6 useful things to know about Matte Painting

6 useful things to know about Matte Painting

 

That feeling of getting lost in the world of lucid dreaming as in Inception or flying among the Floating Mountains of the planet Pandora, would never have been possible without the artist’s creative ideas.

It is the creativity that distinguishes a good graphic programs user  from a true artist. But creativity alone is not enough, you need to integrate it with the knowledge and skills in order  to achieve a truly exceptional work.

Let’s look into some of the  must-know stages when approaching Matte Painting:

 

  1. What  is it  and how has it evolved?

Matte Painting, which literally means background painting, is a technique used for decades in movies with a wide range of uses even in the world of videogames and illustrations. It allows one to illustrate in detail, non-existent or difficult to reach sceneries. The original technique consisted of hand painting on large sheets of glass which were the backgrounds integrated into live-action films. Hand painting itself, gives an idea of ​​the length of time once needed in film production.  Given one  small error in the process, all of  the work would be lost!  That is how we worked until the 80’s, when artists began to work with digital, thanks to computer graphics.

  1. How  is it done?

Paintings have been almost entirely replaced by digital images and artists have had to adapt quickly to the knowledge and use of software for image retouching. Photoshop, the Adobe software is an integral part of the process. Thanks to  graphic quality tablets and  users creativity, it certainly guarantees the best possible results.  A professional use of this exceptional software is the key to excellence.

  1. Advantages of digital

Saving time in production leads to of course, a reduction of costs. Making  mistakes  nowadays doesn’t necessarily   mean you have to throw away all the work done as in hand-painting.  The static process becomes dynamic. The landscape components can quickly change as well as the insights and ideas of the creative artist.

 

  1. Key phases of Matte Painting
  • Design and implementation of a Concept: This is the moment  where the artist can be creative, integrating elements from his imagination with existing ones, potentially inspired by photographs of real places or illustrations. An analysis on some scene elements such as atmosphere and prospect is essential.
  • Finding reference: Many Matte Painters build and continuously update their gallery of images, looking for particular places, immortalizing them through the photographs of a digital camera or a smart-phone. It is not rare that these artists are photography enthusiasts who have been  training in this field. Collecting reference data is a basic step of the process. The better the starting image is, the smaller amount of time  it takes to create  the desired background.
  • Addition of macro elements: At this stage it is better to start from the background  elements, such as the sky and then slowly integrate the closest elements. Depth of field (lights, shadows, brightness etc.) is crucial during this phase. The nearest elements have more details  than the distant ones.
  • Color correction: The color correction is done with Photoshop in the implementation phase. Eventually, the correction can also be performed during the compositing phase,  using the necessary software (Nuke is one of the best).
  1. The essential elements

The purpose of Matte Painting is therefore to provide great backgrounds and ensure that they appear real to the viewer who watches them. Therefore,  the prospect is  an element of fundamental importance. Knowing and understanding the perspective and  the vanishing points, allows you to “naturalize” what does not exist  in nature. All this should be accompanied by in-depth knowledge of the use of color, lighting, composition and depth, to create credible spaces to be perfectly integrated in a  film or advertising on tv?

  1.  Matte Painting

There is a  significant difference between the traditional Matte Painting and Digital Matte Painting. Unlike the first one, the digital creative profession cannot definitely be cataloged as individual work. Digital Matte Painting is part of a process which is closely linked to other areas of the visual effects, such as compositing, texturing and 3D animation among others. All under the supervision of a Vfx Supervisor able to coordinate and direct the team to create a product up to its expectations and give the viewer the illusion that keeps us suspended between the real and the fantasy world.

Finally here are some facts about the world of Matte Painting

The coexistence of traditional and digital innovation method in one of the biggest cinematic masterpieces:

In 1997 the movie Titanic became a hit everywhere.

The film tells the tragic ending of the transatlantic which as a result of a collision with an iceberg, sank in the Atlantic Ocean in the early twentieth century.

In this film you can see one of the last formal coexistence between Matte Painting and Digital Matte Painting. In fact, in one of the final scenes of the film, the ship Carpathia (for those who are unfamiliar with the story is the ship that first rescued the shipwrecked Titanic) was painted manually, in a frame that included digital elements like a CG icebergs and a sky in the background.

An example of worldwide success:

The Tree of Life in the masterpiece Avatar: – At Ashikaga Flower Park in Japan, there is a very old wisteria tree whose branches are supported by specially built scaffolding.

In this way it creates a real waterfall of purple flowers. During a trip, the tree photo taken from the British designer, Peter Lourenco who gave James Cameron, director of Avatar,  the inspiration for the creation of his movie.