HOME Gallery Store FAQ Members Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read
Go Back   MattePainting.Org > Resources > General Discussions
Reload this Page the future for mattepainting
General Discussions News, Chat ...

Thread Tools
gfilmman is Offline
Posts: 59
Join Date: Mar 2010
Default 01-26-2012, 06:16 AM

Before I even got involved in matte painting professionally I asked for advice from a senior matte artist at R+H. He said matte artists who specialize in Photoshop collage/painting only are more valuable and make more money and the guys who generalize and do a bit of everything else too make less because other people are able to fill in and do those things because they're less specialized. Now without name dropping, that person is far more experienced in the industry than Nick and Alex's years in the industry put together. So, there's lots of conflicting advice out there.

Whiskytree says 3d is a big deal now and Photoshop collage/painting is dying out, it is for them anyway. I know Matte World Digital is mostly 3d. I'm sure they use a lot of 3d at ILM.

I'm not discounting the merits of any part of the trade or saying one who likes to diversify shouldn't. But there are different viewpoints here and I know there's a feeling of: "Yes there's a need for this stuff," and of course there is, but we're allowed to express ourselves and speak up if we don't like the process. No one is debating whether or not movies need environments created fast. HOW you make them is what I'm talking about. And Rich, not all traditional matte artists pasted photos to the glass or used miniatures. There have been specialists in the field of matte painting. If you can make miniature too, sure that's fine, but why take the best painter on a production and get him/her making miniatures that aren't that great when compared to a miniature model maker specialist, when they are being paid for their high end painting skills.

Just because you're willing to learn a long list of software doesn't mean you're more valuable. I think your value has a lot to do with your situation and personality, and how much your lead trusts you in general, and how well you get along with the team. That's another story though. I've seen people with medium skill level gain a lot of trust and 'value' in the office, also by sucking up to superiors. It's really not that fair and it's another story, but that's life.

I still think pure matte painting is dead. It's all how you look at it. Photo collage in Photoshop isn't even real matte painting, it's digital art being composited in the held areas of a vfx shot. There's no sense completeness to it in my opinion.

I know 3d well by now and even write code in Python to control Maya. I worked in code before I got involved/had an interest in visual effects matte painting. I could write tools to automate and speed up some 3d work. Does that make me more valuable than someone who spends all day in Photoshop? Would love to hear your thoughts on this. Maybe I've got the wrong attitude about this all and should focus on 3d and Photoshop, and suck up these things.
Reply With Quote
Suirebit's Avatar
Suirebit is Offline
Senior Member
Posts: 469
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: London, Vancouver
Default 01-26-2012, 07:44 AM

I think there's a slight confusion here - doing projections doesn't mean you do 3D;

You are still a matte painter and are still doing matte painting work, you just have to patch up and paint areas that 6-7 years ago you wouldn't have to, because they get revealed by the camera move.

And sure, if the geometry needs to be matched and it's complex, any lead with sense would have a 3d guy do it rather than make you model it (and waste time with something you're not specialized in).

"Digital Art is like magic...and we are all it's Wizards"

-Tiberius Viris-


Last edited by Suirebit; 01-26-2012 at 07:47 AM..
Reply With Quote
Alex Jenyon's Avatar
Alex Jenyon is Offline
Posts: 384
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Vancouver
Default 01-26-2012, 09:51 AM

I could write tools to automate and speed up some 3d work. Does that make me more valuable than someone who spends all day in Photoshop?
In many cases yes, it does - the skill is rarer, and benefits more people for a longer period of time. Good artists who can code well are almost non-existent in my experience (people tend to be good at one, and only passable at the other). Admittedly, I don't have decades of experience, but all I can do it call it like I see it.


I will agree with you that it is a shame that 100% painted mattes (i.e. with real paint and no photo elements) is a dead artform. If that is 'pure matte painting', then yes, it's gone. It is also a shame that the skill of blacksmith isn't really that much in demand (I always thought that would be a cool job, and no, I'm not being sarcastic). Times change, and we can either get depressed about it, or change with them.

