Friday, June 29, 2018

Arty Farty Friday ~ Matte Painting - What is It?

While looking for something arty fartily interesting for this post I kept stumbling over the term 'matte painting'. Matte, to my simple mind relates to something that is non-glossy - a matte-finish photograph or paint surface for instance - or refers to a decorative border placed around a framed piece of art, photograph or print, to enhance it in some way.

So what is 'matte painting'? It's a term for a method used in film-making, when there's a need to create scenic background that would be too expensive, or impossible, to create conventionally. Matte painting has been used since the early 20th century, originally by talented artists painting on glass, but now, in the age of computers, digital art has come to replace the actual highly skilled matte painters of the past.

The History of Matte Painting - Basix is an interesting 22 minute video dealing with the older, traditional matte painting method, with examples from famous movies.

If you are challenged by internet A[ttention]D[efiicit]D[isorder], or can't afford 22 minutes, here's a less than 5 minute video on the same topic:

Wikipedia has this to say about the coming of digital matte painting

New Technologies
Throughout the 1990s, traditional matte paintings were still in use, but more often in conjunction with digital compositing. Die Hard 2 (1990) was the first film to use digitally composited live-action footage with a traditional glass matte painting that had been photographed and scanned into a computer. It was for the last scene, which took place on an airport runway. By the end of the decade, the time of hand-painted matte paintings was drawing to a close, although as late as 1997 some traditional paintings were still being made, notably Chris Evans’ painting of the RMS Carpathia rescue ship in James Cameron’s Titanic.

Paint has now been superseded by digital images created using photo references, 3-D models, and drawing tablets. Matte painters combine their digitally matte painted textures within computer-generated 3-D environments, allowing for 3-D camera movement. Lighting algorithms used to simulate lighting sources expanded in scope in 1995, when radiosity rendering was applied to film for the first time in Martin Scorsese’s Casino. Matte World Digital collaborated with LightScape to simulate the indirect bounce-light effect of millions of neon lights of the 70s-era Las Vegas strip. Lower computer processing times continue to alter and expand matte painting technologies and techniques.


Wisewebwoman said...

I've been fascinated by digital crowd scenes and love to spot them in movies on matte backgrounds. Can't think of any specifically offhand but many involved old London or old fight scenes.

Interesting post.


Twilight said...

Wisewebwoman ~ I was vaguely aware that backgrounds were somehow constructed in certain cases in older movies. I'm in awe at the skills of those matte painters!