3D Matte Painting
What is 3D matte painting?
This can be very tricky to define, especially to a recruiter who is used to compartmentalizing a production pipeline into “specialists”, but make no mistake, this is a specialty of its own. 3D Matte painting sits right at the increasingly blurry area between digital painting, 3d modeling, and texturing. These are disciplines that in the past evolved separately, but as new techniques were developed and refined, they found use increasingly in tandem and became inseparable parts of a more effective whole that supplanted typically more time consuming traditional matte painting, which at their inception were actual physical paintings on planes of glass.
Nowadays, we use something like After Effects to achieve this most basic form of “2.5D matte painting” using a technique called a 2D multiplanar to grant the illusion of depth and perspective. This is great for backgrounds and simple camera movements, but if we want to rotate around the subject more, shoot it from different angles, or pull off some trickier shots, we need a full 3D projection. Yes, this is the same technology that allows us to projection map on the side of buildings! But in this case the projection is simulated digitally to put a painted high level details onto very basic geometry.
Additionally, if we take it a step further, we can sculpt or model assets in advance to a high degree of detail, and projection paint on the surfaces to nail down the textures in the same way we could paint any 2D image. So on one end of the spectrum you have something that is much closer to digital illustration, and on the other hand, you have something that is not so far off from modern texture painting and in the middle you have as much sculpting or image manipulation at your disposal as you need to pull off the shot, and its not going to be a one size fits all for which method you use. So the flexibility to mix and match these techniques is in my experience what makes this much faster and more effective than a traditional modeling or painting workflow at achieving believable realism, since the amount of intensiveness is scalable to the task at hand, and you can cut corners without sacrificing quality.
Make sure to specifically request items in purple when you ask for a quote if you want prices to reflect a more accurate estimate of the final labor.
I’ve always offered and touted photogrammetry as a means of digitally scanning props and environments to speed up any film or game design workflow by leaps and bounds, and take a lot of the heavy workflow off of the artists so they can focus on less tedium and more creative decisions. Now that i’ve added drone photography to my repertoire this makes the process for scanning large scale 3D environments much quicker and easier. I am also attempting to figure out a viable workflow for 3D scanning human beings. However for the time being until i implement lidar or other more expensive and sophisticated methods into my workflow, these scanning techniques will not work for highly reflective or refractive materials. Fear not; its on my todo list.
While I think my voice as an artist is probably the most valuable thing i offer, I can definitely appreciate the need to take a step back and have a bit of artistic objectivity. One of the things i have practiced is replicating scientifically accurate plants, buildings, or materials, never one to shy away from shooting my own textures or doing a significant amount of R&D. And i think that R&D is incredibly important, so if someone says ok, you’re going to be modeling a pillar, i’m not just making a pillar that looks pretty, i know enough to say, lets use a corinthian pillar, these are the precise proportions established by Vitruvius or else it will look off, these are the exact species of Campulana that are native to the area you’ve chosen for your backdrop. These kind of crash courses in a multitude of disciplines are ultimately thankless work and unseen in the final cut, but i think they make all the difference in making something look polished and verisimilitudinous.
I actually had a dual major in college; Visual Effects and Motion Graphics. I chose to pursue the VFX side of things because it was actually more challenging for me. But i am still incredibly proficient at motion graphics and if you want to give me something easy, send me motion graphics work.