Advice for a beginner.
One year ago, I enrolled with one of the biggest online schools/databases.
During this period, I've tried lots of different paths and have finally understood that Matte Painting and Digital Environment is the right path for me and I would like to enter the film sector.
At the moment, I have basic knowledge of modeling and texturing in Maya, Mudbox, Zbrush, Mari, Houdini, AE and Nuke; a better knowledge of Photoshop and Vue; and advanced knowledge of photography and photographic composition.
I've read and written a lot of posts in different forums but I still have some doubts:
*Maya is the film industry standard and the most useful for finding a high-level job. On the other hand Cinema 4D is easier to learn and has an in-built Camera Projection tool.
I've also read that it is becoming more and more popular in the film industry and some of the biggest names in Matte painting use it.
My question is: would it be better to stick with Maya on switch to/add cinema 4D to my portfolio?
If you tell me to stick with Maya, how can I overcome its lack of Camera Projection tool?
*My idea would be to learn Photoshop, Maya/C4D, ZBrush/MudBox, Vue and Nuke, is it right?
*Please could you tell me which essential techniques I will need to master in Photoshop, Maya/C4D, Mudbox/ZBrush, VUE and Nuke in order to get a job as a matte painter and digital environment?
*As I want to enter into films, some people have advised me to learn Mari. What do you think about this?
*In your opinion, would it be useful for me to understand perspective and learn free hand drawing?
Any additional information, pointer or advice that you can give me would be greatly appreciates.
Thank you so much.
In addition to your technical tools, make sure you take time to observe color and light in photographic prints, and outdoors. I personally think painting experience is a key ingredient in effective matte paintings, even ones that are totally digital and may not involve actual hand painting anymore. The composition design skills and lighting knowledge will go a long way to making shots easier on the eye, and allow you to cut corners.
Here's some good guidelines to consider when trying to enter the field of professional matte painting:
* Good knowledge of 3d and compositing. It doesn't really matter if Maya or Cinema 4D is your tool of choice as long as you understand the fundamental basics of 3d.
* Understanding of 2d and 2.5 projections. More and more environments are being completely made and textured in 3d. Set extensions and sky replacements are still done with matte painting projections. Both on static and moving shoots (if not too complicated).
* Learn nuke.
* Having at least basic knowledge in all steps of vfx production does not only make it easier for you to get a job, it will also help the entire pipeline.
* Knowing perspective painting and how lights work in real world environments is not only good but crucial. Creating believable matte paintings is ALL about convincing the eye. If you don't get this right then it doesn't matter how fancy your paintings are, they're going to stick out in a wrong unconvincing way. Not even a prancing unicorn will save that one.
* Don't get stuck on which programs to use. It doesn't matter if you're listing 20 program skills on your CV if your matte paintings still sucks. Most big VFX houses uses in-house tools to make the pipeline more effective.
* Vue is being used at some companies in the business but still requires a lot of render power that the average person doesn't hold at home. High resolution reference is still more believable when used right and in most cases also much more time saving.
* Mari is an excellent tool for high resolution texturing and is being successfully used in the industry. When it comes to matte painting I'm personally not that impressed by it (yet).
* My last advice to anyone who wants to break into the industry - KEEP IT SIMPLE AND GOOD. We all love making majestic mountain-views with glorious distant castles in the sunset but that is far from what you will be doing. A good understanding of lightning and perspective is much more sought after. I'm not saying mountains and extreme environments are bad, they make for good practise and nice portfolios. But when you're trying to break into the industry, you're better of showing them what they want to see.
Here's a few pointers that I personally would consider before starting looking for a job as a beginner in this field:
- Avoid moving objects in your matte paintings (humans, birds, explosions etc.) That's for comp to put in not you. (This doesn't apply to illustrations and concept art).
- Practise plate clean-up. Learning how to professionally remove unwanted objects in photos makes for good practise. It's a basic and often easy task but it WILL be required by you. The faster and better you can do it, more time can be spent on the actual painting.
- Set extensions. The basic idea of a traditional matte painting is to create/add an environment extension/set that in real life would either be fictional or to expensive to build. Having a few well executed set extension dmp's in you portfolio is always a good idea.
- Gather your own high resolution reference library. By taking your own photos not only do you learn about photography but also about perspectives and lightning.
Having your own references makes your paintings more unique and you will stick out. I've seen the same reference photos being used so many times that I can actually sometimes spot them in big budget films.
- Redoing "famous" matte paintings you've seen in films or posted online is all good practice but not so impressive to put in your reel. Believe me, you're not the only one who have seen that film or done that awesome tutorial.
- Don't oversaturate your paintings. It may look cool on Pandora but 99% of all films are played out here on earth.
- Clean alpha channels. It may not be noticed on your final flatten version, but as soon you're being requested to split everything up in layers for comp, those unclean alpha channels will come back and haunt you. As a beginner, learn how to use alphas on an early stage and you'll be saving yourself tons of problems (and time).
- Levels (black and white outputs). One of the biggest give-aways of a bad executed matte painting is the apparent lack of balanced levels. Most people see this as something obvious when mixing different photo references but in fact you see even professionals making these mistakes from time to time. Always make sure to balance your levels.
- And finally, it has been said a thousand times before: only show the best of your work in the portfolio.
I hope that helps
"- Clean alpha channels. It may not be noticed on your final flatten version, but as soon you're being requested to split everything up in layers for comp, those unclean alpha channels will come back and haunt you. As a beginner, learn how to use alphas on an early stage and you'll be saving yourself tons of problems (and time). "
Could you please explain this a bit more? Quick how to etc.
Thanks & Take care,
As you might know, matte painting elements (or any other elements added to a plate in comp) has one or more alpha channels to control transparency/outlines/edges and so on.
What people usually do to create this is either using a mask on the layer in Photoshop or by simply erasing everything around the object. The alpha around the object can then be saved either as an individual channel or integrated as transparency.
Very often these actions leaves small fragments of pixels that are not completely removed (usually because they're very transparent and therefore not visible).
So you send the dmp element to comp and when they start grading this happens
To avoid these kind of things, one should always have a clean alpha channel.
An easy way to check if your alpha is completely clean is to add an level adjustment layer on top of you matte painting and drag the left side handle towards the right. By doing this you're shortening the actual range of light, forcing even the lightest (transparent) pixels to reveal themselves.
As I said, this is something very basic but not always for beginners.
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