It sounds like the job you actually want was well in decline over 20 years ago, and basically dead for the past 15. I personally enjoy what it turned into, but certainly you don't have to agree.


If you are an awesome, fast, versatile digital artist, you are valuable. If you are an awesome fast, versatile digital artist who knows nuke and maya, you are more valuable. If you also know mari/z-brush/vue/terragen/geocontrol, and can code scripts, plugins and pipeline tools, and are STILL an awesome artist, you are going to be at the top of your game. Just knowing how to 'push the buttons' isn't enough, unless you have the art skills to back it up. If you've already got those art skills, why wouldn't you learn more tools?

Head of 3D Digital Matte Painting: MPC Vancouver
Personal Website
Reply With Quote
gfilmman is Offline
Posts: 59
Join Date: Mar 2010
Default 01-26-2012, 11:04 AM

I certainly wouldn't say I'm a prodigy type coder, but I can do well with it. I would consider myself stronger in art and have a preference for that side of things. So, I guess I'm fortunate that way to be good at both but I haven't been able to find the opportunities that require both. Maybe digital matte painting wouldn't be so bad after all now that I know 3d.
Reply With Quote
de gerardo is Offline
Senior Member
Posts: 315
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: Sydney, Australia
Default 01-26-2012, 07:36 PM

In my experience, matte paintng is more a generalist now-days!
Only Photoshop work is disappearing nicely off. Last year I had quite lot of projects going on and I've been always asked to do at least base 3d modeling(or I've been given 3d render with all the passes) and do match-dmp to that.
Last year also came up in productio Nuke precomp projection.
Regards painting-well, used 80% only for concepts or quick lookframes.
DMP -always 90% photoreferences, simply because of PHOTO-REAL dmp. Even the frames of windows on base model, needs to be cut off form photoreference and paste on place in 3d.
At least all that great Sup's always asked for it and it make sense if is photoreal show you work on.
+ its a good advantage to know Nuke and Maya at least basics if you want to work on hight profile projects in the high level companies.

Digital Artist, Matte-Painter, Concept Art...
Reply With Quote
nickmarshallvfx's Avatar
nickmarshallvfx is Offline
Posts: 1,443
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: London, UK
Default 01-27-2012, 01:21 AM

Originally Posted by gfilmman View Post
Before I even got involved in matte painting professionally I asked for advice from a senior matte artist at R+H. He said matte artists who specialize in Photoshop collage/painting only are more valuable and make more money and the guys who generalize and do a bit of everything else too make less because other people are able to fill in and do those things because they're less specialized.
If you are an amazing photoshop painter then i can understand why it would be of more value to a production to have you making use of those skills rather than trying to get you to learn the 3D work that a TD could do much faster. But i've never heard of someone earning less for knowing more. I think the matte painter who knows how to do projections, use mari, maybe a little 3D modeling and texturing, and can create their own assets in something like Vue, will find it easier to get work than someone who does 100% photoshop work.

I was working on a shot a couple of weeks ago and my lead suggested that we paint the textures onto our 3d render by projecting them, but keep the lighting as a series of multiplied shadow passes and additive light passes in the photoshop painting. I thought I could paint more realistically if i had the freedom to add photographic elements with the right lighting in them, but it was insisted that we keep the textures and lighting seperate. What do you know, no sooner had i finished the painting, we got word that the client wanted to totally change the lighting in the shot. At that point if I had painted the light baked into the painting, it would have been a complete repaint. But, because we had all the lighting being applied as a final stage in the photoshop document, we just deleted those light passes, the TD rendered new lighting passes that matched the clients new expectations, and we just added these back in to the painting. For me, about 5 minutes work to swap those out.
Its partly this culture of constant changes that makes matte painting a tough technique to rely on, and also because directors love to show off their invented environments with ever more revealing camera moves. I think if you dont go with the flow and accept 3D as a matte painting tool - up to a point - you will eventually get left behind...
My last matte paint lead was able to do everything from 100% painted concept work to sculpting in zbrush and even animating trees in Houdini to populate his shots. That seems to be what is required these days, for better or worse...



