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Digital Matte Paintings - Coursework 1 - Visual Effects

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Paul Campbell

on 24 February 2013

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Transcript of Digital Matte Paintings - Coursework 1 - Visual Effects

Digital Matte Paintings Digital Matte Paintings Digital Matte paintings are drawn digitally created environments for films, TV, games and much more that create the illusion of a landscape or environment that would be impossible to either create with 3D or film on location. (Tim Mercer, 40 Matte Painting Masterpieces. (2010) Retrieved June 28 2010, from http://www.noupe.com/inspiration/40-matte-painting-masterpieces.html ) They have been around from as early as 1907 (The Invisible Art: The Legends of Movie Matte Painting by Mark Cotta Vaz and Craig Barron, Chronicle Books, 2002; p. 33) and aim to create a seamless look for that particular piece of media. One of the most famous scenes from a movie that uses matte painting is the final scene in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark showing the warehouse. Matte Paintings in Mass Effect Matte paintings feature prominently within the Mass Effect game series. As the game is set not only on the planet surface of many of the worlds found in the game but also set in space itself. There are hundreds of planets that can be viewable from your space-ship and these will all be created by matte paintings. All of the cut-scenes in the game will also feature matte paintings to really emphasis the grand scale and magnitude of the game. (Bioware, Mass Effect 2 "Making Of" (2009) Mass Effect 2 [DVD] ) The use of matte paintings within a game in particular can really reduce not only the workload of the team behind the game when creating each level; but also the file size of the entire game. The file size will impact the loading time of each level which will help the game garner great public appraisal. Matte paintings within a game will also reduce the speed at which objects are 'drawn' on screen at so that only the immediate objects within a certain level need to be rendered. ( Visibility optimization (2008) Retrieved September 1 2008, from https://developer.valvesoftware.com/wiki/Visibility_optimization ) As well as having matte painting utilized in game, Mass Effect 3 featured a very high profile advertising campaign and ran a lot of videos in the build up to release on television to help promote the game. These videos featured both CGI and real action shots with matte painting being featured very heavily. In the video above, it shows London being torn apart by the Reapers and as you can see, London is heavily destroyed which would be created as a matte painting. The main setting of the video comes from the sniper in Big Ben which again would have been created a matte painting. Origins The origins of matte painting can be traced back to as long ago as the early 1900s. The technique was created by a man named Norman Dawn who joined together a painting and a photograph to improve the environment being filmed by the camera. He, and others, would paint on a large sheet of glass which would then be placed in front of the camera and positioned accordingly which resulted in a blending between a painting and live action scenery. (The Invisible Art: The Legends of Movie Matte Painting by Mark Cotta Vaz and Craig Barron, Chronicle Books, 2002; p. 33) http://psdtuts.s3.amazonaws.com/0558_History_Matte_Painting/1.jpg Origins continued As years went by, other filmmakers started to take the methods introduced by Norman Dawn and evolve them by making using matte paintings easier to use in film-making. No advancement in matte painting, and film-making for that matter, had as big an impact when computers were used to create digital matte paintings. Using computers to create the images allowed for a much more realistic looking image as you have a lot more control over the overall parameters of the image such as lighting, shadows and more importantly the ability to undo an action without ruining the overall work. (The History of Matte Painting (2010) Retrieved September 28 2010 from http://www.magazinoo.com/the-history-of-matte-painting-%E2%80%93-basix/) Some of the most famous examples of movies that started to incorporate CG work include: Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Young Sherlock Holmes and Abyss. Young Sherlock Holmes was a particularly interesting movie in that included a scene were a scanned image was blended with a matte painting to create a realistic looking character. youtube.com/watch?v=WASr5-mS238 youtube.com/watch?v=uOsxXi-tu_U youtube.com/watch?v=q6-rQ6Jay6w Matte Painting in Cinematics Matte Painting
Developmental Work Creation Matte paintings can be created using a very wide variety of different programs. Graphic tablets are the norm these days for matte painting artists with the latest range from Wacom featuring built in 24" screens that makes it so it is essentially like drawing on paper, or glass seeing as that is how matte paintings were originally created. Obviously with a graphics tablet, a program is needed to draw with and there are no shortage of these available to artists. The most widely used program the drawing stage of matte painting is Adobe Photoshop due it's overall flexibility, control over a range of colour modes and the ability to export to almost every image file format. A key component in matte paintings is the utilisation of layers for the overall depth of the painting and environment; by using Photoshop, there is an amazing amount of control over the layers of the painting. Adjustment layers and layer masks are other tools that help artists achieving the best result and both of these can be easily adjusted