Making Of 'Points of View'
"Points of View" is the title of a work that wants to praise the contrast and the different points of views that you can have about a subject. I designed the matte painting to illuminate this issue, mixing everything with a strong and romantic light to provide a little contrast to the cold futurism of the city.
I began the matte painting by transferring my chosen idea onto paper. I usually start by doing a pencil drawing of my concept to study the position of the elements and to have a dynamic composition, but in my matte painting I just studied the concept in Photoshop, as I already had a picture taken be Davide Scridel.
Once I understood what I wanted to communicate and achieve, and had designed the various elements, I started to create the speed painting.
Speed painting is a very useful way to create matte paintings in a more optimal and easy way. It allows us to understand the light and tone of the composition, to study the depth and the various elements that are going to be inserted. That's why I want to say a little more about speed painting before moving on.
The speed painting, as mentioned before, was crucial for the success of the final composition. I started by studying the shot (Fig.01).
At this stage I wanted to work quickly, with a simple default Photoshop brush. I thought about how to realize my idea, and then divided the frame into thirds and placed the human figure in one of them. This gave the human figure a strategic position, which leant importance to it and balanced the weight of the city. I put the city in the background and balanced it with the house. When I was happy with the position of the elements, I continued with the speed painting.
In the speed painting, I studied the light, atmosphere and the colours of various objects that were going to make up the composition. At this point, it's always important to remember that elements in the foreground will be darker and crisper, while those that are further away will be mixed with each other and will lose a lot of detail.
It's good to create a speed painting that is as similar to the end result as possible, as this makes things much easier if you want to fix the colours of the overall composition. As common sense dictated, I continued the speed painting by drawing a general outline of the colour elements and lighting, until I had something I was happy with (Fig.02).
As you can see from Fig.03, at this stage I was using more accurate brushes, created by me. To help understand this, I have prepared a simple example of a potential workflow for creating a cloud (Fig.04).
Take care to always search for the right references. Often people (myself included) tend to choose reference photographs for their beauty, rather than for their overall composition. This can lead to badly suited references, with the wrong direction of light, colour that's difficult to fix, or an inappropriate shape for a matte painting. Fixing such a reference will take much more time than simply searching for a better one.
When I started the matte painting, I immediately moved to replace the sky; for this matte, I'd already chosen a separate sky taken by me. So I removed the old one and then did the following: I chose the channels of the old source picture, trying to understand which channel had more contrast between the areas that needed to be keyed. I then duplicated it, using the tone curve to crush and accentuate the original contrast. This gave me distinct areas with a few shades of grey and I switched to select the mask by Ctrl + clicking on the icon of the duplicated channel. Any leftover, grey, troublesome areas were then fixed with the available tools and eliminated.The next step was to insert a new sky and make the appropriate colour corrections, as shown in Fig.05. I slightly desaturated the sky and cleared it, especially in the lower part. If sky is not corrected then it is likely to flatten the overall composition and will often leave a strong and optically intense tone.
I finished off this stage of the matte painting by roughly setting out the colours, lights and shadows, as I knew I would get the chance to add further details and definition later on.
When defining the city, I moved quickly to determine its size and how the various buildings were going to interact with each other.
Then I took various buildings from some famous city skylines, placed them in order to meet the global scale and corrected the colours to get the right tone between the various elements. To create areas lightened by the sun, I duplicated the level, greatly increased the contrast of it and turned it on yellow/red. In screen mode, I then fused it with the original, regulating its intensity, and then I hide the shadow areas with a level mask.
For the central building, I joined several skyscrapers together to create a huge palace, rich in detail. To do this, I mixed together some photographic references, redesigning them were needed.Â I also made use of textures from the Total Textures collection by 3DTotal, which I added to the drawn parts of the image. These added elements help to give an overall sense of "completeness" and make the drawn parts seem more real when the matte painting is resized (Fig.06)
The final phase, which occupied a lot of time, was where I added details to the matte painting. I did the last fixes, cleaned up the levels and added elements such as small lights, fog, haze, spaceships, seagulls etc. I created the ship with the bin and the lantern in 3ds Max, because it takes less time create them with 3D than looking for lots of references.
As the final step, I added the fog (Fig.07). I created a simple process using the filter "clouds" in Photoshop and by eliminating the black areas.
I always try to have a suitable number of levels for working; not too many (which risks overloading the file) and not too few.
To conclude the work, I collapsed the levels, added the glow of the sun and a little light warp of a few pixels in the contour of skyscrapers (especially the part in shadow).
I then rechecked the various elements, looking to see if all the shadows were matching, if the light was coherent, if the scale of the elements was right, if I had a good depth and if there were any mistakes or details that needed adding.
And here's the final image (Fig.08).