Roto Artist

The role, salary, software and skills of a roto artist in the film industry

What does a Roto Artist do?

Roto Artists digitally trace areas within live-action frames (known as a plate) where CG characters, backgrounds, or effects will be integrated with the live-action footage. They work closely with Compositors. Roto artists also create roto mattes, similar to silhouettes, within the frame to allow for CG hold-outs. If the sequence involves camera movement, roto artists must work frame-by-frame to ensure the silhouettes continue to match the plate. This technique is known as rotoscoping.

Role and responsibilities

A lot of what a roto artist does is behind the scenes, so what you see in the final film does not really reflect their work. Much like a Compositor, their role is to help make each shot and all its components seamlessly fit together. They create mattes to help other artists build up a shot in different layers (either in front, alongside, or behind something in the live-action plate) and provide hold-outs that help other artists add shadows and reflections that match the plate.

Responsibilities of the Roto Artist may include:

  • Use Silhouette, Nuke to create and track roto shapes and lines for various elements within a shot
  • Create roto mattes for Compositors and foreground mattes for Animators with a comprehensive understanding of how these mattes will be used
  • Shape creation/editing; shape animation by hand and with trackers; and shape compositing, fill modes, and opacity settings
  • Maintaining consistency of visuals and style throughout the production
  • Basic green and blue screen compositing
Software and other tools used
  • Silhouette FX 
  • Nuke
  • Mocha Pro
  • Digital fusion
  • Maya
Skills required

Roto artists require a a strong attention to detail along with sound technical and creative skills. The VFX industry is a highly collaborative environment so a roto artist must be able to work well in a team, and have a solid understanding of the VFX pipeline.

Employers may look for the following skills in a Roto Artist:

  • Strong eye for color and understand grain structure and successfully de-grains scans and re-grains paintwork for further use
  • Extensive understanding of 2D and 3D tracking and is able to create accurate, steady tracks
  • Able to handle complex shots with heavy motion blur, defocus, hair, fur, lots of layers, etc.
  • Drawing ability, accurate tracing skills with high attention to detail
Average salary

According to Comparably, the average wage for a Roto Artist is around USD $68,238 but this will vary depending on location, experience, and studio. 


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