Post-production: I added the CGI for Fantastic Beasts

Meet Brooke McGowan, who worked in post-production as a compositor for the first two Fantastic Beasts films. Part of our Making the Magic collection.

Our job is to make the final film image look so believable that the audience are able to suspend their disbelief and enter these worlds.

What does your role involve?

As a compositor, it's my job to seamlessly integrate real-life footage with CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) to make the final film look as realistic as possible. We are at the very end of the post-production process, bringing material from various sources together, such as special effects, graphics, 2D animation and live action, to make the final image.

When footage first comes into us, it doesn't look realistic – we have to add all the details like the right lighting to cast the right shadows, so you have to have a really good eye for detail and be very observant in your day-to-day life so you can get it right in your work. Firstly, we just place everything, then match the colours and the depth. Then we have to be able to pinpoint anything else that doesn't look right in the shot and adjust it.

What have you worked on?

I've worked on a lot of different films, from the first two Fantastic Beasts films and Avengers: Infinity War, to James Bond: No Time to Die and Thor: Ragnarok.

How did you get your job?

Studying Media at GCSE helped me realise I wanted to go into film and, at A-level, I realised I preferred the post-production aspects. My big break came when I did an internship at Prime Focus as a stereo-conversion artist (which involves transforming 2D film into 3D form). That led to a full-time, one-year position.

Two of Brooke's projects: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald and Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw.

What's been your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?

I was working at Prime Focus London and it got shut down. I only had a year and a bit experience in stereo-conversion and knew I eventually wanted to progress to the role of compositor but I found it hard to get my next break. I actually considered changing route completely and becoming a primary school teacher! I started doing work experience in a school and I was really good at it but then I just found myself breaking down in tears and knowing that my heart was really still in the film industry.

I applied to another company as a runner making the tea and things and, after a month there, got offered another role in my field at Framestore.

What's your career highlight?

Leading the paint roto team at Framestore creative studio for the Thor: Ragnarok film. The paint roto team is a junior team who get the footage when it first comes in. Roto is a process of cutting things out, like a cookie cutter, so the paint roto team remove things from the footage like any tracking markers or rigs that are holding people up. It was a highlight for me to lead the team because I loved being more involved in the production.

Brooke's top tips

  • Don't give up if you don't get a job straight away! Keep training and improving your skills whilst applying and making contacts
  • Welcome and encourage feedback from seniors around you
  • Making contacts is important, so socialise! A lot of jobs get heard about through people in the industry
  • Put in the hours when you get in the door. The work isn't easy and to keep up with others you might need to do more time
  • Ask a lot of questions, especially in the beginning and keep training/learning.

Brooke's recent projects

YearProject
PresentJames Bond: No Time to Die
2020Dolittle
2019Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw
2018Fantastic Beast The Crimes of Grindelwald
2018Christopher Robin

Want to know more?

  • Find out more on the ScreenSkills website about the role of a compositor
  • Check out Warner Bros. Creative Talent for scholarships, apprenticeships, work and training placements, mentoring and masterclass opportunities.
Making the Magic: Inside jobs in film
collection
Four jobs you didn't know existed in filmmaking
Making The Magic: From Story To Screen
video