View Full Version : Castle of Valleyfield at dawn - matte-painting

07-16-2007, 03:31 PM
Hi everyone,

This matte-painting freelance artwork is actually a print project for now, but the client would like to eventually do a TV commercial. That's why the picture ratio of this image is not conventional to films and television.

The college of Valleyfield is a school based in Montreal, Canada area. They wanted to do a fantastic style matte-painting with the whole building.

We have been into a 2 weeks concept art process and then, realize the final image. The longest part was to erase all the trees in front of the main facade. The rest was not too bad. There is no 3D elements, only photoshop job.

I worked around 40 hours on this project, including all the concept arts and also a different version with no waterfalls but a canal with a different bridge for a poster.

Feel free to comments and ask question.


Frederic St-Arnaud
www.starno.net (http://www.starno.net)

Final matte-painting:

My photo shoot:

07-16-2007, 03:43 PM

amazing work! man

Integration of the photos are realy well done!

niagara falls reference?



07-16-2007, 03:53 PM
Looks good man, congrats

07-16-2007, 03:59 PM
You changed the scale of the building by replacing the smaller sizes of trees. It looks gigantic now. I like how you create the depth of field with the waterfalls. I wonder how many pictures did you use for the waterfall?
It looks awsome. 8)

Edwin Nikkels
07-17-2007, 03:43 AM

At first glance it looks impressive, but when taking a better look, there are some things that can be improved:

- I see many perspective issues. Have you used guides to place windows / towers and other elements?
- The right chapel-like building looks off (roof).
- Some reflections in the water aren't centered.
- Pillars of the bridge can use some contrast.
- Lights on top of the bridge cannot shed light on side of the bridge.
- Rocks in FG don't blend in well (need to be darker).
- Building is to big for surrounding elements (comparing one random window to bridge).

All in all, it feels to me much more like a photo manipulation, rather then a professional piece, imho.



ps. One more question. Why didn't you photograph parts and details of the building straight on and distorted them in post? That would have saved you hours of work.

07-17-2007, 05:08 AM
Good question Edwin,

All in all, it feels to me much more like a photo manipulation, rather then a professional piece, imho.

Why in the mattepainting.org nobody post a matte work, always post a photomanipulation,???? I never see here a live action matte with set extension, 3d location, painting set, and others!


07-17-2007, 09:12 AM

Here is answers to questions:

Madme and Wanmomo: I had 3 photos of Niagara Falls to do whole foreground. I used rubber stamp tool and different paint brushes to extend them and make them as one big waterfall.

Deke N. Wilkins: You're right about perspective issue and others problems. First, the castle was suppose to be really big in the frame but, when it switched to this "establishing point of view" I tried to get rid off lens distortion manually with many transforms manipulations.

But like you said yourself, the main purpose of this image is to looks impressive at first. Why? Well it's complexe but briefly, first impression is the most important thing for the viewer... details comes after. Because this project is for a client and not for myself, I had deadlines, client constraint and only 3 week-ends to do it.

your Question: Why didn't you photograph parts and details of the building straight on and distorted them in post? That would have saved you hours of work?

answer: ...Because this building is located at 2 hours of car which is quite far. I went there to do the photo-shoot only one time at the begining of the project to save time. It was even before the first concepts. The other reason is because the buildings on the other side of the road are so close to the school that I had problems to find good spots to shoot every parts and I had too much lens distortion because I was to close of the front facade.

your Question: It feels to me much more like a photo manipulation, rather then a professional piece, imho:

answer: ... well, I don't know what is your definition of a professional piece and I don't know your background and if you know exactely what is a matte-painting in 2007 but again briefly, because of many reasons but also time constraint, matte-painting has been redefined with CG technology and if you want to stay in the loop and be competitive, you have no choice to use photos and manipulated them. Painting everything from scratch was the old school. It's a very long process and if the client don't like your work, it becomes harder to quickly create a new piece.

Thanks for your comments.

