VFX – Matte Painting

We hit the ground running in VFX class, learning all about Matte Painting and taking the hidden joy out of some amazing visuals (joking, but it does make you think twice about whether what you’re looking at is real or not!). Before we began Gary showed us a couple of show reels/examples of what we could potentially create with a lot of practice.

I love the second video (and not just because it has a couple of Fireflys in it). I think it just goes to show what some practice and patience can accomplish when trying to do matte painting. We were then sent out to try matte painting on our own, with the tools we’ve learned up until this point. Our goals/guidelines were:

  • Create our own 2D or 3D matte painting
  • It could be any theme (fantasy, apocalyptic, jungle, etc.)
  • We should try to practice the new techniques we’ve been covering in class
  • Make LOTS of mistakes (get them out of the way now)
  • Can use a combination of still images and/or videos (www.videvo.net is a good source for free videos)

While I do plan on trying out this on a video, I played a safe game on my first try: I picked a concept of “old castle on a craggy mountain” and scoured Google image search for any inspiration. I saved a number of photos, but here are the ones I actually ended up using:

I started with the sky as the background and started masking/keying the castle. I kept the ground, as I thought it would help integrate it with the cliff I chose. Speaking of, I also needed to do a lot of keying and masks from the cliff picture – this was made a little difficult when I tried feathering the mask only to have the person’s legs still show up. This just dictated that the castle was going to go right on the edge of the cliff.

Since the forest was going to be below the cliff, I could just do a sky replacement on it as we did last week. My mistake was likely that I didn’t pre-compose any of my work along the way, so I could then start polishing individual pieces and keep some order to the project. Naming conventions were also mentioned part-way through class and luckily I did end up doing that from the beginning of my project, making the colour correcting/polishing that much easier.


The bridge was fun to work on, just given the amount of masks I needed to make to get rid of any original background imagery. However, I really liked the idea that this end picture could be taken by someone standing on that bridge, looking out over the horizon on their way to the castle.

Once I’d found the pieces I wanted to use, it took about an hour and a half to do this. Overall, I’m pleased with the result, but it still feels a bit too… cut and paste against the background of the sky/forest. I think I need a bit more practice on the blending of parts and I think it may have something to do with the quality of the photos used. The sky is of higher quality than the other pieces, which makes it seem to much sharper, despite the corrections/blurs I’ve put on to adjust for that. However, I think the colours are right for the setting and I like the actual castle/cliff/bridge combinations.


Posted in VFX

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