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Rotoscoping: Fundamentals and its remarkable origins

If you’ve visited the FXiation Digital site and explored the Portfolio section recently, you’re likely to have come across some news about our involvement in the Hollywood blockbuster, “Passengers”. You might have read that we’ve done something called VFX Roto. If you’re wondering what “VFX roto” is, it’s your lucky day because we’ve written this brief to explain, exactly that.

Rotoscoping splines at work

Rotoscoping splines at work

Roto or Rotoscoping is actually a technique used in animation. Animators trace over film footage on a frame by frame basis to depict realistic action sequences. Back in the day, live-action images would be projected onto a glass panel and traced by an animator. The projection device was called a rotoscope and the process was called rotoscoping.

Of course, we have computers doing all that work now, but, the process is still called rotoscoping.

Now, rotoscoping in the VFX industry is a little different. When we say rotoscoping we are referring to the practice of manually developing a matte on a live-action plate, which will be composited onto a different background.

Before and After of Lightsaber effect

Before and After of Lightsaber effect

To put it simply, the traced object acts as a silhouette that can be extracted and used for a different scene. An excellent example of this would be the lightsabers used in the old Star Wars flicks. The actors were simply holding sticks in reality, but, thanks to rotoscoping, the creators were able to make them look like actual lasers.

That was our small introduction to rotoscoping. Hope it made sense. You can reach out to know more about from here.