to meet the required goal. The most simple shot that a matte paint artist will have to make is one that involves the camera being stationary throughout the entire sequence. This is known as a locked-off shot and will not require the matte painting artist to create the exact level of depth that a moving shot would require due to only needing to paint what is seen in that particular shot. Creation Process To create a matte painting, artists first need to go through a planning process that they would go through for any major project. Artists will sketch out how they intend to create the finished article as well as a few other factors. The first thing they need to know is if the scene in which the matte painting will be included in will be a locked-off shot or a moving shot. This process will require more planning if it is a moving scene as the image will need to be a lot bigger than the resolution of the camera because it will pan across revealing more of the image as the camera moves across. As well as this, if the scene is for example a mountain; the matte paint artist will need to consider the various layers of detail that will move as the camera moves creating a greater illusion of depth. Once this has been decided (for this example, I am going to detail the process of creating a matte painting that will feature the camera moving), a sketch will be drawn out that will include a basic layer composition of a foreground, mid-ground and background. The mid-ground is the most important part of the scene as it will be the layer that will be larger than the rest and garner more attention from the audience. More detailed matte paintings will feature more levels of depth but these are the three most important layers of a matte painting. After this, a focal point will need to be selected which will usually be an area featuring high levels of contrast, high levels of detail and an area near the middle of the image. The image is usually split into a grid of 4 lines (or more depending on the size and complexity of the image) and the focal point will be selected within the middle square. (Jonah West, Learning Concept Art and Matte Painting (2010) Retrieved October 7 2010, from http://conceptartandmattepainting.blogspot.co.uk/) http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_nXWQMv57Kwo/TMfjhAqUTOI/AAAAAAAAABo/Wy_JEUdxmxQ/s1600/step2d.jpg Creation continued Once the focal point is selected on the sketch, a process begins to then create 'visual paths' that will almost divert the viewer's attention to that focal point and make them focus towards it. This can be done by drawing objects that almost point to this object such as trees, rivers, paths, buildings and so on. Lighting is the next important step that you must take and there are a number of factors to consider. The focal point will have the most contrast as well as the most detail when it comes to shadows and light. Areas being affected by the sunlight will be a yellowy colour were as areas in the shade will be more of a blue or gray colour. There are three main types of light: Direct, fill and bounce. Direct light is the brightest light source and will generally be from the sun. Fill is the shadowy area on the otherside of the object that will be darker and of a blue-ish tone compared to the direct light source. Bounce light is again darker and will also take on the colour of the area that the light source is bouncing off. (Jonah West, Learning Concept Art and Matte Painting (2010) Retrieved October 7 2010, from http://conceptartandmattepainting.blogspot.co.uk/) Focal Point :http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_nXWQMv57Kwo/TMf3ZwMv4zI/AAAAAAAAAB0/1YTyXQcT0_c/s1600/Step2c_v02.jpg By this stage, the painting will be coming along rather roughly but the basis is there for more depth to be added in various parts. Using Photoshop, there is great control over the lighting in the painting by using adjustment layers, levels and curves to increase the contrast and reducing the gamma. http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_nXWQMv57Kwo/TMf4eQ873QI/AAAAAAAAAB8/AADIHiUmcNo/s1600/step5.jpg http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_nXWQMv57Kwo/TMlIuGVwRcI/AAAAAAAAACk/PWCPT0bVyvE/s1600/CutOutLayers_Mounts.jpg Creation continued Once the lighting is sorted out, it's time to start gathering images for the scene from websites like cgtextures.com, flickr.com, smugmug.com etc. Taking the rough sketch, it is now time to break it apart and into various layers like shown in the image below. The background behind the red line is a photo which will need to be colour corrected so that it fits in with the rest of the image seamlessly. Eventually will start gathering reference photos that are similar to what the concept drawing should look like and replace everything with photos. Obviously for more professional pieces of work, 3D renders are used in conjunction with Photoshop, Nuke and Maya but this is just an example of how a very simple matte painting is put together and ultimately how effect it can look. After the references images have been gathered that are needed and have cut out the appropriate layers to replace with photos, it should end up with something similar to the image above. It's rather amazing how realistic matte paintings can be and can understand why directors and designers use them. The above image is a matte painting for a locked-off shot but artists can easily add in movement by having the layers arranged in a video editing software so that they move if for instance the camera zooms in, this would create a level of depth to the overall matte painting. The waterfall could also be animated by finding video footage online or even by using Maya to create water effects and have them added in to the video