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tesmeralda
03-02-2005, 12:58 AM
Hello mattepainting.org! I'm Thomas Esmeralda, and guess what? Yes, you guessed it: I'm a matte painter . . . As if this site needs yet another matte painter, right? But seriously: I've been painting professionally for nearly 10 years now, and my film credits include The Polar Expresss, Chronicles of Riddick, Shrek, Dungeons & Dragons - The Movie, ANTZ, and The Prince of Egpyt.

Here's my new website:

http://www.digitalscenics.com/

It's my first time to build a website, and I hope it's well received.

tobiasth
03-02-2005, 08:33 AM
what can i say .... its so great!!! :shock:

looking forward for your demoreel :D

satch
03-02-2005, 08:42 AM
Nice site. You have some great work on there. I noticed one broken link, the dropdown portfolio>feature film> dungeons and dragons link takes you to the shrek link.

Otherwise nicely done.

Satch

smooth
03-02-2005, 08:53 AM
Wow. Very nice.
Curious...among the ten years you've been painting professionally...how long have you been using Photoshop for your mattes?
Can you post some high-res photos of your work.

Some links aren't working on your site though.
Thanks for posting.
+smooth+

homer
03-02-2005, 10:11 AM
Nice web site and great portfolio.

I had a question, since you have been working on animation as well as live action,
Which one did you find more rewarding?
Or what were the differences? (Freedom, speed, limitation…)

Jensen
03-02-2005, 10:51 AM
I was wondering who painted those mattes in Shrek, and thanks to this forum I can almost personally say, well done! Your website is very nicely designed as well. Are you freelancing or currently working at Imageworks?

I'm definitely looking forward to your future work! Thanks for sharing, and have a good one,

- Patrick

tesmeralda
03-02-2005, 12:17 PM
Nice site. You have some great work on there. I noticed one broken link, the dropdown portfolio>feature film> dungeons and dragons link takes you to the shrek link.

Otherwise nicely done.

Satch

Thanks for the comments, especially the feedback on the broken link. I can't seem to find that broken link yet, and am curious: Did this just appear from one specific page (i.e. one of the individual project pages)? Also, are you using Explorer to browse? I was dealing with this exact "shrek link" problem for some time, but thought I was passed it.

I really appreciate hearing back about this stuff since I'm trying to get things running smoothly on the site. So, thanks again!

smooth
03-02-2005, 01:05 PM
I used to design web pages. I'm familiar with html.
I'll take a look at your source code and let u know.

+smooth+

smooth
03-02-2005, 01:33 PM
now i remember why I got out of that field. LOL.
Messy code dude. But It looks fine. your links page seems to point to a blank html page.

+smooth+

tesmeralda
03-02-2005, 06:51 PM
now i remember why I got out of that field. LOL.
Messy code dude. But It looks fine. your links page seems to point to a blank html page.

+smooth+

I bet the code is pretty messy. I don't actually know squat about html. I'm using "Freeway" which is pretty much a "drag & drop" DTP-like website creation program (which is why I don't really know wha't going on under the hood). I can see why you got out of that field though . . .

I actually found the culprit causing the bad link, and it all seems to be working fine now. btw - the links page pointed you to a blank html page because I was in the middle of updating it at that time.

Thanks again for your concern.

tesmeralda
03-02-2005, 07:18 PM
Thanks tobiasth, satch, and smooth for your kudos and questions!

Wow. Very nice.
Curious...among the ten years you've been painting professionally...how long have you been using Photoshop for your mattes?
Can you post some high-res photos of your work.

I've been using Photoshop since 1998 (starting with PS 4.0). I give some mention about crossing over to digital painting in my Artist Bio, but here's a little more info for you: Production on The Prince of Epyt was beginning to wind down, and the Artist Development people at Dreamworks started offering PS classes to anyone interested. My fellow BG painters didn't really understand why I was taking these classes (keep in mind that I worked with a very hard-core painting group that would go on outdoor painting trips at lunch & on weekends). After four classes I basically gave up on PS because I still couldn't replicate the things I could do with real paint & brushes.

Fast forward to spring 1998 when I transfered to PDI where I now had to know PS. One of the senior painters on ANTZ, Steve Albert, got me up to speed. My learning curve was steep, but Steve did a great job with me since he knew what was going through my head having already made the transition to digital months ahead of me (Steve also painted traditional BG's on POE).