Frederic St-Arnaud
www.starno.net (http://www.starno.net)

07-17-2007, 09:20 AM
Question from Maxfurtado... Why in the mattepainting.org nobody post a matte work, always post a photomanipulation,???? I never see here a live action matte with set extension, 3d location, painting set, and others:

Answer: Do I really have to answer this question? I think you'll have to look again on this website. You have also to consider copyrights and images property issues which is sometimes very hard to get, especially for the web.

Frederic St-Arnaud
www.starno.net (http://www.starno.net)

07-17-2007, 09:55 AM
Awesome. This piece really makes me want to try harder. :D

07-17-2007, 10:06 AM

Why in the mattepainting.org nobody post a matte work, always post a photomanipulation,???? I never see here a live action matte with set extension, 3d location, painting set, and others!

Obviously you dont understand what is a matte painting...

you should visit this forum.."MattePainting.org Showcase" there all photomanipulation as you call them...
Since computers are in the industry thats the way to do it!
before that, they were done on glass plates or giant canevas


07-17-2007, 10:30 AM
Hey guys, Starno is (was?) lead matte painter at Digital Dimension. I think he knows what matte paintings are and how to complete them.

Excellent work. Removing those tree branches must have been such a pain.

07-17-2007, 10:37 AM
exactly timmay!

07-17-2007, 11:40 AM
Thank you Pascal "Madme" and Timmay for your replies on this issue...

But I want to be clear that there's no war here. Any sorts of comments are welcome in this forum: Good and Bad. As long as they are constructive. Learning from you guys by this forum is the reason why I post here.

Comments from Deke N. Wilkins concerning perspective, lighting, reflections, etc are very good observations, even if I did'nt have time to fix them before the client delivery, these comments are good and constructive. thank you.

...and I don't pretend to know exactely what is matte-painting, but I do know, in my case, that I'm working with a lot of photos and manipulations.

Frederic St-Arnaud
www.starno.net (http://www.starno.net)

07-17-2007, 11:47 AM
i think its a very nice matte, the water looks very realistic
but is the water moving or its just for this image like this?

07-17-2007, 12:45 PM
That's cool Fred!

my last reply was just to ensure that i was not a part of the "hey guys" group of timmay's post..

but i guess it turn out like i was teasing maxfurtado

sorry about that Max!

07-17-2007, 01:32 PM
Can we see the alternate version, if you are permitted to post it that is? Just curious to see what it looks like.

07-17-2007, 02:03 PM

Not bad, there are many issues with this matte painting, some already
mentioned regarding perspective. In my opinion making the
trees so tiny has emphasized the problems further.

Re: composition, it almost looks as though the castle is sitting on a small
piece of land that is floating down river and about to go
over the falls.

Also, I find the where the roof meets the sky to be overly prominent
in this image as well.

Re: time constraints, I don't think that's a valid reason for having
some of the issues that this image has.

I do like the colors and the overall mood. And I think
the mountains and sky look good.

07-17-2007, 04:26 PM
Im so sorry guys, sorry Pascal, but for me still it continues being photo manipulation , either in photoshop or painting in glass, if it will not have a live action do not see as to be defined as mattepainting.

I until understand that is complicated to obtain copyrights to show here in mattepainting.org. But to call photomanipulation, compositions, paintings of the mattepaintig. Sorry Pascal!

07-17-2007, 05:16 PM
hey Max...

you dont have to be sorry about that... and sorry about what?

of course it is photo manipulation but still is a matte painting like many other paintings on this forum ... go check the best matte painters like dylan cole.. and others they use photo to do there work...

no problem from me man


07-18-2007, 07:44 AM
Well, painting has come a long way since those early days of painting on glass. It's the standard to use digital technology these days, so I think you should accept that this is indeed mattepainting. It's digital mattepainting.

07-18-2007, 08:53 AM
I agree, in production these days, shots need to be got out quickly and be of high standard. Most of the work that i do and our matte painting dept is done using photos. Its the end result that counts not how you get there.

