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Matte Painting

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Iain Clark

on 25 February 2013

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Transcript of Matte Painting

Matte Painting Origins Matte Painting was largely developed as a response by movie studios to both the financial and physical constraints of wanting to film in far off locations. Similarly it was developed in order to create fantastical shots that would otherwise be impossible to shoot live. psd tuts+, 2010. [online] Available at: http://psd.tutsplus.com/articles/theory/the-history-of-matte-painting-basix/ [Accessed 17th February 2013]. In 1905 while employed as a still photographer, Norman Dawn developed a method of combining photography and painting to enhance what was being shot by the camera. (Mattingly, D.B., 2011). A “matte” refers to a solid area used to block out portions of the film frame. First, footage would be shot with a painting over the camera and a black matte to block out the live part of the footage, then the same footage would be shot but with a matte blocking out everything apart from the live footage. The two shots would later be combined on a third role of film to create the final composition.
In the beginning matte paintings were created by very highly skilled artists who were capable of painting highly realistic shots by hand. They would also combine these skills with the use of photographs to achieve the results they were looking for. psd tuts+, 2010. [online] Available at: http://psd.tutsplus.com/articles/techniques/basic-principles-of-digital-matte-painting/ [Accessed 17th February 2013] The Birth of Digital
Matte Painting Since the birth of computers, manipulation of images digitally has become easier and more accessible. Software and hardware is readily available these days, as are assets, such as stock photographs and textures. Graphics tablets, in conjunction with Photoshop and other software offer modern artists a wealth of creative possibilities. (psd tuts+, 2010). Digital media has effectively taken over the matte painting profession. There can be no doubt that the quality of matte paintings being produced improves year by year. Matte shots today are of a quality where they can survive the scrutiny of people who will watch the shots in HD resolutions. (Mattingly, D.B., 2011). Types of Matte Painting In the past Matte Painting was purely a 2D art form used for the replacement of still backgrounds. Today Matte Painting is in many ways more complex in both its ambition and creation. Expert Matte Painters will use a multitude of different methods to create their work including, 2D digital painting, 3D modelling, camera projection, texturing, photography, as well as dynamic terrain generation in software such as (mattepainting.org, 2007)

Matte Paintings always start as an image created in 2D. This is a good enough solution for use in film where the shot does not move. In the case of a camera having to move around in a scene, a matte painting must be broken down into its component parts and projected onto 3D geometry. For shots with limited camera movement (such as a zoom), the components of the matte painting can be projected onto separate pieces of basic geometry (flat planes) and arranged in 3D space to create depth. This type of shot would be referred to as 2.5D. For more expansive camera movements, geometry must be created to match the parts of a matte painting in a 3D software package such as Autodesk Maya or 3DS Max. The pieces of the matte painting are then projected onto this geometry as textures. This process is known as 3D Camera Mapping. The advantage of this process is that compared to the other two, the image won’t break as quickly when the camera is moved. (Stoski. C) An early example of Matte Painting Matte painting from "Robin Hood" (1938) A later example of matte painting from "Star Wars: Return of The Jedi" (1983). A video demonstrating some of the techniques in Photoshop, during the creating of a matte painting. Fig1.1 Fig1.2 Fig1.3 Fig2.1 Fig2.2 Fig2.3 Fig2.4 Fig2.5 Fig3.1 Fig3.2 Fig3.3 Technical Notes An investigation was carried out in order to recreate the process of camera mapping a 2D digital painting onto 3D geometry within Autodesk Maya. The aim of this investigation was to familiarise the person carrying out the exercise with the skills and techniques required to repeat this process during a future project. The investigation required following a guide to the process found in "The Digital Matte Painting Handbook" (Mattingly D.B, 2011). Initial Setup A ready completed matte painting from the DVD that accompanies "The Digital Matte Painting Handbook" was used to complete the project. A fully flattened version of this file was used as the image plane for the project. An image plane is fixed to a camera to serve as a backdrop, Mattingly (2011,p165). In this project, it acts as a point of reference to where the 3D geometry is aligned to it in order to match the perspective of the scene. Building the Scene The initial step was to build a reference box that would match the orientation of the lower castle walls. The initial alignment was found to be highly tricky during the investigation. Additional geometry was created to match the other key elements in the scene. The cube that was used for the lower castle walls was duplicated and then simply scaled for the upper section. This approach allowed the second piece of geometry to be in perfect alignment with the first. The hill in front of the castle was modeled from a cube with a number of divisions, using Maya's "sculpt geometry tool it was molded until it resembled the shape of the hill in the original matte painting. In addition to this a plane was created for the water, an elongated cube made the bridge whilst a part of a sphere mimics the sky. Making the bridge look as if it was effectively dissapearing into the distance was highly challenging. This could have been avoided by providing the cube with more room to stretch before it came in contact with the horizon. The individual layers that made up the original matte painting were used to texture the newly created geometry via use camera projection. This involved creating new materials for each piece of geometry and plugging in the required images as textures. The completed textured geometry, a test render and the hypershade menu showing the material information of each piece of geometry. Fig4.1 Fig4.2 Fig4.3 Fig4.4 Fig4.5 Fig4.6 Some examples of Digital Matte Painting... 2.5D Projection onto cards. 3D Camera Projection 1. 3D Camera Projection 2. Considerations For a Nuke Based Workflow There are advantages and disadvantages to using Nuke in a matte painting pipeline. If you were to solely use Nuke, then you would be very limited with the complexity of 3D geometry that you could create, as Nuke only offers simple geometry such as cards, cubes and spheres. This way of working would only really be useful for distant matte painting, sky domes or shots which have little to no movement. Nuke is however a good tool in that it allows you to see in real time how your projection setup is looking. This allows you to know, much quicker than if you were working in a 3D package, if you are doing things correctly.