I'll put up a couple hi res images tomorrow; any specific one you have in mind?

smooth
03-02-2005, 07:41 PM
Yeah I finally realized that pursuing the arts as a living is possible..so I kinda woke up am saw the light (despite other people's 2cents and my brainwashing of art's as a "hobby"). I can kinda relate to your online bio. It's good to hear success stories like that. Let's see if mine plays out similar. :) Currently a Shake Compositor for broadcast, working my way to matte painter for film.-hopefully. :D

Knowing the web comes in handy in promoting oneself. Alot of artists haven't taken advantage of it.
You can always try Dreamweaver from Macromedia- the best back in the days I was doing it. But it's good to know html raw hand coded too because those apps don't always give you what you expect.
If you need help with your site let me know, i'd be happy to. Maybe you can help me with some critiques of my mattes down the line :)
Still working on getting some done and getting it up online.

+smooth+

tesmeralda
03-02-2005, 08:04 PM
Nice web site and great portfolio.

I had a question, since you have been working on animation as well as live action,
Which one did you find more rewarding?
Or what were the differences? (Freedom, speed, limitation…)

Ready for a loaded answer? First of all, I've worked almost entirely on Animated Features (like a 4 to 1 ratio, altough the live-action projects are catching up). Secondly, I've been trying to fight the "animation background painter" label for so long now that I almost didn't recognize the huge wave that is "The Golden Age of Computer Animated Features".

. . . are you with me still?

Here's some facts (imho): Animation is rewarding artistically because everything starts from scratch, and that gives artists & designers free reign to set up everything (lighting, color, mood, atmosphere) the way they see fit. Ever walk through the Visual Development/Art Department at an animation studio like Disney, Dreamworks, or Pixar (or looked through any "Art of" books)? It's candy for an artist. And the cool thing about the candy is that there is a good chance it will actually translate to final film.

Live Action is a different kind of reward: It's fun to play the role of magician! The reward comes from fooling the audience, but it's very challenging. You are restricted by a lot of factors: How good the photography (orginal plate photography) is, the amount of reality you are trying to create, and the ever-present problem of time. In live action speed is the name of the game, and "they" want it faster every time!

So, what's my answer? I don't know yet. The pace of live action took me by surprise, but if you can handle the speed it's a lot of fun - the turn-around time to the big screen is quick! Additionally, for myself, it's acknowledgement that I'm not only an animation BG painter. However, animated features are becoming more cinematic. The Incredibles! Even that last thing I worked on . . .

And yet again, look at where live action has gone: LOTR, Matrix, Sky Captain ? Do matte paintings need to look "photoreal" anymore?? Does anyone care??? [This discusssion came up while I was working on Riddick: The audiences love the "fantastic"]

This is why I ultimately don't have an answer for you yet, because the real question we should be asking is this: Is there a difference between live action and animation?

. . . go ahead and marinate on that for a little bit.

bcottman
03-02-2005, 11:12 PM
Hello Thomas
Inspiring bio! the backgounds in Prince of Egypt were a huge inspiration for me. In particular, watching the documentary on the dvd with Paul Lasaine painting plein air in death valley was the moment I decided that this was what I wanted to do. still love Paul's work however I rarely see any. wish he would put a website up as well.

excellent work, I look forward to your future posts.

tesmeralda
03-03-2005, 12:48 AM
I was wondering who painted those mattes in Shrek, and thanks to this forum I can almost personally say, well done!

Thanks Patrick! I feel like I should also point out that I wasn't the only matte artist who had worked on Shrek, although the list of those that did IS a short one: Steve Albert, Tony Halawa, Joe DiCeasre, and myself made up PDI's matte department at the time. Mark Sullivan also painted a few concept paintings that would eventually be turned into finished productions pieces.

Are you freelancing or currently working at Imageworks?

I took a little break after wrapping on Polar, and just began picking up a little freelance stuff a few weeks ago. This laid back, half-time, stuff will probably be ending soon though ("sigh") since I'm contemplating a few big projects right now . . . May return to Imageworks - maybe . . . .

tesmeralda
03-03-2005, 01:46 AM
Hello Thomas
Inspiring bio! the backgounds in Prince of Egypt were a huge inspiration for me. In particular, watching the documentary on the dvd with Paul Lasaine painting plein air in death valley was the moment I decided that this was what I wanted to do. still love Paul's work however I rarely see any. wish he would put a website up as well.

