Brinkmann headshot

Author of The Art and Science of Digital Compositing. (2nd edition now available for pre-order). Occasional supervisor in the visual effects and animation world. One of the founding employees of Sony Pictures Imageworks. Part of the initial design and development team that produced the digital compositing application Shake (acquired by Apple in 2002). Continued as Shake Product Designer for a few years, until development on the product was ruthlessly terminated. Also was slightly involved with Apple’s photo-management software Aperture. Slightly.

Frequently speaks at seminars on the topics of visual effects, digital filmmaking and general technology. (Has spoken in England, Netherlands, Russia, China, Singapore, Thailand, Australia, Japan and India… and several less-interesting locations). Regular guest-host on This Week in Photography podcast. Gadabout.


27 Responses to “About Ron Brinkmann”

  1. Matt Wallin Says:

    Hey Ron,

    Can’t wait for the new book. What’s up with Apple’s next gen compositor? Are they still making “Phenomenon” or did they kill it off altogether? You hear any rumblings from any of your contacts in the biz? No one I know seems to know what happened with it or if it’ll ever materialize.

    All the best,
    Matt Wallin

  2. ronbrinkmann Says:

    I really can’t say much about where Apple may or may not be going with future products. Although the fact that I decided it was time to move on might be a reasonable clue as to my confidence level that any alleged ‘next generation’ tool will be focused on the market (high end vfx and animation) that I’m interested in… And why I’m now working with The Foundry on Nuke…

  3. David Lee Says:

    Hi, I was just wondering between the 1st and 2nd edition, what the major changes were, and also if you think its better for me to wait for the second one to come out? I’m not much of an experienced compositor (would like to be in a year or so) and I feel like I need some knowledge/info before trying to make it in the industry. Any suggestions? Thank you in advance…

  4. bryan Says:

    -just got finished with the first edition of ‘The Art & Science of Digital Compositing.’ it was helpful grasping the concepts of node-based compositing. -caught your seminar at Flashpoint Academy in Chicago a few months back as well. Very informative. Thanks.

  5. david Says:

    Hi Ron,

    I met you during Siggraph at the Nuke user’s group meeting, and I mentioned a technique I have been working with, where I create custom channels based on image texture, shading and color using Photoshop’s High Pass filter. You suggested I create a web page explaining it, and so I have.

    You can visit the page here:


  6. Dan Rubottom Says:

    Hi Ron,
    I just listened to the podcast interview with Mike- great job, I really enjoyed hearing some more of your background and insights. Its fun to hear the experts talk:)

    I look forward to reading your book again (2nd ed. this time)!

    I would also love to hear the topic of VFX for motion graphics projects covered sometime in one of the podcasts that you frequent.

    Specifically, how to effectively plan, organize and execute composites in TV opens, commercials, music videos, etc. With a special emphasis on low-budget methods for achieving high end looks – motion control, 3D tracking, etc.

    Thanks, keep up all your good work!
    -Dan Rubottom

  7. Ron Says:

    @Dan – Motion Graphics isn’t really in my skillset – other than a bit of work on an SDDS (sound system) blurb that was played at the front of some movies I don’t think I’ve ever done motion graphics work. But I bet the fxguide guys can track down some real experts on the subject…

  8. Davis Rodriguez Says:

    Hi Ron,

    I just got the book 2nd ed. and This is my first book from you on the subject of compositing. I’ve been doing alot of research and reading many books for two years trying to put all this togetther, and I am hoping that your book will fill in all the gaps for me. Thanks!!

    I know you want to know who is reading your book, I’m self learning this because I’m getting not only in to film CG, VFX but also want to get in gaming. with over 18 years in just computers only, I got in to films making about 5 years ago. I’m loving it so much that i eat, drink, sleep, Art!!!

    Well, I have to stop now since I want to put this energy in to reading your book. Thanks again Ron.

    Davis Rodriguez

  9. Hey Ron,

    You’re gonna probably roll your eyes reading this question, but I would appreciate if you could give me a bit of guidance and (hopefully) push me in the right direction. I’ve listened to TWIP religiously since its inception and feel your way of giving feedback best fits my mode of thinking…

    I have been taking pictures for many years and was fortunate a few years ago to have a 20D handed to me well before I deserved it. Because of the arrival of 2 children, a demanding job, and multiple rellocations in the past few years I haven’t had much time to spend improving my photography skills. I’ve been lucky to capture my sons growing up and have managed a number of respectable photos (most likely by pure chance most of the time). I’m interested in getting serious about photography – not to make money, but to enhance my abilities and increase the chance of landing decent photos when I want them. Here’s my issue…. I’ve shot mostly in the canned setting on my camera (“sports”, “portrait”, “night”, etc) and don’t have an intense understanding of the times and conditions where I should be taking advantage of apeture/shutter priority modes and what settings to use. I understand the basics of what each does – but not the conditions under which I’d choose one over the other or which exact number to begin with. I’ve attempted a number of test shots, but only see slight differences which haven’t pushed me to a complete understanding of the subject. I know I may be looking like a moron right now – but I’m acutally a reasonably intelligent guy and just haven’t had the large amount of free-time needed to take massive amounts of practice shots. 🙂 Can you suggest a book, videos, or other reference material that might help me overcome some of the learning curve involved in getting the most out of my camers? I know that, in the end, what I really need is more time taking pictures – but I’d like to jump start that process by having a better understanding of where to start.