Digital Matte Painter // Forum Moderator

Last edited by nickmarshallvfx; 01-27-2012 at 05:25 AM..
Reply With Quote
rockhoppermedia's Avatar
rockhoppermedia is Offline
Senior Member
Posts: 527
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: UK
Default 01-27-2012, 01:50 AM

the best thing that software companies have done is to enable the PLE concept. Without this concept in place accessibility would be non existent. The hardest thing in matte painting is to know what program to use and mixing them up.

Pipeline and workflow seems to be where the main effort goes, I have a dolly shot that needs intergrating into a 2d shot environment. So after effects has been used, sketch up, cinema 4d, zbrush, and finally Nuke to composite the elements together, Photoshop funnily enough has not been used right till the end. Matte painting skill is important within photoshop so to make it realistic.

So to do the shot I am forced (willingly) into learning these programs just to do the one dolly shot. This is why I love what I do, mixing between different art forms to create the final effect. The next dolly shot that comes up I will be prepared and work faster. To be honest photoshop skills though important are neccessary. But that is what separates you from the photo manipulators and monkeys on deviant art claiming to be matte painters!

Cheers Rich

HTML Code:
Reply With Quote
Garrett is Offline
Posts: 32
Join Date: Jan 2008
Default 02-02-2012, 05:28 PM

Hey All,
I am a little late to the discussion but I wanted to “ding, ding” weight in.

So different companies use matte painters in all different ways, right? I would say that it is the most varied job in the film industry.

I created this chart for an artical I wrote but is shows the difference in work flow between a “Full 3D Matte Painting Environment Work Flow” and “Photoshop Only Work Flow” aka just providing a matte painting element. Here it is.

The question I think people need to ask themselves when thinking of the future of matte painting is how much do you want to influence the final look of the film--a lot or a little?

More contribution, means more influence, larger matte painting teams, more enjoyable work, and more matte painters employed around the world.

Less contribution means, less influence, smaller matte painting teams, lame work, and less matte painters employed around the world.

The two things that I can see right now that hold matte painting back:
1. Not enough matte painters in the world
2. Not enough well trained matte painters in 3D and Comp in the world

So there are a lot of new and up and coming matte painters who read this forum right? So this is my appeal to you. Prepare now to be capable in both art and 3D/Comp--be well prepared and know the latest tools. You are the next generation of Matte Painters so work hard to make a better future for us all. The reality is that we cannot survive without new talented artists comming in and supporting the trade.

More about matte painting work flows I put together:

Matte Painting Work Flow Only in Photoshop Explained
Full Environment 3D Matte Painting Work Flow in Nuke Explained
Full Environment 3D Matte Painting Work Flow in Maya Explained
Matte Painting Work Flow in Nuke and Photoshop Explained

What a Matte Painter Needs To Know?

Thanks all for the discussion. This stuff is really important.
Garrett Fry

Last edited by Garrett; 02-02-2012 at 11:22 PM..
Reply With Quote
gfilmman is Offline
Posts: 59
Join Date: Mar 2010
Default 02-02-2012, 06:36 PM


I know the point you're trying to make, but that's a really basic breakdown that I don't feel holds true.

To each their own.
Reply With Quote
metalrahul's Avatar
metalrahul is Offline
Senior Member
Posts: 391
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Toronto, Canada
Send a message via Yahoo to metalrahul Send a message via Skype™ to metalrahul
Default 02-03-2012, 04:11 AM

Hi Garret, great post as always. I would also like to mention it is how much important for Matte painters to have a sound knowledge about Color pipeline such as LUTs, Log, Lin and new OpenColorIO etc.

PS: Sorry, just now I saw you have mentioned it in one of the other articles in your website :)

Comper / Matte Painter

my freaking blog

Last edited by metalrahul; 02-03-2012 at 04:13 AM..
Reply With Quote


Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are Off
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.7.4
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
vBulletin Skin developed by: