With another photo of a canyon, I placed a river on the right side of the composition, achieving the overall idea that the landscape is made of deep canyons, carved by water streams. Even in this case I kept building a more and more exciting morphology, with many "moments of depth". This is important, particularly if you plan on doing any kind of camera movement and camera projection afterwards. Instead of having a flat desert, a canyon with all its deep ravines gives you a perfect chance to create interesting camera movements with significant parallax involved (Fig.07).
I finalized the landscape and started to add fog layers, to separate the canyons better. Adding fog and atmosphere, and in general any element to increase air density, is one of the main ways to create really deep matte paintings and make shapes stronger and more readable. Many The elements of the foreground often tend to blend significantly with the shapes in the background. In these cases it's useful to use atmosphere to outline more of the main elements of the composition. Be careful not to over-exaggerate; placing too much fog when it's not really necessary can quickly make your work look fake (Fig.08).
At this point I focused on the left side of the frame, increasing the dust in the air to make the atmosphere in that area even thicker and more dramatic. This will fully make sense, when the camera moves about in the matte painting, framing the battle that is fought on the left area of the composition. At that point the dust storm will really become a perfect background for such a dramatic moment in the story (Fig.09).
I finalized the overall lighting of the scene, adding a nice vignetting on the edges and a flare on the sun. Playing with the curves, I increased the overall contrast. These final adjustments, even if very quick and easy to apply, are absolutely essential to make your scene look "cool". I usually try to keep the matte painting as photo real as possible during the whole process, not worrying too much about the beauty of the image, but just trying to keep everything real and consistent. Towards the end, however, the matte painting needs a "push". The image feels good, but with some more contrast it usually becomes much more appealing, stronger and deeper (Fig.10).
I finally added the giant pump towers. I created these in Maya, modeling simple geometries, which I quickly lighted and rendered out as grayscale in V-Ray. In Photoshop I then added some concrete texture for the walls and rusted metal for the tubes that I blended in Soft Light. I finalized everything, adding some photographic details of refineries and other similar structures in order to give a more industrial feeling to the towers (Fig.11).
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