Making of Super Mario Bros.

# horizon how to film the impossible 3 of 5
Lastly BBC Horizon How to film the impossible. From the eighties. I have a feeling that I might have seen this when I was very young. It isn’t terribly good quality I’m afraid but it touches on all of my childhood favorites, Return of the Jedi and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
The way the voice over says Darth Vader makes me think that maybe he hasn’t seen Star Wars yet.

So there you go. Now you know that when you are shooting alligator elements you need to shoot them in a pool of milk.

I still love watching making of videos. It is a great way to see how other people are doing it. If you come across any good ones please share them in the Inspiration channel.


Thank you Richard. What a great Logik Live today. Super inspiring. I came across this to add to your collection.

Thanks again. Amazing stuff.

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I am still enjoying my dig through The Colourful History of Compositing and I have uncovered one of the last interviews with this master of compositing.

The inventor of the Sodium Vapor process and the Blue Screen Color Difference Traveling Matte & Multiple Oscar recipient, Petro Vlahos.

Sodium Vapor. How the original ‘Mary Poppins’ transformed the way movies are made today


Loved the bit about Ultimate and how it came about.

Thanks for sharing.

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Captain Disillusion

This guy nails it every time. Plus “Flight of the Navigator”