composition. http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_nXWQMv57Kwo/TMlL3TT0bdI/AAAAAAAAACs/gWAm3ebnWJA/s1600/LRMP_MattePainting_p07.jpg Matte Paintings in Mass Effect Example of the creation process The cinematic of Mass Effect 3 that was discussed in the research section featured a number of scenes that utilized matte paintings. The city that is being destroyed by the Reapers was made by combining matte paintings with 3D elements from Maya. By the time matte paintings were required, a lot of the artistic direction of the overall game was decided upon. This included areas such as lighting, colours, shapes, shades and the overall balance. The team started to create and collect reference images to be used as certain elements within the matte painting of the city. They constructed a moodboard that helped them along with the creation process. http://www.fxguide.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/North_American_City_moodboard.jpg The team used Photoshop almost entirely, utilising several layers while noting the complexity of the camera movements to make sure that the images were of the highest quality. The buildings that stood out more than others were all painted on a separate layer to the ground, smoke, water, characters and other visual effect layers. They followed the basic principles of traditional painting techniques and made full use of the technical possibilities provided by the tools they used. To begin the painting, they drew up the main volumes and shapes that would form the composition and then worked towards the finer details in the image using small parts of the reference images they had gathered in the planning stages to make it more realistic looking. Areas that they could not find reference images for, they painted themselves in a realistic style. The same can be said of images that did not meet the composition's resolution size. The effects seen in the image to the right were painting in a separate layer to the rest of the composition so that the artists could have more control over the stylisation of the smoke, such as adding a haze that gives it greater sense of realism. An interesting point to note is that the smoke effects in the background of the image did not move as the team felt that you would not be able to see the smoke moving anyway and instead focused on the fore-ground of the image. Once the painting was complete, it was ready for the 3D elements to be added in. http://www.fxguide.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/MattePaint_all.jpg Combining matte paintings and Nuke Once the matte painting was finished, it used 3d objects from Maya such as buildings. The planning of this scene was done in Maya with a camera to plan the movement out before being put together in Nuke. http://www.fxguide.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/nuke_mattepaint.jpg http://www.fxguide.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/nuke_geom2.jpg http://www.fxguide.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/nuke_proj.jpg http://www.fxguide.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/nuke_geom.jpg Matte Paintings in Nuke One of the promotional cinematic for Mass Effect 3 is rather interesting because it is a sequence which makes use of matte painting but is entirely done using Nuke rather than having elements created using Photoshop. The camera pans over such a large area of the planet that a single projection was not enough; it required several. The matte painting needed to be painted in two separate parts - the light side of the planet and the dark side of the planet. There are a lot of effects on the Earth's surface taken place such as explosions and fire to emphasis the fact the Earth is in grave danger from the threat of the Reapers. These particular effects were painted on a separate layer as some of them required small animations and keeping them on a separate layer allows for more control over the individual elements. (Digic Pictures, Cinematics Case Study Mass Effect 3 (2012) Retrieved May 23 2012, from http://www.fxguide.com/featured/cinematics-case-study-mass-effect-3/) http://www.fxguide.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/earth_projection.jpg http://www.fxguide.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/earth_Nuke.jpg Bibliography youtube.com/watch?v=FtfJpa_feMw youtube.com/watch?v=h_U8Bazb7i0 youtube.com/watch?v=q6-rQ6Jay6w youtube.com/watch?v=ZUyxpcq3DHo http://www.fxguide.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/MattePaint_all.jpg http://www.fxguide.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/nuke_geom2.jpg Tim Mercer, 40 Matte Painting Masterpieces. (2010) Retrieved June 28 2010, from http://www.noupe.com/inspiration/40-matte-painting-masterpieces.html

The Invisible Art: The Legends of Movie Matte Painting by Mark Cotta Vaz and Craig Barron, Chronicle Books, 2002; p. 33

The History of Matte Painting (2010) Retrieved September 28 2010 from http://www.magazinoo.com/the-history-of-matte-painting-%E2%80%93-basix/)

Visibility optimization (2008) Retrieved September 1 2008, from https://developer.valvesoftware.com/wiki/Visibility_optimization

Bioware, Mass Effect 2 "Making Of" (2009) Mass Effect 2 [DVD]

Jonah West, Learning Concept Art and Matte Painting (2010) Retrieved October 7 2010, from http://conceptartandmattepainting.blogspot.co.uk/)

Digic Pictures, Cinematics Case Study Mass Effect 3 (2012) Retrieved May 23 2012, from http://www.fxguide.com/featured/cinematics-case-study-mass-effect-3/)

Creativefan, Getting started with digital matte painting, Retrieved from http://cg.creativefan.com/getting-started-with-digital-matte-painting-workflow-techniques-and-walkthrough/ Matte Painting In Video Games
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