3DTotal : So has the recent part of your career since this time been a steep learning curve? Tim : Well I didn’t find the transition to painting digitally that difficult since I was already fairly experienced with Photoshop as an image editing tool. One of the main things I noticed was that I could paint a lot better and faster because all of the inhibitions of making mistakes were completely removed so really I came a long way in a short time. I think the steeper learning curve has been on the 3D side of things and trying to get my head around all the technical aspects of visual effects. The 3D side of things is just so huge.
3DTotal : So back to the present day, you say your current job is 100% matte painting? Tim : Yes that’s my primary role. I also do concept
work in terms of concepts for matte or sometimes they are called “Style Frames”.
3DTotal : Ok I see, for our readers who are starting out can you give a quick explanation of the difference between concept and matte painting? Tim : A matte painting is typically a background element that takes the place of or extends a set or location. Essentially you are creating paintings of what is either too expensive to build or find in the real world.They can be a simple static background
or a very complex shot that involves camera moves that simulate changes in perspective.
On the concept side of things I spend a fair bit ofmy time doing “Style Frames” which are basically
establishing the look of the shot. It becomes the guide for myself and the other artist to follow when we produce the shot. I really enjoy this aspect of the job because it gives me the opportunity to really be creative and try new things.
3DTotal : You mention that you seem to be creating mattes for more moving shots these days, how do you go about this? Is a series 2D layers placed further away from the camera each time? Tim :Well it depends on the shot and just what is required, if the camera is just moving only slightly and not really turning or rotating you can get away with it this way by creating ‘2D cards’. These are 2D layers that create a parallax effect with the cards closer to the camera moving more quickly, but
these only really work with smaller camera moves and with items that are in the distance. If you start
to do anything like a dramatic push-in or have the camera moving enough you start to see a change
in perspective then the way you can tackle this is through a method called 2.5D (two and a half D). You create the 3D geometry then project your 2D painting on to it. This can work for slight changes
in perspective but if the camera movement becomes
to dramatic then maybe you have to start to look at
a full 3D solution or a combination of all three approaches. For “Babel” we did a full CG shot of Japan that involves a very long camera move. The
shot starts in tight on a building and then pulls backthrough the city. So your seeing roof tops and sky scrapers moving past the camera. It was primarily accomplished with 2.5D camera projections with other 2D and 3D elements to enhance it.
3DTotal : So when this happens is the job passed to another artist altogether? Tim : It is always the effort of a number of artists to pull off shots like this. The work on “The Number 23” required a crew of artist from matte painting, 3D and 2D. The biggest shot we did was 3000 frames long. One continuous camera move. I did some of my own 3D work but for the most part I spent my days in Photoshop.
3DTotal :Well it’s been great chatting with you Tim, to round off can you give a bit of advice for our student readers? Tim : Yeah, there’s so much out there for you to educate yourself, for me one of the greatest things was the Gnomon training DVDs. They have several matte painting ones and lots of concept titles and a ton of 3D stuff; you could get away with not going to college at all! I wouldn’t recommend that because college offers such great opportunities, meeting other people etc. but I’m just saying its definitely an amazing supplement for going to school. Even before college you see high school kids now posting on these forums and getting training DVDs and I don’t know if they realize how much of a leg up they are actually getting. Another very important contributing factor to accelerating my career has been posting in online communities as there are so many opportunities to connect with professionals and one I go to a lot is www.mattepainting.org. Dylan Cole, Chris Stoski and Alp Altiner who are top guys in the industry posts here. So you can post your work on here and they may comment on it which is just something you would never have had the chance to do years ago. I am a really strong believer in the community aspect of the industry and it really helps everyone improve. The flip side of this is you have to be prepared to share your work and tips too. Some people may want to work more in isolation and keep things to themselves, but I have learned so much from others I would be a complete hypocrite not to share in the same way.