As a compositor, China’s Ranran Meng creates the final image of a frame, shot or visual effects sequence in some of the world’s most popular movies and television shows. She takes all the different digital materials used, such as computer-generated images, live action footage and matte paintings, and combines them to appear as one cohesive image and shot. Meng equates this to being an interior decorator in a sense, taking a finished product and making it a stunning work of art.
“Compositing is the last step of post-production, to make the scene complete and more beautiful. Just like decorating a building, you could not sell houses without those finishing touches. I am like a decorator in that sense, making the existing footage high-end and beautiful enough to show to the audiences,” said Meng.
With this unique and dedicated approach to her craft, Meng has risen to the top of her field, working on many hit productions, including Golden Globe winners tick, tick… BOOM!, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Pose, and Succession.
Meng has come a long way in her extraordinary career. She started working in the compositing field as an intern, and quickly impressed with her artistic eye and dedication to her work. Within three months, she had moved onto a large company and worked her way up to a senior level position. She found herself working alongside other top compositors in the industry, such as Raul Ortego from framestore, on several commercials for major brands like Microsoft, and Emmy Award winner Eran Dinur, who worked with Meng on many projects at Fuse.
Meng is no stranger to working on acclaimed projects. In 2019, she was compositor on the award-winning film Motherless Brooklyn, starring Academy Award nominees Edward Norton, who also wrote and directed the film, and Alec Baldwin. The film won several awards and received multiple nominations at various film events around the world, and was even recognized for its VFX at the Visual Effects Society Awards 2020. Meng’s work was a critical part of the film’s success, as she helped fine tune the environment to truly bring audiences back in time to when the story takes place.
“This is a well-made film with the soundtrack, pictures and narration all in line with the American film style of the 1950s, a style I enjoyed working on. I am very glad to see it has been a big success and I am proud to have been a part of it,” said Meng.
Set against the backdrop of 1950s New York, Motherless Brooklyn follows Lionel Essrog, played by Norton, a lonely private detective afflicted with Tourette’s Syndrome, as he ventures to solve his friend’s murder. Armed only with a few clues and the powerful engine of his obsessive mind, Lionel unravels closely guarded secrets that hold the fate of the whole city in the balance.
“The topics Norton discussed were very bold and sharp. The film very carefully described the process by which power holders clean up marginalized people and people of color with how the urban planning department deceived the residents of poor communities and caused them to be displaced,” said Meng.
Meng was brought onto Motherless Brooklyn by a producer that had seen her work, knowing she could help make the film a masterpiece. Because the film takes place in the 1950s, the post-production team had to thoroughly go through every single shot to ensure all aspects of modernity were removed. Meng had a keen eye for this, beautifully taking environmental aspects like roads, train stations, and buildings, and converting them into an older style. In order to fit the atmosphere of the scene, she also needed to add more trash or graffiti, giving a vivid old-time New York vibe.
“This project was very fun to work on, and allowed me to have a clearer understanding of the New York environment in that era. This was a new experience for me, and it felt like I was restoring time,” she concluded.
Motherless Brooklyn is currently available to stream on Netflix, so if you haven’t had the chance, be sure to watch it and see Meng’s beautiful and transportive work.