What can you do with a compositing package? Fundamentally, compositing software layers video clips together. It also creates all manner of special effects, from speed changes to specialized text effects onto video. There are also highly specialized effects packages on the market that do only one thing, but do it very well.
While effects are best applied sparingly, there are circumstances where a composited or special effect gives a video production a special little kick that makes the difference between just another production and visual dynamite. The scope the effects varies tremendously, so be sure to read the spec sheets for the packages that you are considering before plunking down any of your hard-earned scratch. A number of developers of compositing and special effects packages offer trial versions of their ‘wares, so you can decide if you like the effects that it generates and whether it will play nicely with your existing editing system. These packages range from very simple to remarkably complex packages that give you control over every single pixel and parameter of the process.
Another consideration is how the software integrates into your workflow. A number of packages are actually plug-ins that work inside of your current (compatible) editing application, while a few packages are stand-alone apps that work with already-rendered video files. Still others are simply add-on packs for other compositing packages (for example, there are several developers making additional effects for Adobe After Effects).
The manufacturer listing sidebar highlights some of the developers that make compositing software.
Charles Fulton is Videomaker’s Associate Editor.
Special Effects and Compositing Software
Digital Film Tools
EI Technology Group