    My thanks, and best in the New Year.


  10. Ron Says:

    Hey Keith,

    Not a silly question at all. I suspect the first problem you’re having with seeing a difference between some of the settings is that your lens may not show you much of a difference – are you using the kit lens? I’d suggest the first thing you want to do is grab a 50mm f1.8 and practice with that – something with the ability to have a nice wide-open aperture (the f1.8 part) which will, in turn, mean that you can take photos with a noticeable depth of field. Because that’s a lot of the reason why we want to control things specifically – we want to control that in-focus area. So you set a large aperture like f1.8 so that the area that you’re NOT interested in (like the background if you’re shooting a portrait) is out of focus and less distracting. The other reason to set a large aperture is because it means that the camera can shoot at a faster speed (you get more light coming in from the large opening which offsets the need for a slow shutter speed – the other way to get more light to hit the sensor).

    Bottom line is that I generally always shoot in Aperture priority and often shoot at wide open unless I’m out in bright sunlight (or I’m on a tripod).

    In terms of books… there’s so many but I’d probably just poke around websites for a while first and see what’s out there lately – maybe something targeted towards the type of photography you want to do (nature vs. sports vs. portraits… etc.)

    Good Luck!


  11. Ahart III Says:

    Hello Ron,

    I finished reading your book recently and really appreciate all the information given within it. As I was reading, a lot of thoughts came to mind about compositing and VFX in general. So much to the point that it felt like nothing but noise in my head. The industry is constantly changing and it’s hard to get a foothold it seems, that is why your book, along with a few others, have tried to keep me grounded in just learning the foundations and not so much the tools.

    My question to you is this. Now that I’ve finished your book, I want to put everything into practice. I have Shake and want to use it as my compositing tool. I’ve used After Effects for simple compositing jobs but want to use it primarily for motion graphics and want to use Shake as the compositing tool. I also have Final Cut and Boujou. I know these programs fairly well except for Shake and Boujou. Shake has many things within it and I feel rushed to learn them (along with Boujou as well). How can I slow myself down and not feel overwhelmed to play ‘catch up’ with other digital artists in the world?

    Should I create small “5 second” projects that way I can learn the programs better or create a slightly bigger project that is say, 3 minutes long? I’m trying to avoid the temptation of building a project around certain tools and focus on a story so I’m curious about your thoughts on this.

    I feel like your my shrink or something but thanks for hearing me out =)

    Happy New Year!
    Ahart III

  12. Ron Says:

    Hey Ahart,

    I think the most important thing would be to make sure you’re actually focusing on ‘doing’ rather than on ‘learning’. By that I mean you should take a real-world approach to the problem and figure out what the final product you’re producing would be. Come up with an idea for a short ‘film’ (doesn’t need to have much of a plot or anything) or go find someone else who is making something like that and then get to work on solving the problems that come up. I think this is a much better way of learning something – as opposed to an artificial scenario where you’re setting out to learn about a particular technique or technology. Any time you set up a scenario where you don’t know what the solution to the problem is going to be, THAT’S where you’ll learn the most. Hope this helps.


  13. Kevin Says:


    Thanks for writing this book. It contains all the information I was missing. I really learned a lot and was able to apply that to a whole range of things, not just vfx.

    Now all I have to do is practice, practice, practice! (which is the fun part)

    Thanks again for your hard work.


  14. Roy Says:

    hi, Ron
    I’m a master of visual effects student from Australian National University, doing research on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.1810 Geothe introduce ‘Theory of Colours’, In his ‘Colour Wheel or GoetheFarbkreis he identified 3 types of visual effects or colour grade – powerful,soft & splendid, I’ll be highly obliged if you could suggest me some movies which is inspired by Geothe colour theory.

    regards roy

  15. Ron Says:

    Off the top of my head I’m afraid I have no idea. And unfortunately don’t have the time right now to do the research/thinking. Sorry about that – would love to hear what you come up with though.

  16. Lior Says:

    Hello Ron,
    Just came across your website/blog as I am looking for a career change and getting into Digital composting.

    Do you know of any good schools in the Boston Area?
    what would be the basic software you would recommend covering in order to be ready for the future industry or any other recommendation you have for someone who knows nothing about it..
    Thank you.

