Monday, July 26, 2010

The pass

When I haven't been working on freelance web work, I've done a few environment concepts for an open source game. Nothing's really set in stone yet so I've just been playing with mood, lighting, and shape.

When I don't know what I want to create, and I want to "sculpt" painted shapes into something that I can further refine, I use a digital version of a Grey PrismaColor marker. When I know what I want to create, when I have something fairly solid in my head, I like to use the mechanics of drawing and draw-through methods to create what's in my head.

Until this painting though, I haven't been able to apply typical drawing mechanics to a digital canvas. The size of your canvas has to be the right size relative to your brush. That can be hard to figure out.

I also had some preconceived notions about actually drawing when I thought I should be painting. I know differently now. No matter how much you paint, the mechanics of drawing are VERY important. You might be painting your heart out but if you don't have the drawing foundation to back it up you'll be lost.

When I say the "mechanics of drawing", I'm not talking about actually using a physical or digital pencil, I'm referring to the skills you learn from drawing. Seeing the right way, creating shape, and perspective.

I think I'm starting to get it, and can't wait to do more.I need to learn how to refine less though, and just use large brushes, value, and color to illustrate my ideas.

I really like the mountains in the background :P


Chad Weatherford said...

What I love the most about this one is the way you grouped values together. This is a strong composition through value, which I can definitely learn from. Perhaps the roof planes could be a bit more distinct from the structure....but that could be the monitor I'm viewing on. Good work!

Cameron Chamberlain said...

Hey Matt, can you please elaborate a bit on what you've figured out? especially about creating shape, and sizing the canvas to the brush.

I think that'd make a good post.

Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

Hey Matt,
My name is Dario, and I also want to develop a carrer on matte painting. I like what you are doing, and that you share all your thought about it, so I would like to post my thoughts about the current job of matte painting:

I'm studying a lot about current companies performing matte paintings for vfx industry, and I noticed that currently the most important points in m.p. are perspective and photorealism.
I see tons of mate painters portfolios that show pictures that are no more than beautiful digital paintings, but this is not a matte painting.
A matte painting is a piece o picture that will be composed with actual footage, so it has to match the perspective of the original footage perfectly. In fact, a good matte painter has to take information from the camera model and focal length, in order to use the same perspective in the matte painting.
I see lot of people pasting elements in a landscape in Photoshop, without keeping in mind the perspective of the camera that shot (or will shoot) the actors or animated elements.
That's why I think that currently a matte painting must be created with the help of a 3D application, and using some survey information from the camera that shot (or will shoot) the actors.
On the other side, the main vfx companies that perform matte painting shots (Cinesite, Crazy Horse, Digital Matte World, Luma, MPC, and so on) perform their mattes with a great amount of photorealism. You know, the clue is to get a perfect match between the shot actors and the painted background, so they all seem to be real.

For all of this, I always start a matte painting project from a photograph, or a frame of the footage that needs to be altered.
This footage (with the survey information of the shooting camera) allows me to set the exact perspective in a 3D application (I use Maya and Lightwave). Then I need to match the same illumination (I use Maxwell Render, which produces photorealistic renders) so the 3D models I insert in the scene will match perfectly in perspective and in lighting.

For me, the main rule of integrating elements is:
If you match the Perspective and the Illumination of the plate, then you can add any object anywhere.

So, for me, there is not possible (nor recommendable) to start a matte painting without the information of the shot elements that are going to be composed with your matte.
Otherwise, you can create a nice picture, completely painted or a collage of painting a photographs if you want, but a matte painting is not just a beautiful digital picture. It is a component of a vfx shot that will have other elements, so everything has to match, in terms of perspective and lighting.

Well, just my thoughts about it.

Keep the good work, Matt. All the luck!


Matthew Scheuerman said...


Thanks for your feedback. However, I have a few rebuttals to make.

1. I totally agree with you. This isn't a matte painting. It's concept art. I thought I made it clear enough when I said: "I've done a few environment concepts for an open source game." Although I did use a few matte painting techniques in this piece.

2. From your comments regarding what you think a matte painting is, you said: "So, for me, there is not possible (nor recommendable) to start a matte painting without the information of the shot elements that are going to be composed with your matte."

I hope for you, your career is filled with perfect plates and photographs given to you in perfect perspective. As for myself, I beleive that a matte painter should be able to paint photo real and then use photographs to speed up the process. This belief isn't just from personal research, it's from me constantly talking with other matte painters who currently work "in the biz". Dusso isn't known for being a photobasher, but I've heard from multiple sources that he's one of the best. He can grab the lowest res photos, way out of perspective, and use them for texture. Here's one of his paintings that I think shows off a wealth of the different things he does

As for set extension matte painting, where you are given a plate: that doesn't always happen and sometimes you need to create something from scratch. Here's one of Dylan Cole's mattes that clearly didn't have a clean plate to begin with:

I heard a story recently, that James Cameron needed a matte shot done in one day. Even though Dylan Cole is listed as a concept artist on AVATAR, he did fill in and work on some matte paintings. He completed an entire matte painting in one day for Cameron. I personally don't believe there's any way that Dylan Cole would have had perfect plates and phtoographs to work with. That's what our jobs are as matte painters. To bring an environment to life and make the audience beleive that it's real.

Good luck to you and I hope that your future is filled with good matte painting experiences.


BTW I got the feeling that you haven't seen my portfolio

Here's a matte that I did that was really a study in micro detail painting. I did it to see if I could complete a shot without using too many photos:

and here's my favorite matte painting that I cam curently allowed to show because of NDA's:

Matthew Scheuerman said...

I just noticed that blogger truncated some of the url's. Please visit the main url and click around to look at my matte paintings, Dylan Cole's and Dusso's.

Cameron, I've tried for 3 nights in a row, to record a video demo. I will eventually. I promise.

Chad Weatherford said...


Often times a matte painting is used as an establishing shot for a particular scene. There are an assortment of 'gags' that can be employed to breath life into these shots, but often times they are created from scratch.

Anonymous said...

Hello Matt and Chad,

Yes, I noticed that your posted image was a concept painting, as it is said on your text.

And I agree with you both that there are some circumstances when a quick painting from scratch (like the one you commented for Avatar) is enough for a certain sequence.

I totally agree that Dusso and Dylan Cole are two of the best matte painters today. Absolutely.
And that there are some fantasy films (let's say Riddick, LOTR, Avatar, etc) where a hand painted background will do the job perfectly.
If the background is going to be seen in the distance, nobody will worry too much about the perspective between the actors and the background, and a further color correction will make their illumination to match.

But I also have to remark that although there are a certain amount of those productions, the 90% of today's industry productions (if not more) are not of that nature.
When you explore the matte painting work in films like Angels&Demons, Black Hawk Down, or The Road, to say some, there are a lot of companies producing photoreal matte paintings for that films.
And you can read on Cinefex how those companies managed the creation of those shots.

What I see more often (regarding I agree with you that there is a certain amount of matte paintings that are brilliantly brushed from scratch, like Dusso and Dylan do) is that they take into account the perspective and the survey information of the camera that shoot the actors, and use that information to alter the image to create a new background.

And this is what I find the perfect workflow (just in my opinion).
I really admire your capabilities for brushing that beautiful images you guys are posting. I don't have that painting skills.
But I find that there are other ways, using less brushes, but more a 3D application, that helps you to produce hi-end mattes, completely seamless.

About getting the survey information: it is true that you don't have this information to start with, but you can always take your own photographs (controlling the shooting conditions), or use a stock image (regarding the copyrights).

Let me know what do you think.