Glad to hear you found my bio inspiring. A funny thing about POE is that I continue to hear accolades about the backgrounds from both artists & non-artsits alike. I guess good work holds up over time.

Oh, and about that POE dvd with Paul painting in Death Valley . . . Did you know why Paul & Ron (the other co-head of backgrounds) went to Death Valley? Because the studio didn't send them on the research trip to Egypt (good thing the heads of story went though ...) On top of that, they had to babysit the rest of us BG painters (all 15 of us at the time)! We actually had a great time out there although we didn't get much painting done - it's hard to mix paint when sandstorms keep kicking up.

Good luck trying to find more of Paul's work; he has a few things on one of the LOTR dvd's, but it's not clearly pointed out. I was lucky to have seen his LOTR portfolio when he had just come back from NZ, so I kinda knew what to look for. You (nor the rest of the world) probably don't know this, but he had a lot to do with the look of LOTR. Unfortunately, for reasons I don't want to go into, this will never be known. LOTR served Paul very well career-wise, though, and his transition into art direction is now fairly complete: He's now a Production Designer!

One more production note: The 1st painting of the North Pole "City" in the Polar section of my site was basically done by Paul (before he accepted his current P.D. title). I sliced his painting up, painted some more over his original, and then camera mapped it onto some simple geometry. I'll be adding descriptions throughout my site, for paintings like that, in the near future. Thanks again for your comments & questions.

Boof
03-03-2005, 06:07 PM
Hi Thomas,

Great work and website layout is cool. Like everyone else, POE work is top notch....the paltettes are awesome. The Polar Express had some really stunning matte paintings...the art of PE book is great! The link on D & D page still doesn't work (just so ya know). I went to the Academy of Art also, in their MFA program. I think its grown alot in last few years but still has some issues to work out.

Look forward to future postings from ya. Your comments on everyone else's postings was very insightful.

-Eric

tesmeralda
03-03-2005, 08:21 PM
Hi Thomas,

Great work and website layout is cool. Like everyone else, POE work is top notch....the paltettes are awesome. The Polar Express had some really stunning matte paintings...the art of PE book is great! The link on D & D page still doesn't work (just so ya know). I went to the Academy of Art also, in their MFA program. I think its grown alot in last few years but still has some issues to work out.

Look forward to future postings from ya. Your comments on everyone else's postings was very insightful.

-Eric

Thanks for the kind words Boof. The D & D link doesn't work on purpose (kind of ...) Not really proud of that work, but they make for great background images for the web (haha). I should just put up a blank pop-up window that reads "coming soon".

I began pursuing an MFA at the Academy a couple years ago, but only got through 1 semester. Ronn Brown (an ex-ILM matte artist) had just taken over the digital program there, and got me excited about upgrading my digital skills. Alas, the Academy is, well . . . the Academy so I never enrolled for the next semester. Hope you gained something from your program!

tesmeralda
03-03-2005, 08:56 PM
Okay, here's a hi res image from Polar Exress:

It's a reveal of the North Pole "City". The bulk of the work on this shot was split between myself and Josh Geisler, one of the staff matte artists at Imageworks. We also re-used building textures that Josh & I had created along with two other texture artists that were "loaned" to the matte department (the talented Alan Gonzoles and Eric Mcleane).

- The inner square (Christmas tree, compass floor, elves, inner most rowof buildings inlucing the arch) are CG (not us)
- I was in charge of painting the sky & "ice lake"; outer city lights were done by Josh & me
- The rest of the buildings, the "set extension" directly behind the inner CG square were the re-used lo-res buildings + camera mapped textures
(Josh created the foreground building, screen left - also camera mapped)

http://www.digitalscenics.com/image_deposit/Polar_Express_01.jpg

This next one is a shot from the "Ticket Ride" sequence. I was responsible for shots 1 and 2 (with Eric M. assisting again) which follows the train ticket as it travels (seemingly) everywhere it possibly could - each of these shots were roughly 1000 frames in length. Whew, if you did the math, that's a lot of screen time! [This actually doesn't present well as a still image because the camera is ALL OVER THE PLACE - check back at my site within a few days for the demo movie].