If the final result looks like a matte painting, i'd say its a matte painting, regardless of the techniques used (paint/photo/3D) : )

07-18-2007, 09:36 AM
Dear friend Pascal, this is a matte painting : A landscape painting or digital painting with a live action, the result : http://www.hatchfx.com/matte-paintings.php?dir=05_narnia&year=2005&image=Narnia_2caract.jpg

well, I don't know what is your definition of a professional piece and I don't know your background and if you know exactely what is a matte-painting in 2007 but again briefly, because of many reasons but also time constraint, matte-painting has been redefined with CG technology

Im sorry, Mr. Frederic, but I dont agree with your afirmation.


07-18-2007, 09:46 AM
ya ok?

that's a matte painting whit green screen and a winter photo for the background... so what's your point?

no hand painting in this scene ... or maybe for some little areas


07-18-2007, 10:02 AM
exactly. This piece would have been done using photo reference. Or you could even use 3D such as vue d'espirit to generate raw elements. At the end the skill is still to mix it down to the final landscape so that it looks real.

You could paint it by hand, but with so much reference around these days, its quicker and more accurate to manipulate using photos.

07-18-2007, 10:50 AM
Not every matte painting in the current century demands the necessity to be painted by hand so to speak. There's a simple lack of understanding here in terms of 'the deadline' and 'the client'.

When asked to produce work professionally you will soon realise that those long, self indulgent , deadline and cost free, days of college are over and it's time to make some money and get the job done.

It's all about getting the job done! There are no rules at all.

I really think people should stop quibbling over this 'definition' issue. Either take it to the definition of mattepainting thread, or simply critique the work. Otherwise it's utter nonsense.

07-18-2007, 11:21 AM
Well put Eisner! couldnt said it better myself.. on productions its a matter of hours and days and its all on a fast paced schedule. its almost kinda sad when you think back at your school and spare time where you could put all the tiny details into it

Edwin Nikkels
07-18-2007, 06:32 PM
To Fred, Madme, Eisner and others,

To be honest, my darker side took over in my initial response on this thread and here is why.

Over at artist showcase I posted a thread about The Hunt 2007 ( http://mattepainting.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3275 ): I got a massive amount of production budget (approx. $1 million) , had to work with original Disney property, directed shoots in Panama and Amsterdam, had to create / animate / composite 22 worlds (and puzzles) under extreme deadlines.

Now the project is over and I started posting the work here with great pride, hoping to get some recognition from folk here at MP.org, thinking if there is one project fit for professional showcase, this is it.

Now, after two / three weeks, it is still in AS. Does that bother me? Yes and no. As for the 'yes': when asking what was wrong with it, the reply was (after some deliberation): cool stuff but not of 'VFX house quallity'.

So Fred, maybe you start to understand some of the frustrations that took over while typing my crits on your piece. Looks cool, but 'VFX house quality'!? Looking at this piece, I say no. And here it is in Mattepainting.org / Professional Showcase...

As for the 'no, it doesn't bother me'. I am very very proud of my project and not getting the recognition here, says more about the senior members ability to read, rather then my skills as a professional digital artist.

Let the flaming begin! Lol!


07-18-2007, 08:30 PM

Thanks for posting that. Sorry I didn't post a message about your "Hunt" images. It was VFX House quality. And it certainly fit perfectly in the aspect ratio and composition requirements of an interactive experience. You are a consumate professional and it shows in your design and matte painting work.

Alot of times I look at professional work like yours, and feel awed. I sometimes don't post because I have nothing to say besides: "Man I love this. This is awesome. I wish I could do this." Othertimes I don't post anything because most people have no idea who I am and could care less if I like they're work or not. I try to post critiques, helpful criticism, and praise on every piece of work I can. But as a professional myself (web designer for a fortune 500), I don't always have time to get around to every post on the forum. I do, however, check Mattepainting.org every day and I see what your responses and posts have been and I have a huge amount of respect for you.

