Building Cinematic Composites: A Creative COW Magazine Extra
CreativeCOW presents Building Cinematic Composites: A Creative COW Magazine Extra -- Adobe After Effects Feature
Los Angeles, California All rights reserved.

First up, the film itself. Click image to play.

Least Likely


Read the full story of how Mark and his team created this 60-second science fiction epic, from the Creative COW's "Film Values" issue (September - October 2007).

Mark Allen

Here are some of the downconverted HD images from Least Likely, which was shot on 35mm film.

This desolate cityscape features actress Maggie Q, composited over a collage of digital photographs by Allucinari's lead FX artist Dominik Wojtarowicz.  Click the image to see it in 1920x1080. Note: HD contrast adjusted from the film original, for viewing on computer monitors.

Maggie Q


In this capture from the main fight scene, below, you'll see the elements Mark describes, composited together.

Composites of this scale require balancing two potentially conflicting needs, says Mark. "The first is detail. I believe that you have to tell your story on every level. Whether it's noticed or not, it's definitely felt. And this is a business about what you feel. A spaceship looks more interesting with a bunch of scratches and other distressed surfaces because they tell a story about what that ship's been through.

"The other need is simplicity. A lot of people get into visual effects because they like complex things; but ... simplicity is key."

Click to see in 1920x1080. Note: HD contrast adjusted from the film original, for viewing on computer monitors.


Now that you've seen the finished product in several forms, here are some photos of how it began.

This 3D model was created to provide the 3D was used as a perspective guide for the final cityscape composite. Click to enlarge.


This is the finished cityscape. Although 3D elements have obviously been added, compare the amount of detail provided by photos applied as texture maps to the effort to build the entire scene in a 3D application.

The entire "epic" was shot in 8 hours. All of it. The greenscreen shooting was done at the very end of the day, with each fighting pair choreographed while another was shooting. Here they are in a very rough composite.

The two women fighting in the lower left are top ranking Wushu champions, and the top two Asian women stunt artists, Ming Liu (darker hair) and Li Jing (lighter hair). Now look in the upper right. You can see the same fight sequence in another form. The timecode burns tell the tale: the fight has been reversed, and is offset 2 seconds from the larger version in the foreground.


As a bonus, here's a very, very rough animation of the fight scene composite coming together. It does NOT represent the actual layers in the comp. Instead these are still image grabs of multiple layers. These are also NOT the actual layers used in the final film. This is more of a "proof of concept" rough draft to show how a very complex scene like this might have to be constructed.

Think of it as a rough video storyboard of the composite of the scene, rather than a storyboard of the action of the scene. Did I mention rough? It is, but it's still very cool. Click to play.

Fight Build


So what did all this cost? The budget was very modest. The team had barely enough to cover air conditioning at the studio, food for the crew, and a few scraps of material for the costumer. Everything was based on donation, and begging.... and a little trickery.

Add this to the list of reasons why it takes more than software to build a cinematic-scale composite: you also need to be able to build teams to tell a story, organize the shoot for absolutely maximum productivity and creativity, and be every bit as creative with getting the project funded.


Many thanks to Mark Allen, who was beyond generous in his support of this article. For more about him, please visit

For more information about Least Likely, including full cast and crew credits, please vist

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