CGNetworks Feature :: Reader Project - Talaros City: Matte Painting of a Futuristic Metropolis
Frederic St-Arnaud, 17 December 2004
Frederic St-Arnaud demonstrates the process of realistically integrating 2D and 3D CG elements into a 2D photo-based matte painti
Concept and Sketches
The main idea must be clear in your mind at the beginning of a project. In this project my main idea was to create a matte painting depicting the aerial view of a futuristic city. I wanted something with a lot of details, so I decided to create a huge building under construction in the middle of the frame. This was my basic idea and other decisions such as the palette, the general atmosphere of the scene, the lighting and the rest would come later.To find a visual theme for the building, I used reference in books and did a lot of sketching on paper. I decided to do a cylindrical building to provide contrast between the forms of the other buildings and the new construction, and also to give an impression of a new sort of skyscraper, something more high-tech.
As usual, the modeling for this matte-painting was quite simple. I build simple objects such as cubes, rectangles and cylinders and place them on a grid which represents the ground and this helps me to find the horizon line. I create highways and bridges according to the original image to give an impression of a bigger city. All the 3D elements are polygonal objects made in Softimage XSI.
Most of the time, primitive shapes in grey-shaded mode are enough for matte paintings. Painting over the primitive shapes in Photoshop is a good way to save time rather than applying textures on each 3D object, especially if there is no camera movement in the scene. When I render my 3D elements and place them on my original picture and the most interesting part begins â€“ the painting!
First, I make a new layer called â€˜rough drawing' and start to paint over my 3D layer rough and quickly. The detail is not important so I don't focus on it in the beginning. I just want to create a general ambiance by roughly putting brush strokes where I want. I am trying to test what works and what doesn't.
The lighting in a matte painting is defined by the original plate. In this case, the sun was coming from the lower right corner of the image so every new building was lit by this light. I made all the lighting effects in Photoshop as I painted, including the drop shadows. The most important thing with lighting is to know where your light source is. When I determine where it is, I draw lines from it to my objects to figure out where the drop shadow will fall and what parts of the objects will be affected by light or shadow.
Compositing and Post-processing
This project was pretty much a Photoshop job because it doesn't need to move. The 3D elements are there mainly to help prevent perspective mistakes and to give a solid base of clean objects with sharp edges, which is difficult to create with a graphic pad.
When I have finished the painting I play with filters and effects to correct the color of image and integrate the painting with the original photograph. The tint and the lighting of your objects are the most important aspects of doing a good integration. I color corrected the image as a whole and also in specific places. Using a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer on a selection of the sky, I made it look like sunset. I made a selection of the dark tones, created a color balance layer, and added more black. Then, I created a color balance layer for the whole image and gave it a yellow tint.
It was a lot of fun to work on this project. I spent approximately 6 to 8 hours on this image because it was a personal project and there was no deadline. Talaros City was only a work to improve my skills in Photoshop as a Matte Painter. Now that it's finished I hope the image and sharing the process I followed to create it are useful for CGTalkers.
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