Digital matte painters typically utilize photography along with image editing and 3d software to construct interior or exterior environments that do not exist. This represents a level of unprecedented freedom to create. We are now able to create and refine references several steps closer to a convincing alter-reality that can be printed, put up on a monitor and even navigated in film. Through the knowledge gained by developing these processes we can expand our understanding of conditions in a natural environment and incorporate this into the final product, whether the end is in a digital or a traditional form.
Some DVDs produced by The Gnomon Workshop come with working project files. These are the native files that are identical to those used for the demonstration so you have the opportunity to work directly with them yourself. Typically a matte painter utilizes something like 3ds Max or Maya for 3D components and Photoshop to composite and paint. With some GW DVDs you also get the image files used for the composite. Maya has only recently become available for Mac with the Maya 2011 release. It is safe to say that as of this writing the existing DVDs were created using the Windows platform. It has not been verified whether the Maya project files will work on Maya 2011. 3ds Max is a program created for the Windows platform. With programs like Bootcamp and Parallels you can run the program on Intel-based Mac hardware using Windows but not within the OS X environment. This DVD does not come with working files anyway.
One of the first things to notice is the structure in which Gnomon DVDs are presented. They are one of the leaders in terms of utilization of the DVD format. There are chapters broken down into sub-chapters. The activity is documented in motion, audio and on some DVDs also accompanied with printable text. They follow an outline of numerous steps described and documented in motion. Viewing a Gnomon Workshop DVD I have wondered why traditional artists cannot produce DVDs using dedicated cameras to simultaneously capture significant areas of activity, each view having its own commentary describing the thought process including intent and logic in detail every step of the way and having the ability to choose which context-sensitive camera to view on the fly. Maybe this is asking too much. It seems as though some artists wing it and they might not be able to produce anything worthwhile and on queue if they knew every movement had to count. That might pose quite a task. These are artists, not necessarily teachers and certainly less likely performers. More art DVDs are being produced. Hopefully an ambitious artist, teacher or group will establish this level of organization is a presentation as their objective.
In the digital world the tools have been software-based and consequently the instructions have been approached like one would approach any other software whether it is word processing, programming or visual design. As far back as kindergarten there seems to have been a prevailing belief that art cannot be taught with a structure like math or science. It is thought that one either has a knack for art or does not and those that don't just play. This has also opened up the field of digital visual design to non-artists. Almost anyone capable of following directions can use the software, some producing better results than others of course, yet it has frequently been the more technically minded rather than the visual artist types that have excelled. The stereotype of the moody undisciplined artist chasing inspiration does not fit the digital artist mold.
There are some basic principles that need to be understood in order to work between the digital and real-world environments. It is very important to understand color that pertains to light and color that pertains to material or mass, having a handle on subtractive and additive color is imperative. The rules are different and you will have major problems if you try to apply them in the wrong context. One also needs to understand the type of light and the consequences that result including characteristics of shadows and how it influences overall color harmony in the scene.
Digital Environment Painting: Matte Painting with Raphael Lacoste
Summary: Within the context of a single matte painting project the following topics are covered:
* Painting thumbnails in grey values
* Painting a mood sketch in Photoshop
* Perspective matching in 3DS max
* Setting up a simple 3D scene for textures and lighting
* Choose the right Textures for basic geometry
* Painting a sky with photos and using channels selections.
* Paint over photos
* Modify, stylize silhouettes
* Relighting elements in 2D
* Photos integration / color matching
* Layers management in Photoshop
* Atmospheric Depth
* Detailing / polishing
* Scaling and Proportions
* Color correction
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. Images © Raphael Lacoste and The Gnomon Workshop