3DTotal:Could you give us a brief insight into the role of a matte painter on today’s’ films and explain a little about your day to day tasks? Dylan: The role of a matte painter is continuing to change as technology changes. Matte painting should probably be referred to as synthetic environments nowadays. There is a very blurry line between matte painting and 3D environments. A matte painter will essentially do whatever it takes to create a virtual environment. His or her role is to create an environment that does not exist or would be too expensive to film. Usually that is a 2D painting created in Photoshop, but more and more often that also includes projecting a painting onto the 3D geometry to achieve a 2.5D solution. I personally draw the line at doing full modelling, texturing, and lighting of a scene. To me, that is just typical 3D work and not matte painting. There is nothing to say you cannot incorporate renders into your painting, but I definitely like controlling all the lighting in the painting. My day to day tasks include a lot of painting (surprise!) Often at times it is not just creating large scenes, it is doing endless tweaks and working with compositors and TDs to make sure everyone has the elements they need. A lot of my work consists of breaking up my painting into the specific layers that others need. A haze element here, a special alpha channel there
3DTotal: Could you tell us a little about the different types of matte paintings often required and the ways in which they are related to both 2d and 3d? Dylan: I answered some of this above, but there are three basic kinds of matte painting. There is the straight 2D painting that is composited with live action. This is the simplest kind because it just involves a 2D painting created in Photoshop. The next kind is camera projection or 2.5D. This consists of projecting a 2D painting onto 3D geometry that approximates the features in the painting. You are then
able to do a slight camera move. If you reveal areas of the area that are stretching you then just apply a patch with an alpha channel. You can do quite large camera moves in this fashion and still retain the control and ease of working in 2D. The third is full 3D which I am not even sure you can call matte painting. I guess the difference is that it is
a matte painter doing the full 3D with modelling, texturing and lighting.
3DTotal: Can you talk us through the process of producing a matte and describe the importance of research and photography? Dylan: My basic process is this: I first get a brief from the client, whether it be a sketch or verbal description with a lot of arm waving. I then go and do my own sketch to figure out colour and composition.
Usually no photos are used at this stage, just quick painting in Photoshop. I don’t spend more than a few hours on this. I want to work out all of the design issues with the client in this stage so that I know when I go to detail it, I will not have to do a lot of changes. While it rarely works out that perfectly it is good procedure. Once the sketch is approved I like to spend as much time as possible gathering reference material. This usually involves going through my digital reference library and then my real library of books. If I can, I will go out and shoot elements that I need or build little miniatures for myself. I find that it is always good to have something photographic because you get a lot of things for free when you shoot something. Even if you think you know what something looks like, it is always good to look at a reference of it. Even if it is as mundane as a telephone pole, there is a lot of little detail in a telephone pole that you may not think of.
3DTotal: What do you think are the key skills necessary to being a successful matte artist?
Dylan: I think it is a very wide skill set. You have to have a good understanding of photography and how objects look when photographed. Creating a matte painting is very different than painting from life.
We are mimicking photography, not what our eyes see. You must have a good understanding of colour and composition so that you can lead the viewer’s eye around the image and create an image with
proper colour harmony. You must also know how to draw and paint. There are always parts of the
painting you have to create from scratch and you have to know how to do this. One of the biggest deficiencies that I see in beginner matte painters is knowledge of perspective. Perspective is key to selling space and depth. Artists rely on 3D too much for perspective guides. Always learn how to do it yourself