Matte Painting

Matte Painting Demo 03


28th July 2015: I’ll be updating this post with more images and a video tutorial either by this weekend or mid August if my schedule permits.

A Quick KISS to Matte Painting Demo 03

KISS as in “Keep it simple, student” I’ll focus on the exact stuff that I’ve did in this demo. Please refer to my older matte painting demo if you need a more thorough explanation.

I’ll be covering:

  1. Analysing the shot

  2. Tracking

  3. Exporting still shot to Photoshop

  4. Gathering reference

  5. Compositing and Colour Correction

Analysing the shot


For this demo, I was provided a shot of Lake Ashi courtesy of Mr Firdaus. What seems to be a straightforward shot can be complicated depending on the requirement of the briefing.

If we look at the raw footage, it looks dull and lacked in contrast. Fear not as it was shot on a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera (BPCC)! Compared to the usual H.264 MOV output from most DSLR, the BPCC can record in either CinemaDNG RAW or Apple ProRes 422 (HQ) which the latter format was used. This BPCC also support the use of higher dynamic range profile aka film Log or video REC709.

With higher bit depth, this allows us to have higher accuracy when performing colour correction/grading. You can refer to my Comparing bit depth and format for Colour Grading post for in-depth details.

So before we start doing the tracking, I highly recommend to start the initial colour grading to achieve the desire look that you’re looking for.


If you observe closely, there is noticeable parallax shift on the buildings and the large trees on the right side of the shot.

There is minor camera shake that introduces motion blur that unfortunately means I can’t perform a 3D stabilisation to create a dramatic camera flythrough over the lake without the wobbly/jello effect.

Overall, the shot can still be tracked using regular 2D tracker for each elements that we want to replace with a matte painting although I will usually perform a 3D camera track using Nuke’s CameraTracker which is what I did for this shot..

Remember to always attached an element such as a checker pattern to verify the accuracy of the tracker.

Solution: Due to time constraint, I decided to do the usual sky replacement and add a mountain on the right side of the shot. This can still be done using the 2D tracker on the mountains in After Effects and Nuke. Remember to track Translation, Rotation and Scale for the highest accuracy!

Exporting still shot to Photoshop

After you have done tracking, it’s time to prepare the shot as a still for use in Photoshop (or your preferred paint program… like GIMP?)

I’ll skip the details on how I prepare the shot for compositing but it’s the usual keying and rotoscoping process.

Remember to output in a format that supports alpha like PNG, TGA, TIF etc. You can export directly to PSD if you’re using After Effects although I’ve never try it before. Just be warned that some blending mode that are available in AE are not supported in Photoshop like Add so remember to take precaution when choosing your blending mode.

In Photoshop, start to go crazy (or lazy) in preparing the matte painting! Woops before that, make sure to gather high quality reference first.

Gathering Reference

If possible, do not skimp on this part! Scratch that. MAKE SURE TO GET HIGH QUALITY REFERENCE PICS.


Make sure to look for:

  1. High resolution pics (at least 2000px but varies depending on the size of the element on screen)

  2. In focus aka not blurry

  3. Minimal to zero compression noise

  4. Natural colour tone aka avoid extreme colour corrected pics

Now butcher I mean process the reference photo into a matte painting in Photoshop!

Compositing and Colour Correction

Once you are done with the matte painting elements, it is time to piece it together into the shot.

Personally, I separate the sky from the rest to allow for flexibility during compositing.

Don’t forget to colour correct the elements so it match the colour corrected shot!

The last step is to verify if the matte painting and tracking works without any noticeable error.

If all goes well, congratulations you have completed your first (or Nth) matte painting!

The *near* Final Result of the Demo

In the end, it’s all about “JUST DO IT”.

Bonus: The Node Graph Layout in Nuke

Temporarily, I’ll can only share the node graph layout as I still haven’t process the materials for online sharing.

If you’re interested in how I comp the shot in Nuke, remember to right-click on the pic and view on a new tab for the full size resolution!


Matte Painting Nuke

Day to Night Matte Painting Thought Process – Video Podcast (Episode 0)


Episode 0 – Day to Night Matte Painting Thought Process

This is my very first video podcast(?) so apologies for any hiccup in the voice over recording.

The video is 1080p @ 30fps so if you have the option, try to download it from Youtube using external addon (I’m using YouTube Video and Audio Downloader for Firefox) or a download manager. The original encoded video is 480MB so it is huge for me to host on my site.

Other than what I said in the video, here is a few stuff that I miss out in the video:

  1. Take care of the overall perspective.
  2. Understand how white balance works especially when dealing with day to night shot.
  3. Preferably, don’t add BLOOM or GLINT in the matte painting. Do that in the compositing stage.
  4. Work at least double (technically quadruple) the resolution of your final output size. E.g. 1920×1080 project means 3840×2160 matte painting resolution which you can reformat in Nuke. 3D or panning shot obviously will have their own requirement so just ensure you have enough resolution.
  5. If you double up as the compositor in the project, I personally think it is OK to have sloppy matte painting aka mix of blurry photo in it as long you know it looks fine/good/great in the final compositing. Just make sure the overall matte painting looks believable and not crappy. Obviously don’t ever do sloppy work in any actual production.
  6. Manage your layers properly.

Matte Painting

Matte Painting Demo 02 – Assignment Briefing


Where have all the party gone?

Update: As of 6pm on the 7th of November 2014, I received only two colour sketch progress aka Rachael and Aina. Good job to you two and hope my feedback will be helpful in your final matte painting work. As for the others, please show your colour sketch this coming Monday as it carries progress mark.

As of 2pm on the 7th of November 2014, I didn’t receive a single email for the colour sketch consultation. As stated earlier, 6pm is the deadline for my personal advice where I’ll forward all emails to Mr Firdaus or you can also consult with them in class this Monday.

I repeat do not underestimate the importance of colour sketching for matte painting. If any of you all still interested in brushing up your fundamentals in colour sketching, please refer to Dylan Cole tutorials for the Gnomon Workshop: