3D World UK|March 2021
Denis Kozlov details his approach for compositing the final look of his visually striking short film
Denis Kozlov

Made of shapes, colours and a bit of story, dERIVATIVE is a short film I have directed for the wonderful Mixpoint Studio in Prague. It follows through a row of visual transformations and is likely to be more a work of motion design than a classical CG animation.

For this project I had the chance to personally craft every single pixel of the final film (which is freely available at vimeo. com/458135379). What has really helped me is a compositingcentred workflow, which I’d like to talk about in this tutorial.

It’s not uncommon among 3D artists in the film and animation industries to overlook compositing as a mere slapping of a few effects nodes to fancy up the picture or hide some mistakes at the end of the work. And sadly enough, game development seems to be almost ignorant of compositing as a discipline – at least that’s the impression I’ve been getting. Yet you can do almost anything to your creations in comp – build the whole animation from the ground up, do shading and look development and completely redesign the already rendered scenes – all at the much more interactive speeds than traditional 3D animation pipelines would allow.

The key is breaking up the renders into passes, also known as Render Elements or Arbitrary Output Variables (AOVs). While there’s only so much you can do with a single beauty pass, a full set of AOVs unlocks a whole range of options. Here’s my approach.


The first step is to import the 3D renders into Fusion. I typically render to multi-channel EXR file format, and instead of using multiple Loaders I often prefer to shuffle the extra AOVs into the technical slots at the EXR Format tab. Remember that channels are just numerical data and you can generally put any pass into any slot and easily extract or rearrange them later!

Then I’d use the Channel Booleans node to move these AOVs into the RGB channels and treat them as regular images further on. Minimising the number of loaders makes it easier to update the source renders with new versions.


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