It’s been a while since I’ve posted something on this blog. I haven’t made any progress on my ‘End of the World’ project for a while now. Every time I’m working in 3Ds Max on windows and I have to use Photoshop for just a little thing I have to reboot to get into OS X, and I hate waiting. I will get back to that project soon, but in the meantime I have something else to show.
I’ve watched a lot of matte painting videos on the internet and I have always wanted to create one myself. There are some great videos out there(search YouTube or Vimeo for ‘matte painting demoreel’) but I never got to actually making one myself. Just to be clear, the definition of ‘matte painting’ according to Wikipedia is:
A matte painting is a painted representation of a landscape, set, or distant location that allows filmmakers to create the illusion of an environment that would otherwise be too expensive or impossible to build or visit.
Now in my case it’s a bit of both, but mainly the former. The environment created in this video is somewhere in Greece, and I can’t really afford a trip to Greece for a 30 second video(wish I could though). Secondly, this location doesn’t really exist as seen in the video, it’s created using multiple images. And of course, finding a city that’s on fire or setting one on fire probably isn’t a good idea either.
I will tell something more about creating this video and show a breakdown video but first it’s time for the video itself:
(make sure to watch it in HD)
I really like the outcome of this one, I think it looks pretty neat. There’s a lot of stuff going on, this is how I did it:
I knew I wanted to make a burning city. What I had to do was finding pictures that I could start with in Photoshop to create the basic idea for the shot. After a few hours of searching around the web on free stock image sites I found some images, but that didn’t work out that well. I searched and I searched until I realized that I maybe I already had some of the images. I remembered a few photos I took while I was in Greece, and that was my starting point. I started with a photo of a little stone house, that would be in the foreground and that was where I was going to position myself. The background from that photo was quite nice but I decided to go with another photo to create the background, so I only used the house of the first photo. I found an image of a free stock site of a nice sky, that was going to be my background. On top of that I added a photo I also took myself in Greece with some mountains on it. Then it was time to add in the city, which I found on another free stock image site. I did some color correction on all parts of the image so that the colors and general mood would match. I also added some light wraps and some shadows just to make everything seem more natural.
Now it was time for the fun part, the destruction. I started working on the city with the burn tool in Photoshop, creating dark edges and burn marks. After that I added in some burn marks from VideoCopilot‘s Action Movie Essentials 2 (which is awesome by the way) and just tried to ‘destroy’ the city by erasing parts of it making it seem like there were holes. After that I was done in Photoshop and I brought in the file in After Effects. I added a little life to the background by animating the sky as if it was moving a bit using ‘Corner Pin’.
I started working on bringing in fire elements from AME2, adjusting the colors so that it would seem as realistic as possible. I also added glows to make it seem as if the fire was casting light onto the scene. After that I added smoke elements behind the fire, and also blended them in. Just to give you an idea on what I was dealing with, here is a screenshot from After Effects. I wasn’t able to fit all layers on one image because my screen isn’t big enough.
Now all the elements of the background were done. I shot some footage of myself standing in front of my green screen(with really poor lightning), but fortunately I was able to pull a pretty good key. I color corrected myself to match with the scene and I was almost done. The next thing was to add a subtle camera move. As all my layers were flat, I couldn’t get away with very much but a little movement really added to the effect I think. I distributed my layers in After Effects’ 3D space, but not that far away from each other in order to hide the fact that the layers were flat.
After Effects had a really hard time processing all these layers, and rendering just one frame could take up to more than 30 seconds. I tried to keep this project organized as much as I could and that worked out pretty good. Here’s one final screenshot from my final comp for the first shot in After Effects:
To see how I built this shot in movement I’ve made a quick little breakdown video:
Hope you liked it, let me know what you think, and check back soon for an update on my ‘End of the World’ project.