I understand your frustration, (I was the sole creator of a flash presentation that won a million dollar account, and got a $20 dollar gift card for it.) Don't feel like your work requires any sort of recognition from this community or others. There are alot of amazing artists in this community but the true test of your work is the audience and your client.

You've worked on some amazing projects and I'm honestly a little jealous of your work and skills. I strive to work alongside you someday as a peer and I hope that you continue to get to work on amazing projects.

07-19-2007, 01:39 AM

Your comments are always valid dark or not! I respect your opinions and critiques quite a lot, because you are one of the few people on this site that actually refrains from the usual gushing responses and instead actually posts constructive critique whether it be positive or negative.

I can sympathise with your frustration. A little bit of recognition can go a long way. As an example I have tried posting 'Professional' broadcast work in this very same forum many times, yet it's always refused or pushed down into another forum, so I have little chance of being taken seriously. Personally I think that's a bit shit.

I thought the Hunt stuff looked great once it was in motion on the site. The mattes didn't have quite the effect as some more dramatic work on here, but together with the animation it looked fantastic, particularly for a website. Sometimes people don't realise this is often the case.



07-19-2007, 11:10 AM
Defenitely makes great first impression!

Water looks really cool and Im also courious how would it look like in amimation

07-24-2007, 10:03 AM
hey Fred,

Nice work. Sure there are some issues but over all I think there is some good stuff in here. One comment... I think it would have been cool to have some ivy growing on the building to give it more of a historical feel and give it more character. I really like the foreground falls. Nice composition!


El Rafo
07-27-2007, 11:26 AM
Hey dude!

nice one, the only thing that I would have changed is the perfect line of the rooftops, I think is is looking too sharp and "new" maybe make it more irregular to get a more realistic feeling (and artificially make this building older ;))

09-10-2007, 07:48 AM
Matte painting or photo manipulation. What a useless question.
It's clear somebody didn't understand what is a matte painting.

Don't listen them, Frederic.
You've done a very good piece in both artistic and technical aspects.


09-10-2007, 08:28 AM
Impressive work, i really like the overall image ...

I also share your point of view about what is matte painting nowadays ...
Many persons are hung on the word painting...

Good job


09-11-2007, 07:54 PM
I know this thread has been around a little while, but I'll just throw my 2 cents
in here.....better late than never. :)

I can say that a matte painting wouldn't contain all this painted water, but so
what? If you're going to paint waterfalls, paint them like Frederic did! It's really
really nicely done.
I like this piece quite a lot overall. I have just 2 minor quibbles with it.
1) The haze on the BG mountains is obviously PS airbrush work. I can
always spot it a mile away, and I don't care for it, but that's just my personal
quirk. If I were doing this piece, I would have probably used color correction
rather than overspray in this instance. Your colors and values are really nice,
I just can see the toolwork in it. You always want to be that little kid in "The
Shining". When his dad was chasing him in the snow, he got away by
hiding and erasing his tracks in the snow. Matte painting is the same. You want
to get out without anyone knowing you were ever there.

2) The buildings roof. When I first looked at your piece, I thought it was
CG that had been taken out of the oven too soon. It needs some detail and
aging and personality. Certainly the facade has it in spades.
And when I look at your source photos, I can see it's there. Little areas of
black drippy stuff and variations in the color and density of the tiles. The
roof in your final is kind of unnaturally clean and flat. You might even
search around Paris, which has some of the loveliest "aged" roofs in
the world. Bring some of that gorgeous detail onto your roof, and this
would be a slam-dunk portfolio piece.

Important to remember that all critiques are subjective. The only eye you
HAVE to please is the client.

09-11-2007, 08:10 PM
Hi rrische

I find your comments very clever and quite constructive...
it would be very good for this forum if more professionnal artsits like you
could post more often...


09-25-2007, 11:39 PM
Looks good man, congrats