View Full Version : Photo real or impressionistic?

10-30-2004, 10:27 AM
I've noticed a lot of traditional (pre digital) matte paintings up close look very painterly and almost impressionistic. When seen on films they blend well with the live action.

I've read "The Invisible Art" and old masters used the "Big Brush method" broad strokes and very loose. I loved the fact that the illusion works.

Today's digital matte painting can be "ultra" photorealistc. Either taken from photos, painted, 3d geometrty..etc. Pixel perfection. can be too steril at times.

I would like to know people's opinion on this.
I know digital is the way to go now but i'm thinking about workflow.

Will the loose method (painted digitaly or scanned from actual paintings) still work on today's film and audience, or is it best to start from 3d models and photographs since they are more "photoreal" to begin with.

10-31-2004, 12:19 PM
I love the looseness of older traditional matte paintings. But as film
stocks got better and better, the artists painting style needed to
tighten up. For instance, look at the matte painting from "Hudsucker
Proxy" on Mark Sullivan's website. TIGHT. And it looks terrific.
I believe that when a matte painting looks "dead" (traditional or digital),
it's because the artist didn't handle the lighting correctly. And it's
always dangerous to overwork something, burying the shot in loads of
extraneous detail, and the result looks like "mush". The viewer can't
get a handle on where they're supposed to look.

Matte paintings can still look amazingly alive, even when executed on
the computer. I think the most important quality a matte artist has to
pay attention to is LIGHT. Know how to reproduce the realistic effects
of light, know how to use it in your composition so the lighting focuses
the audiences attention in the area of the frame where the "action" is,
story-wise. And then work up the detail to a level that's realistic, but
not distracting. Don't over-render it. But don't under-render it either.

11-01-2004, 02:24 AM
thanks for the great tip!!!

I havent thought about using light and level of detail as a tool to draw viewer's focus.

11-01-2004, 02:26 PM
I think the most important quality a matte artist has to
pay attention to is LIGHT.

i think ur right, but the fact is that most of them have forgotten (i mean without 3D cam map) how to make a good perspective....
if it does not appear as fast as a bad lighting, bad pers.. make the image so weird, so strange to read.

PS : the fact is that's not the good topic to talk about perss....(':roll:')
but even photorealistic or impressionistic need it... isn't it?

mioleŘs :roll:

11-13-2004, 03:38 AM
I agree with rrische on the topic. I think that matte painting is still changing, especially when it comes to new digital cameras and digital projectors in our theaters. Films like Star Wars Episode3 is shot completely digital and will be digitally projected in some theaters like Episode 2 was, but with even better cameras and projectors.

Moving film grain used to be an asset to the matte artist, now, the absence of grain in digital projections exposes all types of painting and CG flaws. Even though todays digital cameras and projectors display digital noise (simliar to, but often smaller than average motion picture stock grain), it's revealing details that we used to be able to get away with in film, especially a cinemascope film.

As the future approaches, I believe that technology will further reduce the noise in digital images and soon we'll have to work without film grain and without image noise. Perhaps that'll make it necasary to paint even cleaner and tighter and more realistic?

11-13-2004, 01:12 PM
Chris , does this mean that colorspace is less of an issue with a digital plate as there is no scanning involved. WSIWYG?

11-13-2004, 07:42 PM
I'm not sure exactly what you mean by "color space" in the context of my last statement, but I'll make an assumption, let me know if I assume incorrectly.

I worked with Ben Burtt on a destination film that he Directed called Manassas (you can see the shots on my www site). This was a completly digital movie like Star Wars Episode III. Now, when they shot plates for Manassas, they used a digital 24p camera and when we got the plates, the color didn't need to be tweaked on our calibrated computer monitors because they looked "the same" on our monitor as they did being digitally projected in a theater (I believe we projected on a digital Texas Intsuments projector at the time). When I say "the same" I mean very close, I believe getting a PERFECT match is nearly impossible. And when I say "didn't need to be tweaked", I mean unless the plate had flaws, was shot poorly or we wanted to take artistic lisence to make it look better of course.

Anyway, for Star Wars Episode III, those plates from the productions digital cameras on our calibrated computer monitors (which are different from the monitors I used on Manassas) require us to use a LUT (look up table). It's a much less intense and variable LUT than for standard cineon scanned film plates, but nonetheless, it's not exactly like my Manassas experience.

Lastly, since real film has a developing process that is prone to errors in the length of time in the "baths", how strong the "soup" is and human error in general, you may end up with less precise film even before it hits the scanners. Now if the scanners lack a recent calibration, or other unforseen problems, you end up with a less than accurate scan to deal with.

I'm not saying that digital plates are problem free, but they have been more accurate in my experience. All in all it depends on the show that your working on when it comes to this issue of a digital plates color space.

Sorry if we're getting too far off topic for this thread: Photoreal or Impressionistic.

11-14-2004, 07:43 AM
thanks chris, i should post a new topic on this .

color space seems to be the bane of my life at work

11-14-2004, 10:16 AM
Definitely agree with previous posters regarding projectors and such. But, in the past the painting 'just' needed to hold up in the theatre for that brief moment that you see it on the big screen. Then these paintings were actually shot with a camera as well, so you get a little bit from that in terms of sharpness and distortions...

Today with all the home theatres, HDTV, DVDs and whatnot, we are in a freeze-frame era. So, the scrutiny that many shots will be examined by is a lot higher than before and therefore the required rendering level is a lot higher.

Regarding noise. Something that I always found interesting, and wondering if you guys have experienced it, is that the level of noise on 24p plates I've worked on seem to range from none to extreme (for generally the same type of lighting). Is this something you've seen or have the level of noise been pretty much the same?

11-15-2004, 09:54 PM
I agree that with modern theaters, dvds, and hdtv, paintings have to be able to hold up to freeze- frame scrutiny. However it is unfortunate that often blatantly obvious CG can pass onto the screen, aparent to even untrained eyes, without much of a stink made. Whearas a matte painting is asked to leave no evidence of its being painted. tight to the pixel. As if the loose brushstrokes creating the indication of detail off to the periphery of the shot are half as distracting to the viewer as the completely revealing cg water, vehicle or character.

For the most part people dont wonder how shots are done anymore. they see anything that is unfilmable, no matter how flawlessly done, and assume a computer did it. Particularly anything that is clean and precise raises "CG" flags. I would think that the roughness of a matte would be an asset in response to that cleaness. who cares if the CG student freeze frames the dvd and sees brush some loose brush stokes. as long as it passes in the context of the movie what is the big deal.

I know that this is the current standard in film production but it just seems contrary to the benifits matte painting in general.

11-15-2004, 10:23 PM
jThorngren, what's up buddy?

the level of noise on 24p plates I've worked on seem to range from none to extreme (for generally the same type of lighting). Is this something you've seen or have the level of noise been pretty much the same?

The only time I experienced this noise difference problem is when the lighting was drastically different. ie: a night exposure compare to a day exposure has more digital noise (kinda like film). Otherwise it has been consistant in my experience.