Match moving has fast become a standard visual effects technique in almost every instance where live-action materials and computer-generated imagery are combined, allowing real and virtual scenes to be seamlessly composited together, appearing as if from the same perspective. With just about every movie released today featuring at least some computer graphics, a proficient match mover can find entrance into the industry and take the first steps in a long career in filmmaking, visual effects, and the CG field.
Match moving is often considered to be the foundation upon which all visual effects are based, and is closely related to photogrammetry and rotoscoping. Match movers’ most basic duty is to match a CG camera to a live action camera, as well as animated objects and characters to real-world objects and characters; this is accomplished by object-matching and tracking the movement of a camera through a shot so that a virtual camera can reproduce identical motion through the use of the latest match moving software. Attention to detail is necessary, as CG must be inserted into live action footage in the correct orientation, scale, position, and motion to ensure that all elements line up perfectly—whether it’s a perfectly skipping stone thrown by Audrey Tautou in Amélie or an entire sky full of Dementors in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Because match moving is just one step along the pipeline, a match mover is usually part of a team that works under strict deadlines and in an environment that changes almost as fast as you can adapt to it; problem-solving is also a skill that match movers will spend a great deal of time harnessing. Collaborating and taking directions from supervisors are the norm, so match movers can expect a lot of communication within departments and beyond.
Skills & Education
Though the job is considered an entry-level position, to be good at it you need not only a basic knowledge of its concepts, but experience and education. Most match movers possess degrees in computer graphics, animation, or other related subjects, and actual experience is highly favored by many studios. A talent for object matching and camera tracking is important to success as a match mover, and an acute understanding of camera attributes, modeling, and the latest software like PFTrack, Maya Live, or BouJou is all but required on the job. Additional modeling and animation skills make a match mover’s job easier, and possessing basic line geometry and organizational skills will help immensely.
What to Expect
Becoming a match mover is a good way to enter the industry, but it’s usually just a stepping stone to other careers in layout or other areas of CG. While computer work is primary, you’ll become intimately skilled in camera techniques and shots; learning how shots impact storytelling will add to your overall filmic knowledge. However, long hours of detailed work requiring patience, practice, and skill is the life of a match mover, and if you cannot communicate or play well with others, the collaborative nature of match moving may not be for you. Expect to work in teams, follow directions to the letter, and be extremely flexible, because there will be problems, there will be changes, and there will be a recent graduate waiting to break into the industry by taking your position.
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