If you were to go the other way and complete a matte painting shot fully within a 3D package such as Autodesk Maya, you would certainly find things more complex. Although at the same time you would also have a lot more options available to you for doing complex projections. It should also be noted that when working in Nuke with a lot of complex geometry, you can reach the limitations of that software pretty quickly. A significant problem with working fully in a 3D software package for large scale matte painting shots is the dependency of a render farm. Large scale matte painting scenes can require a huge amount of rendering horsepower to output the frames. Most companies don't have these kinds of resources readily available to them, which can cause the render process to become highly laborious. (F.Garret, 2012) Bibliography psd tuts+., 2010. [online] Available at: http://psd.tutsplus.com/articles/techniques/basic-principles-of-digital-matte-painting/ [Accessed 17th February 2013] Mattingly., D.B., 2011.The Digital Matte Painting Handbook, Wiley Publishing, Inc., Indianapolis. psd tuts+., 2010. [online] Available at: http://psd.tutsplus.com/articles/techniques/basic-principles-of-digital-matte-painting/ [Accessed 17th February 2013] mordcaidesign., 2007. Different types of Matte Paintings? mattepainting.org. Available at: http://mattepainting.org/vb/showthread.php?t=3288 >[Accessed 20th February 2013]. Garett F., 2012. http://www.gfryart.com [online] Available at: http://www.gfryart.com/index.php/tutorials/general/49-full-environment-3d-matte-painting-work-flow-projecting-in-nuke [Accessed 19th February 2013] Garett F., 2012. http://www.gfryart.com [online] Available at: http://www.gfryart.com/index.php/tutorials/general/50-full-environment-3d-matte-painting-work-flow-in-maya [Accessed 19th February 2013] Stoski C., 3D Matte Painting Production Techniques, Gnomon School of Visual Effects DVD. Table of Figures Fig1.1: Available at: http://psd.tutsplus.com/articles/theory/the-history-of-matte-painting-basix/
Fig1.2: Detlefsen, P., 1938 "Robin Hood" Available at http://mattepainting.org/gallery/main.php?g2_itemId=50
Fig1.3: Pangrazio, M., 1983 "Return of the Jedi" Available at:http://mattepainting.org/gallery/main.php?g2_itemId=83

Fig2.2: Ditlev Available at: http://mattepainting.org/gallery/main.php?g2_itemId=9104
Fig2.3: Lee, M., Available at: http://mattepainting.org/gallery/main.php?g2_itemId=7233
Fig2.4: Jokerson, Available at: http://mattepainting.org/gallery/main.php?g2_itemId=1551
Fig2.5: Dylan, Available at: http://mattepainting.org/gallery/main.php?g2_itemId=7867

Fig3.1: jithin k u, 2010, Available at: http://www.youtube.com/user/jithinku?feature=watch
Fig3.2: JSWoodhams, 2012, Available at: http://www.youtube.com/user/JSWoodhams?feature=watch
Fig3.3: Valentin MICHEL, 2010, Available at: http://www.youtube.com/user/hixysprod?feature=watch

Fig4.1: Investigation Screenshot
Fig4.2: " "
Fig4.3: " "
Fig4.4: " "
Fig4.5: " "
Fig4.6: " " Final Test Render The final version created as part of the investigation is successful in that it functions. It isn't as strong as it could be though. The camera movement is a bit too limited for something which is supposed to take benefit from having more complex 3D geometry. It was a successful experiment however as the general concepts behind how to align the camera, create geometry and work with materials, have been understood.
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