- The painted layers will appear stretched (mountains taller, etc) in comparison to the actual shot because everything gets mapped on to a series of concentric domes & arches
- Notice how I painted much looser away from screen center; this environment goes by so quick that it made no sense to paint any tighter
- The Bridge, foreground mountains, train, and ticket were CG (not me)

http://www.digitalscenics.com/image_deposit/Polar_Express_02.jpg

rrische
03-03-2005, 09:03 PM
Ivo, Josh and Dave....TRIPLE THREAT.

Love those guys.

tesmeralda
03-03-2005, 10:32 PM
Ivo, Josh and Dave....TRIPLE THREAT.

Love those guys.

Yeah, they're a great group! Would not mind at all working with those guys again (and they've told me likewise - unless they're lying ....) :o

Those guys had mentioned your name from time to time; all good things of course!

rrische
03-03-2005, 10:52 PM
No. I talked to Ivo. They're lying.

:-)

smooth
03-04-2005, 08:17 AM
haha.
*slap-slap*

Curious to hear about This Academy you speak of and it's inability to deliver whats necessary. I'd love the chance to be taught by Ronn Brown or anyone else from the industry with similar experience.
U know gnomon has the right idea. They see the market need and fullfill that need. What's stopping others from doing the same? The industry is growing, so is the need for advanced training that is lacking.
In the gaming industry it's happening...it's going to grow even more. Ubisoft here is expanding at a tremendous rate and is going to start a school program to meet the needs of the gaming industry. Signing up artists from that school to work for them. it's genius. Not to mention $$$. Artist get the right training and the company involved get the right people they need with the right qualities/skills. Kinda like in house work training. Who knows the industry more thatn the people/companies who are involved in the industry. These are the ones that should develop/be involved in the education of such.
My 2 cents.

Tom i'd like to see some of your Shrek and Riddick closeups if you can.
Shrek Large04+01 and Riddick Large 01.
Thanks!

+smooth+

tesmeralda
03-04-2005, 05:33 PM
Curious to hear about This Academy you speak of and it's inability to deliver whats necessary . . . My 2 cents.
I'll give you a nickels worth on this later.

Tom i'd like to see some of your Shrek and Riddick closeups if you can. Shrek Large04+01 and Riddick Large 01.
Do you mean Shrek Larges 04 AND 01?

smooth
03-04-2005, 07:32 PM
yeah, those are the ones.
Thanks Tom.

+smooth+

tesmeralda
03-04-2005, 08:06 PM
yeah, those are the ones.
Thanks Tom.
+smooth+

Okay smooth, here's one from Riddick:
-The steps were CG (of which this may not be the final render) except towards the door; that was built on the set
-This is actually the full painting as the shot was originally designed; funny story behind this is that the extras were directed to run towards the steps (from screen right), but reached the steps too early & started running back (from off screen you can hear someone yelling "no, run back towards the steps"). Yeah, great ...

http://digitalscenics.com/image_deposit/Riddick_01.jpg

Here's how it ended up looking on screen:

http://digitalscenics.com/image_deposit/Riddick_01b.jpg

Shrek samples coming . . .

tesmeralda
03-04-2005, 08:26 PM
Here's a couple of matte paintings from Shrek:
- The first image is all painting, except for the foreground flowers which are CG (they animate from side to side in the shot); in this shot the camera makes a slight, nodal, tilt up
- The second shot is a lock-off

http://digitalscenics.com/image_deposit/Shrek_01.jpg

http://digitalscenics.com/image_deposit/Shrek_04.jpg

Do you wonder why these are painted so loosley? I had two days to paint the first one, maybe 3.5 days to knock out the second - we were ripping through matte paintings at that point in production!

tesmeralda
03-04-2005, 09:40 PM
Okay, here's my 5 cents:


Curious to hear about This Academy you speak of and it's inability to deliver whats necessary. I'd love the chance to be taught by Ronn Brown or anyone else from the industry with similar experience.
U know gnomon has the right idea. They see the market need and fullfill that need. What's stopping others from doing the same? The industry is growing, so is the need for advanced training that is lacking.
The Academy has now become a huge "university", and is the largest private art school in the country. This does not make it the best school by far because (off the record) it's more focused on making money than providing the best art education money can buy. That being said, it IS possible to get a good education there, but you must know what you want and do everything within your rights to get that from them. Teachers cycle in & out of there and, for as long as I've known, so have department chairs. (Ronn Brown left there years ago and went back to matte painting - I think he went to NZ to work on LOTR). Again, this revolving door could be a good thing because someone really good might come along for a semester or two that could get you going on the right track. It's really tough to determine what kind of training is needed to get into the vfx industry because it really depends on the individual. IMO, however, people with a really solid art education (drawing, painting, photography, filmmaking) have better longevity because it's the "vision" that's difficult to learn. The problem with a lot of training programs is that they are focused on teaching software; if you are a good artist, then you will pick up the CG stuff as needed. The best training has always been on the job (I'd rather get paid to learn you know ....) You mention Gnomon: Places like this are great for people who are already sound artists to pick up those CG skills if they can't get them on the job. If you are just starting out though, it may not be the best place to go (and it's pricey!)

