Lesson Plan Industry Sector
Arts, Media & Entertainment

Lesson Plan Originally Created By: Mike Morris


Part of Unit: Animation Process

Lesson Plan Overview / Details

Compositing in animation is similar to compositing in still image editing but with motion. Compositing is the combining of two or more images still or motion into a single image or shot. There are multiple ways to achieve this from a green screen to various software. We are going to start with a simple animation added to a photo background to create a composite video shot. There are four key elements to pay attention to in order to get a believable composite: camera angle, lighting, shadows, and interaction.

Lesson Time

15 Minutes
Guided Practice
60 Minutes
Independent Practice
120 - 180 Minutes


Objectives and Goals

  • Students will understand the component steps and skills required to design, edit, and produce a single shot composite.
  • Students will develop skill in the manipulation of digital imagery.

Activities in this Lesson

  • Replicator Hooks / Set

    A large portion of what you see in movies and television involves compositing. Remember compositing from Photoshop where we combined multiple images to create a new photo? Watch this video clip and identify the composite shots.

    Play Video Clip: Star Gate; Menace  5 th season, 19 th episode. Sequence where Reese introduces her ‘friend’ to Daniel. (Access video clip below under resources)

    Break down sequence: This is a typical dialogue sequence with two main camera angles. There are ten shots in the sequence.

    Shot 5:
    1 st Composite: Camera pushes into bookcase as Reese moves out of the shot.
    Point out composite elements: Background, Animation.

    Shot 6:
    Back to Daniel.

    Shot 7:
    2 nd Composite: Animation interaction with Reese
    Point out composite elements: Background, Animation, Close-up shot of Reese. (Note: The example uses camera tracking to get the motion of Reese interacting with the animation. This lesson does not cover camera tracking.)

    Shot 8:
    Back to Daniel for reaction.

    Shot 9:
    3 rd Composite: Animation interaction with Reese (Shots 7 and 9 are a single composite shot split into two shots during editing.)

    Shot 10:
    Back to Daniel for intense reaction.

    Bonus Question: How did the animators make the shadow follow the contour of Reeses’ arm? (Answer below)

    Resources and Materials

  • This is a tutorial covering the procedures listed below using MAXON Cinema 4D Ver. 10.5.

    Resources and Materials

  • We are going to create a composite shot with an animation and a photograph as a background. (See sample below) We are going to begin with the following elements:

    1. Model with basic motion (Access C4D file below)

    2. Background photograph (Access image file below)


    1.      Open the basic animation.

    2.      Create a Background and a Floor object. These are the objects that will contain the image and capture the shadow.

    3.      Adjust the Floor object so that it appears to sit on the same surface as the animation.

    4.      Apply a compositing tag to the floor object. Turn on the 'Background Compositing' property.


    1.      Choose a background image that matches your final output size. This will depend on the image ratio you are using (4:3 or 16:9). This example is set to 780 X 460 pixels.

    2.      Create a material and apply the background image to it. (This is in the color channel for Cinema 4D.) Take off any specular or highlight on the material.

    3.      Apply the material to the Background object and the Floor object.

    4.      Map the material on both objects: Projection: Frontal,  No Tiles.


    1. Adjust the three point lighting system.

    2. Set your key light in the same direction as the main, existing light in the photograph.

    3. Turn the key light shadows on. Check the intensity and direction of the shadow coming off the animation model and compare it to the shadows in the photograph.

    4. Adjust the key light to match existing shadows.


    1. By carefully adjusting your camera view, you can set the perspective of the animation, as well as size and position on the Floor object.

    2. Render out the final shot.

    Answer to Bonus Question: They used a cylinder in the place of the  Floor object.

    Extension: By using a Plane instead of a Floor object and reshaping it, the animation shadow can follow existing contours in the background photo.

    Resources and Materials

  • Single Shot Composite Independent Practice

    Students are to create their own composite shot.

    1. Choose an inanimate object, preferably one which you can bring into class.
    2. Take a picture to use as a background. Carefully consider, camera angle, lighting and shadows when you take the picture. These will have to be duplicated in the animation.
    3. Using the actual object, create a 3D model as close to the real object as possible.
    4. Apply materials and lighting.
    5. Setup composite.
    6. Render shot.

    Extensions: Advanced students can import the shot into a video editing program, add sound effects, and output.

    See student samples and rubric below.

    Resources and Materials


Assessment Types:
Rubrics, Projects, Observations,


As students are working through the guided practice, monitor student progress and keep the class together, checking for understanding and answering questions.


Students will complete their own single shot composite.