  17. Sam Says:

    Hi Ron, I am from Mexico and bought your book, I started just reading it and I thinks it is great. I work as post producer at an animation studio in Mexico. I use After effects and I am starting with Nuke. That is why I found your book, because in the help section of nuke they mention your book and use your morphing example images. Regards!

  18. Ron Says:

    @Lior – Afraid I’m not going to be much help here… I know Boston University has an animation program but don’t know if there’s much in the way of compositing. In terms of software, I’d say knowing the concepts are the most important thing but being able to do something in either Maya or Max and then in either After Effects or Shake or Nuke should probably cover you for 3D and 2D. Don’t try to become an expert right away – just get familiar with the workflow and such.

    @Sam – Have fun with Nuke – there’s a lot of great stuff in there and it’s being adopted very widely.

    Thanks for the comments guys!

  19. Keaton Says:

    G’day Ron,

    I have been introduced to your book through my course, (it being our primary text). I’m a 2nd year in the Animation and VFX course we have running. (one of only two in Australia that use Maya on a Windows Platform). We’ve had a few high profile guest speakers in our time, most recently Chris Landreth (Maya development, Bingo, The Spine) and Lindsey Adams (Lead compositor, 300, Happy Feet, Knowing) and after reading your introduction that you would like to Lecture at lots of interesting places, i couldn’t help not asking you.
    If you have an interest in coming to our beautiful country and lecturing at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga. Then shoot me an email and i’ll send you contact for our course co-ordinator. Our whole course would be very accommidating. We’re fairly chilled and it won’t be too formal. 🙂

  20. Mitch Lifton Says:

    Hello Ron,

    This is a repeat of an email I sent so if they cross please forgive the clutter.

    I have owned and avidly read the First Edition of your book and would appreciate knowing if the Second Edition is a substantially different work or a simple updating. In other words, and update or an upgrade? Thanks for any info and for all the work you put into Shake, Apple’s blunder.

  21. Ron Says:

    Hi Mitch,

    It’s a pretty big update – total page count is nearly two times as much, but to be fair a lot of that is because I was able to do full-color throughout the new edition and so I added a lot more pictures to illustrate the concepts. Conceptually a lot of the stuff is the same – although the new edition looks at the reasons behind working in floating-point a lot more. (Back in 1999 most people were still in a 16-bit world, nowadays of course everybody is either full FP or planning on it soon).

    The final big change would be with the case studies – probably 25% of the new book is filled with new case-studies from fairly well-known film and TV projects.

    If you go to and search for the book they have a ‘look inside’ feature that will let you poke around a little bit – that might give you some idea of what the new version’s like as well.

    Happy New Year!


  22. Mitch Lifton Says:

    Thanks Ron, and a Happy New Year to you. I will navigate to Amazon and have a look, though it looks pretty foregone that I will use one-click.

    I’m going to contact the folks at Foundry to see if they do any educational discounts. I’m a retired academic and all the digital work I do is strictly as research on the subject of digital narration, a phrase I coined when I set up a series of courses on the subject at the University of Maryland. Essentially, then and now, I am exploring the ways in which digital narrative material created viewed on the computer and/or tiny screens such as iPhone can create the necessary immersion that visual (and other) story telling requires. Trouble is, the need to work the keyboard (or mouse or touch screen–the problem is the same) breaks or at least subverts immersion. But I’m rambling. I’ll see if Foundry will let me buy a strictly non-commercial license.

  23. Guillermo Says:

    Hi Ron, first of all I’m sorry for my English, I’m a spanish guy and I would like to ask you about the maximum age to work in the compositing. I mean, I’m 30 years old, and I’m trying to find a work in the compositing world, but it’s very difficult in Spain. And I would like to know if with my age I can to work like junior artist?

    Thanks in advance, you book is very good.

  24. ronbrinkmann Says:

    Hi Guillermo – thanks for writing. I don’t think there’s any sort of age limit to working in VFX, and I know a lot of people who started fairly late in life. (And, from the perspective of someone who’s past 40, you sound pretty young anyway :-). Only possible concern would be that oftentimes the hours can be long, particularly if there’s a deadline, so be prepared for that. And hopefully you can convince whoever you’re interviewing with that you’ll be bringing a mature, stable work ethic to the production – that definitely has value.

    Best of luck!

  25. lionel Says:


    in your book’s chapter 4, you advice one to look for more details about image-processing in books relative to the topic. Do you know any which you would recommend reading ?

    PS. I’m actually reading and loving the book!

  26. Q. Waterman Says:

    Hi There,

    I’m currently in my final year of my degree and doing a visual effects piece for my final project.
    I was just wondering if there was any chance you’d be willing to answer a couple of quick questions for me?

    Thanks so much for your time,

    Q. Waterman

    • ronbrinkmann Says:

      Happy to answer a couple of quick questions – if they’d be of interest to other people feel free to post ’em here or we can do it via email.

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