Week 1 – Runner, Matchmover and Roto Artist

1) Runner

Runner literally means “runner,” but it’s also a job in the special-effects industry. The job involves running back and forth between departments, providing all kinds of support and security for other parts of the company and colleagues.

To further understand this work, two keywords should be grasped: one is for all departments, and the other is under all departments.

For all departments means, runners are all-purpose helpers in a VFX studio. They support any and all members in the studio and make sure that everyone has what they need. Runners do a variety of jobs. They deliver materials and messages between departments. They organise meetings and schedules. They keep the office clean and tidy and might work on reception or be responsible for locking up. They also make a lot of tea and coffee. They do whatever professional task needs doing.

Under all departments, it means, a runner is an entry-level position. In some studios, being a runner is a route into VFX artist roles and comes with opportunities to learn about those positions. In other studios, runners are seen as the entry point into production management. Some companies might assign runners a mentor and give them training tasks. The runner role can be a good route into the industry for someone without relevant degree education but with a good portfolio and lots of enthusiasm.

The runner job is not only in VFX but in many other industries as well. Like the design industry, the film industry, the record industry. They are often just into the field, intern, assistant, logistics support personnel, reception, administrative general affairs personnel. The following is a reference of work content and qualification of Runner:


  • Prepare the meeting rooms
  • Accompany the production team in the installation of new artists
  • Keep everything tidy and clean the floor
  • Plan events for the team
  • Make sure that all members of the team attend the meetings
  • Take attendance and fill out the attendance sheet
  • Coordinate the relocation of artists within the studio with the IT team and production coordinators
  • Welcome and accompany new employees (account registration)
  • Work with the IT department to resolve technical issues
  • Replace the coordinators when needed during meetings (if applicable)
  • Perform all other related tasks that could be asked by the production team


  • Passion, enthusiasm and ambition
  • Bring initiative and the ability to adapt (resolve problems)
  • Ability to work in teams, dynamic, convivial and happy
  • Resistance to pressure and good reactivity
  • Knowledge of word-processing and spreadsheet software (Word, Excel).
  • Knowledge of the software Shotgun would be a plus
  • Knowledge of animation movies would be a plus, but not necessary
  • Bilingual (English and French);
  • Must be a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident of Canada and available to work in Montreal, Quebec;

2) Matchmover

Matchmover, as the name suggests, means literally: Match and mover.

Match means Match. The reason for Match is that in the VFX industry, too many shots are made from different sources. If you want to add computer-rendered 3d objects or effects to real shot footage, how can you ensure that the motion rate, camera Angle and perspective are the same for both? This requires tracking the real video footage first, obtaining the corresponding camera parameters, and then matching it to the lens of the computer 3D animation software. In this way, the camera lens between the two can be exactly matched, to further synthesize the unified and real special effects picture.

In fact, a Mover is the tracking of moving objects in the lens of a computational camera, which can be the subject of a car, a person, an animal, a building, the ground, or the sky in any dynamic space.

So, the summary of the work is two steps:

* Tracking, recording, and reproducing motion of live footage to a virtual camera.

* Matching the computer-generated objects and characters to those captured in real life.

Using specialized software such as Syntheyes or PFtrack, you can make 3D objects to accurately integrate with real-time video footage or recording.

In 2D synthesis software like AE and PR, such as CameraTracker, Mocha Pro and other plug-ins, you can also combine 2D animation shots with real video shots.

After the tracking is completed, further data can be passed to the next animator and compositor, so that they can continue the in-depth VFX shot creation and finally get the matching result.

3) Roto Artist

Roto seems to be an interesting word to read, but in my opinion, this kind of work is not so interesting, even a little boring and hard work.

Roto is actually a technical approach, which is simply a dynamic mask, which is a very traditional technical approach. To understand why Roto is needed, let’s talk about another top-notch image processing software, Photoshop.

In Photoshop, the design of its layer system is a milestone. The idea of layers is to overlay many different materials, especially transparent background materials. There’s a catch, though: Not all images are born with transparent backgrounds or Alpha transparent channels. Therefore, there are a lot of tools in Photoshop that let you select the parts you need or cover up the parts you don’t need, which is what we mean by the cutout.

In the VFX industry, the material is often dynamic, and sometimes it is necessary to finish the matting work similar to PS. However, the dynamic video changes every second and every frame, so the workload and difficulty also become huge. Therefore, Roto is quite hard.

In visual effects, the process, although similar, has a different purpose. Rotoscoping for VFX is used to create a matte or mask for an element, so it can be extracted out to place on a different background, masked out so colours can be changed, or any other set of reasons. It is more widely used than many realize. Rotoscoping gives filmmakers opportunities to produce scenes that would otherwise be difficult, expensive, dangerous, or impossible to film in real life. 

Why not have material ready at the beginning to avoid it? For example, choosing green screen technology to achieve a more convenient and high-quality transparent background? Or rendering Alpha transparent channel material directly in 3D software? Because most of the time, the type of material we are dealing with is not so perfect, we still need Roto to implement the dynamic mask of the object and isolate the extraction.

The rotoscoping artist (or roto artist for short) traces an object using a set of tools within the compositing software to create a new alpha channel for a specific part of an image sequence or video. Unlike computer-generated imagery that can easily add an alpha channel to its images, footage taken directly from a camera has no alpha data. 

Therefore, a roto artist will need to manually create that alpha by tracing over the elements within the video. A rotoscoping artist creates different shapes around an object and animates those shapes to match the movement on each frame.


Runner is dynamic coordination

Matchmover is dynamic tracking

Roto is the dynamic mask

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