VFX – Matte Painting

This week in VFX we had a shorter two hour session, so there was a lot to cram in. We’d look into matte painting, which when demonstrated makes you question what isn’t faked in movies/tv! Here are the videos Gary showed us before starting the exercise.

Colour me impressed, its stunning how much you take a scene for granted and go ‘oh okay that must be all real because there is no great special effect happening’. I somehow doubt we’ll recreate anything this stunning soon but we all gave it a damn good go in the time we had.

There were no additional tools to be taught for this exercise, its all accomplished using techniques we already know. Such as masks, layering, colour correction, feathering etc. So the goal was hop onto google and find some source images to turn into a matte painting, here is the outline from the lecture slide:

  • 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)

Me being me, I thought I would take a regular city scene and try and spruce it up into some near future sci-fi. Here are all the source images I used:

As sky replacement is still in recent memory, that would be my starting point. I’d worry about colour correction later once all the other assets had been placed. Neither the linear colour key or colorama worked particulary well as the buildings shared a lot of similar hues to the sky. I fixed this by using a combination of a linear colour key, duplicating the bottom (master layer) and masking around the buildings to add certain bits of detail back in and then adding a few pixels worth of feathering.

The next step was bringing in the new sci-fi looking buildings and using another colour key to get rid of the blue sky around them, then placing them into the scene. At this stage I began thinking about colour corrections, wanting to match the dusk sky I adding an orange solid to the left edge of every building, dropped the opacity and feathered the mask. Finally playing the Levels and Curves to darken the scene down with some blue/purple hues.

Lastly I added the overhead spaceship, conveniently already a png with an alpha. So it was simply a case of placement and colour correction.


This took most of the class to accomplish. It’s not difficult work, just time consuming even for a simple piece like this. I’m really pleased with my colour corrections, everything blended together quite well for a first try. However I’m not so pleased with the whole thing looking sufficiently ‘faked’, some edges are too harsh, some were feathered a little too much and some masks weren’t accurate enough. These are all issues that would only be corrected with practice and time though, so I’m not kicking myself too hard.

I’ll have to try this on video soon, the only difference being the addition of tracking. I think in motion the end results would look far more impressive!


One thought on “VFX – Matte Painting

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s