Roto Artist

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

Roto artist job description

Roto Artists trace areas within live-action frames where the CGI will be inserted or interact with live images. They create silhouettes known as roto mattes within the frame to allow the scene to be layered by the compositor. This technique is known as rotoscoping and is manually drawn out frame by frame if the sequence involves camera movement.

It can be repetitive and painstaking work which requires attention to detail and patience. 

The Roto Artist prepares material for the compositor using motion-tracking and onion-skinning software.

Role and responsibilities

Roto Artists cut images and sequences out of live footage that will be re-inserted with special effects. This is a position within a filmmaking team that requires precision and visual effects expertise. Roto Artists also work in video game productions that use live action footage. 

The effects that are integrated into the footage must be compatible and realistic, so the Roto Artist must work closely with both the filmmakers and FX artists to allow for a dynamic effect. They must have a good understanding of filming and post production processes. 

Responsibilities of the Roto Artist may include:

  • Liaising with lead artists and filmmakers on the sequences requiring rotoscoping
  • Interpret and apply artistic concepts as briefed
  • Maintain consistency of visuals and style throughout the production
  • Creating mattes tracing the motion of object/s
  • Shape creation and editing
  • Shape animation by hand and with trackers
  • Shape compositing, fill modes and opacity settings
  • Undertake quality assurance on completed roto work
  • Work to seamlessly integrate special effects

Software and other tools used

  • Silhouette software 
  • Adobe After Effects, Illustrator, Photoshop, Dreamweaver
  • Shake
  • Nuke
  • Digital fusion

Skills required

In the early days of film Roto Artists would manually trace on each frame of film, today computer software and CGI make the work a lot less labor intensive. Many of the innate skills of a Roto Artist remain the same whether working in film, television or gaming. 

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

  • Excellent affinity with the visual and artistic disciplines
  • Degree in fine art, drawing, animation or graphic design
  • Ability to interpret notes and deliver on their instructions
  • Drawing ability, accurate tracing skills
  • High level of patience, able to deal with repetitive work
  • Methodical and thorough work ethic
  • Drawing and painting skills
  • Eye for detail, steady hand
  • Ability to create consistent images according to a set style
  • Good communication skills

Average salary

The Roto Artist role is an entry-level position that requires patience in dealing with repetitive and tedious tasks. This role can lead to more skilled positions like that of the Compositor.

The average wage for a Roto Artist is around USD $48,556. Source: Glassdoor


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