Matte Painting Part 4: future of matte painting

This week in the final part of our series on Matte Painting we talk to Alp Altiner. Alp is a traditional matte painter who now bridges the world between 2D matte painting and 3D digital environments. Increasingly matte paintings are used using simple 3D to produce digital environments – allows for camera movement and increased realism. Alp is currently working a series of high profile feature films in Santa Monica and working on his own graphic novel “The

This week we explore the future of Matte painting. Traditional matte painters painted on glass, and photographed their work. Today Matte Painters such as Alp Altiner who now consider themselves 3D artists. Listen to Alp’s podcast and below enjoy the stages as Alp walks through a typical 3D matte painting.

“In my opinion, we will see more and more of 3D packages create fairly realistic renderings of Digital environments, especially such as vegetation, that will be used in film. Matte painters that have both the 2D traditional skill (concept art, matte paintings) and the technical 3D skill, will combine both knowledge to create environments that we can fly trough.” He explains.

A personal test using Terragen's 3D environment swby Altiner

Alp is currently working in Hollywood on a soon to be released, major hollywood blockbuster: Xmen 3, in which he is again combining 3D with digital painting to produce final shots. “The main reason CG is being used anyways, is to allow the camera to freely move in these environments. So with more 3D programs like Vue, and Terragen giving us freedom to create convincing digital sets, is going to create a new job title, such as a 3D matte painter. At my daily work, I use more and more 3D, to create sets for film.”

NB: Vue was recently adopted by ILM for its film pipeline and will hopefully be a future story here on fxguide. Check out the ILM press release at click here

Alp explains “I am not saying that 2D matte paintings will not exist, but matte painters with solid 3D technical knowledge, experience , and skill will benefit from the future creations of matte paintings.”

Below The Gateshot and how Altiner works from sketch to final image.

The sketch

This shot was initally drawn by pencil. Sometimes Altiner will do an image entirely on the computer via the wacom tablet, other times he enjoys using traditional techniques for layouts.

Working up colour and thinking about shot angles

After scanning the pencil sketches, Altiner started laying some colors on top. He did this by setting the drawing layer to multiply, then painting on a new layer, this effectively paints below the scretch – while maintaining the pencil detail. “I did use a default brush (Chalk 36 pixels) in PS and wanted to get a quick idea for my lighting. The reason for the sketch was to get a layout, and know what my composition was going to look like. I eventually did change a lot of things, and added other things I decided to have in there, but ofcourse getting some layouts in my sketchbook helped me visualize it” he explains.

The hero shot is selected

Once one image is selected Altiner works it up, in terms of composition and he decided what sort of camera movement, if any might be used in the shot. By finishing the image in 3D wibyth hand painting textures directly or via the use of camera projection – Altiner can add a much more realistic camera movement.

The start of the 3D

Next he started looking for rock references, and started placing seperate elements into the layout. The using the photoshop curves color corrected them. “Eventually for the rest of this shot, I continued using various photos to replace my concept painting with photo elements, then using curves, and levels, I continued to make adjustments to get them all into the same color space.” he explains

Alp used Maya for this shot

My goal was to get all my layers organized, such as foreground, midground, and background. For some of the lights I integrated into the background, I started painting them on individuals layers on a seperate file, and then drop them into my main file, and scale them to achive more detail as the got scaled.

The layering in 3 space will produce depth with camera movement

In this image from Maya – the matte paintings are camera projected on to simple geometry. Camera projection is a common tool and technique bridging 2d matte paintings into a 3D world.

Layering adds depth

“The general idea, and the most important thing about matte paintings, is blending all your layers in such a way, so the viewer would be looking at a seamless integration of varios layers. It takes a really well trained eye, solid experince in prodcution as well as traditional and digital painting and integration skills. ” Atiner explains.


“I also eventually further worked on this shot, and wanted add a 3D move to the matte painting, and render out some passes to be composited. I started with a low form, then used ZBrush to add some more detail to the geometry.”

The refinement

Next a camera is setup in Maya and matched the scene to the painting, and projections are adjusted.

The final image

The final image, with the flexibiltiy of 3D but with the artist skill of the 2D matte painter.

Parts of this story are reprinted with Permission of Alp Altiner.

See Alp’s personal web site

The Laborganika forums can be found at Laborganika Forums

and visit Laborganika for information on the resin models mentioned in the podcast.

All rights reserved. Please do not use/display any of these images on any other websites, or showcase it on related/printed media without the permission of the artist.