Artist Spotlight: Ben McEwan

Ben McEwan on his Comp Newsletter, use of Nuke, and what he’d like to see from the tool in the future

If you haven’t heard of Ben McEwan, you should probably get acquainted. When he’s not bringing feature films to life as a compositing supervisor at Image Engine, Ben’s busy building his bi-weekly Comp Newsletter, filled with useful tools, tips and tricks for compositors at any stage of their career.

His authority on all things visual effects is well-founded, stemming from a life-long interest in the industry which bloomed when his dad introduced him to Star Wars at an early age.

“I was (and still am) obsessed with it,” Ben tells us. “I wanted nothing else but to know how what I was seeing could possibly end up on the screen. Naturally, I became interested in VFX as a result, picked up a demo of After Effects, and taught myself by imitating VFX shots I thought were cool.”

As life went on, Ben’s interest in visual effects endured, and at the end of his schooling he started to take his learning more seriously by teaching himself Nuke via online courses—and, of course, some good old trial and error.

Speaking of his early inroads into a career in visual effects, Ben comments: “I cut my teeth on some low-paying freelance work I found online, but my first real job in VFX was at Animal Logic in 2011, doing a hybrid job that was half production assistant, and half roto artist.”

Happily, the grind paid off: “I’ve had a pretty fruitful career across Australia & Canada since then,” Ben tells us. “A handful of notable projects I’ve worked on include Gravity, Chappie, Doctor Strange, Jurassic World, and more-recently The Mandalorian.”

Below, we catch up with Ben to discuss his Comp Newsletter in more detail, relationship with Nuke, and advice for burgeoning artists looking to get into compositing. 

Q: What inspired you to write a newsletter? Can you give us some background and insight into how it came to be? 

A: I started writing Ben’s Comp Newsletter at the beginning of 2018, as a result of my career shifting from an artist position to more of a leadership position. Naturally, as a lead or supervisor, you’re spending less time hands-on doing shots, and more time supporting your team.

I was worried my skills might start to atrophy if they weren’t constantly being used or thought about, and I also wanted to develop better communication skills in order to be a better leader for my team, so it seemed like starting a newsletter was a good way to achieve both these goals, while helping others at the same time!

It’s strictly related to compositing as that’s my chosen discipline, and what I know best. Additionally, there are so many websites and resources dedicated to modeling, texturing, lighting, etc. already, but there’s really nothing out there for compositors, especially those with more than a few years of experience.

I would have loved a comp-focused website to learn from in my early years of VFX, so I’m simply creating what I would have found useful back then. Writing Ben’s Comp Newsletter is also a good excuse to investigate what I would like to know now! Turns out, a lot of others find the

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