Projection Matte Painting

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What is projection matte painting? Only one of the coolest techniques in 3D/post today. It’s the reason they invented the term “work smarter, not harder”. You see it in the biggest blockbusters today. Transformers 3 was littered with it. This shot shows a city in ruins with gorgeous crumbled buildings and Decepticons moving and reacting in the scene as if they were there.

Using the old ways of 3D, it would take a team of animators a year to build this scene, constructing every single building, bridge, and road to only destroy it again. Not a very good use of time, money or resources. But this wasn’t done using the old ways of 3D. This was all done with the use of digital matte painting.

The idea is simple. Project your image onto geometry, then bend the geometry to fit your image, then generate your UVW texture so you can move it, break it, do whatever you want with it. It can take modeling/texturing/rendering times down from a month to a day if done with a skilled hand.

Below is an example. There was a Pizza Hut spec commercial I put together. I had to build miniature representations of New York, Sydney, Hong Kong, and London and I could only budget 1 day per city, and this included render times. A pretty impossible task, especially if it had to be done in 3D, but with 3D projection matte painting, it can be done. All it takes is some pretty good high resolution photography with the correct light angles, photoshop and and a tremendous amount of patience. Below is the New York 3D model. Keep in mind, this city is 3D. This can be pushed, tracked or slightly rotated.

Link to the finished video!

Now why would this be important? Simply put, it’s a money and time saver. Let’s take this instance. Say you’re filming a movie in the desert near the pyramids of Giza and you need this awesome crane/helicopter shot that goes over sandy dunes to reveal these landmarks. You also want to put some actors into the scene and have it done close to sunset. You also want it to be a clear day only to later bring in a sandstorm. If you think of the costs, take this into consideration. You need to pay for:

  1. Flight(s) to Egypt – $$$
  2. Helicopter rental – $
  3. DP – $
  4. Director – $$
  5. Actors – $$$
  6. Crew – $$
  7. Props – $
  8. Shipping of equipment – $$$
  9. Catering/hotels/transportation – $$$
  10. Bribing the public to not visit the pyramids – $$$$$$$

Simply put, it gets expensive, especially for a 4 second shot. Or you get a couple of photos, some Photoshop wizardry and you get this shot. It has been kept simple without any post for a reason. Without any lens flares, depth of field, or serious color correction, the scene is pretty solid. It is 1080p and rendered in less than an hour with 3 depth pass in GI. The sphere is there just to show how well real 3D geometry reacts to this scene.

So what’s the purpose of this post. It’s to save you money and time on your next major project. More than likely, you have your storyboard and you know what shots are going to be difficult. Instead of applying so much money, time and effort into renting the largest crane for the best possible shot that may not even exist, consider outsourcing. For the right price, we can do business together and achieve the shot you were looking for.

For more information or one-on-one consultation, click here.

1 Comment

  1. gabriel
    04 October 12, 6:14am

    Great website and tuts!!! is iti possible you can do a tut on making a crack in the ground of live footage? tracking and animating the crack? something like a small scale of 2012 type stuff?

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