Advanced Matte Painting

An 8-week course that further enhances your matte painting skills and applies them to real-world scenarios at a studio

Course overview Course overview

Course Overview

Take your Matte painting skills to the next level

The focus of this class is to take the matte painting skills you have, and apply them to the real world scenarios you might encounter working at a studio. The goal is that by the end of the class each of you will have completed several matte paintings that demonstrate a solid technical understanding of what modern matte painting entails. Students will have the opportunity to set up and paint a variety of shots, from 2D to more complex 3D shots as well as learn the tricks to bring those paintings to life. Just as every studio has a different workflow, students will also gain a basic knowledge of working with different color pipelines, cameras and plates and learn how to adapt while creating their shots. This class is geared for intermediate to advanced Photoshop users with some Nuke compositing and 3D modeling skills in Maya, or industry professionals who want to enhance their toolset. Students should feel comfortable with basic modeling in a 3D environment as well as basic Nuke compositing.


Course Format:   Standard
Lecture Type:   Pre-Recorded
Feedback:   Individual Recordings
Duration:   8 weeks
Assignment:   Deadlines each week
Q&A:   Once a week
Materials:   Photoshop, Nuke, Maya
Skills level:   Intermediate to Advanced
Prerequisites:   Intro to Digital Matte Painting (Recommended) Intermediate - advanced knowledge of Photoshop. Basic Modeling & Nuke experience

Environment design WHAT YOU’LL LEARN

What you'll learn

The more you know, the better.

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Video: technical setup, pitfalls and roadblocks What resolution do I need to work at and why? Dealing with motion blur in plates Plate/photo grain averaging / film grain & noise Reference grain Flattened plates vs unflattened plates Video: Reference: The key to good matte painting Matching perspective Matching lighting Color matching Bit depth and file formats Permissions & copyrights Building your own personal library Video: My approach to finding perspective in photoshop Video: PSD Organization and teamwork File naming Layer names, folders and organization Overlays, curves, & blending modes Using RGB to paint mattes for comp Working with someone else’s file Video: The 2D matte shot from Photoshop to comp Setting up a static matte painting shot in photoshop and nuke Establishing scale Compositing your matte painting: adding life to a static shot Assignment: static aerial matte painting
Video: Color pipelines and working with various formats Maintaining color range in your paintings Video space, log space and linear space color workflow Working with high dynamic range images Night shots and clipping your blacks, highlights and clipping brights Icc profiles, show luts, etc Using your High dynamic range matte painting to help light a 3d scene The difference between clipping in photoshop and clipping in comp Video: Roll with the punches plates changing cameras changing notes changing Assignment: High Dynamic Range sky replacement Assignment: Continue to work on static matte painting
Video: Setting up the nodal shot What is a nodal camera? How to tell if your camera is truely nodal or "nodal enough" Video: Setting up projections for simple camera moves studying your footage for the best frames to project on simplifying your projection setup and why Pros and cons of multiple paintings/projections in a single shot Tips for camera coverage (how to tell if your projection covers the camera move) The importance of file and camera name organization Oversizing your projection/canvas for safe coverage Ignoring areas of your canvas not seen in the shot Focusing on areas of importance Assignment: Nodal Day for Night Matte Painting in log space Assignment: Continue to work on sky replacement & static matte painting notes
Video: What is a “2.5D” matte painting? How to keep your shot from looking “cardy” Video: Setting up a z-traveling or zoomed in shot Video: Concept for matte painting Assignment: Concept for the fully matte painted shot: Assignment: 2.5 D alien planet painting
Video: The fully matte painted shot Letting geometry do all the heavy lifting When to matte paint, when to lookDev in 3d Simplifying geometry for fewer projection complications Using geometry to find horizons, perspective, and scale Different approaches to matte painting with 3d geometry Lining up your geometry edges Assignment: First pass of the fully matte painted 3d shot Assignments: Continue to address notes for all other shots
Video: When will matte painting in stereo work? Video: Working on stereoscopic shots Getting camera coverage for both eyes Which eye do you project from? Geometry must reflect real world scale and spatial relationships Building geo for lots of foreground parallax The static stereo shot When can you simplify your geo in a stereo shot? Assignment: Continue to polish all matte paintings
Video: Setting up a Large traveling shots (both in X and in Z) Video: Array camera shots for pano shots Video: Advanced approaches to sequence level work Setting up paintings for multiple shots Video: the 360 shot Assignments: Finish up all matte painting shots by next week
Video: Tips for staying employed: Personality matters.. finding a job and staying employed The artist vs the craftsman Listening to your notes vs. defending your creative choices The importance of being efficient as a Matte Painter Let the small things go, but follow up on your shot Video: Play to your strengths Video: Self Marketing: Notes for portfolios, websites and demo reels Detailed breakdowns of your shots Due this week: Final revisions to all your matte paintings

Unleashing your creativity

Lectures by Heather Abels

Heather currently works as a set Extension Artists at Walt Disney Animation Studios in Los Angeles having worked previously as Matte Department Supervisor at Rhythm & Hues on blockbuster films like Life of Pi. Life of Pi marked her third time contributing to Oscar winning visual effects films in a career that has taken her around the world from Weta Digital in New Zealand to her current home in Burbank. Her body of work ranges from epic studio franchises such as Avatar and X-Men to national advertising campaigns and animated features. Working on films like Life of Pi. Her credits include 300: Rise of an Empire, Winter's Tale, Machete Kills, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, R.I.P.D., Django Unchained, Big Miracle, Yogi Bear, Charlie St. Cloud, Avatar.

May 14th - July 23rd

Summer TERM Registration



Classes Begin

July 21st!

Pricing & Schedule

Even though our courses are the most affordable for the quality of education.

These Finance Options allow you to focus on your goals instead of the barriers that keep you from reaching them.

Employer Reimbursement

Animation Guild CSATTF

Payment Plan

Companies that hire our students

  • Naughty Dog
  • Luma Pictures
  • Google
  • EA Games
  • DreamWorks Animation
  • Blizzard Entertainment

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