In the gaming industry it's happening...it's going to grow even more. Ubisoft here is expanding at a tremendous rate and is going to start a school program to meet the needs of the gaming industry. Signing up artists from that school to work for them. it's genius. Not to mention $$$. Artist get the right training and the company involved get the right people they need with the right qualities/skills. Kinda like in house work training. Who knows the industry more thatn the people/companies who are involved in the industry. These are the ones that should develop/be involved in the education of such.
My 2 cents.
+smooth+
Really? Here's reality: Companies want to balance cheap labor (i.e. kids out of school) with experience ("expensive" older artists). Their interest in schools (not all companies, but most to varying degrees) goes as far as supplying their stable of "cheaper" artists. A few of these individuals will actually stick around the biz for awhile, but most will get dumped every few months (especially in the games industry) to keep costs down. And the older artists, who are usually supervisors & leads? They eventually get priced out once their contracts have been renewed too many times, and their salaries are viewed as being too high. Anyways, by that time, the kid out of school may have learned enough to become the lead. (Keep in mind that the film vfx industry is different because the timetables of projects are different than in games). I had a bunch of interns on the team I was Art Directing back at EA a couple years ago, so I know how the management thinks. The woman running the internship program was truly dedicated to doing what you described above, and did a great job at it. However, her goals for the program differed from managements' - she eventually got fed up, and left.

How's that for pessimistic ....[/quote]

Just remember this: The quick & easy route is tempting, but it's best to stay focused on what you really want. It's okay to get some "quick" traning to get your foot in the door, but always remember that it will only be just that. In order to advance you must continue to push yourself outside of your "day job" to get where you want. Good luck!

Boof
03-04-2005, 10:12 PM
totally agree with Thomas' depiction of Academy. I recently finished up MFA program there. I was lucky enough to have the following matte painters as teachers: Caroleen "Jett" Green, Harrison Ellenshaw, Alan Sonneman, Emmanuel Shiu, and Michael Pangrazio. I focused on Matte Painting even when there wasn't a concrete focus in the curriculum for it and had to force the administration to let me do it. I figure if you are paying that much money in education you should be able to dictate what you want from it. If I was to do it all over again, I would go a different route. I was lucky enough to have Ronn Brown as head of the dept who in the couple times I talked with him helped me to set my focus in matte painting 'fore he left the school.

Thom, the high res postings are great. Get a greater appreciation for em seeing them bigger. Love the mountains one!!


Thanks
-E.

smooth
03-05-2005, 09:30 AM
I totally agree with you Thomas. It's all about the $.
In the case I mentioned...Ubisoft will be getting better skilled cheap labour. I just hope the students don't sign some paper saying if they leave the school they MUST work for Ubisoft for x amount of time..etc. That would be soo evil. But in that case at least they would get an education needed for that particular field. Asuming this is the point of such an endeavor. But people must'nt assume just because it's a school that they are looking out for the students own good. Those days are looong gone. And maybe that's never changed but is more apparent these days than before. Everything comes down to $. It's up to the individual to seperate the good from the bad and find suitable replacements.
Funny as I'm writing this an old movie was playing on the tv and I caught the beginning as I'm typing. Pump up the Volume with Christian Slater...it starts off with his voice saying..."ever get the feeling that everything youve come to know is f---ed. Finding everything polluted. - education, the government, religion etc.
Unfortunatly this is true in some cases. Everything seems to be polluted..Sad.

The high res mattes look nice! Good work esp with the time to create them. Only problem is we're spoiling them by pumping out last minute pieces to fix a mess in which was easily avoidable. Right? So they think...hey we'll just get a matte painter to get our asses out of it. Was that the case?
I was reading the other topic and replied (must read Cinefex mag …
). I was amazed what was said about the industry and some attitudes towards matte painting and it's place in VFX.

+smooth+