Making of 'The Decline of Babel Myth - Jacobsen War'

The Idea

The concept of this artwork was inspired by the famous movie Bladerunner in which, you can see amazing futuristic cityscapes. I always was fascinated by huge cities with thousand of buildings everywhere. When, I went in New York City last summer for Vacations after the Siggraph Convention in Boston, I decided to go on top of the empire State Building with my digital camera and I took hundreds of photos, from different angles. I finally chose 3 photos from of the West view of Manhattan to do this personal project during the winter season. My first idea was simply to increase the height of the foreground buildings by adding towers and antennas, but as I was working, I switched my mind and decided to add ships, far cities, bridges and new rivers.

Concept Art

I did around 4-5 concept art. Some of these were so quick that I didn't even keep the file on my computer. As I already had my photos and knowing well where I was going, concept stage was very quick and simple. This is the final concept I chose to start my project (Fig.01)

Fig. 000_conceptart

Fig. 00_conceptart


The stitching step allows the artist to create very big image by pasting different photos of the same view into the same file. There are many different software programs that were created for this that I use sometimes, but for this one, I did my stitching in Photoshop because I had too many different expositions and color values from one to another photo. This problem was created because the sun was inside the frame to my camera for the left photos and outside for the right. This unfortunate problem involves many manipulations in Photoshop to give the illusion at the end, that it is only one photo (Fig.02 - 03).

Footage Plate ready to work

After the stitching stage, the image is finally ready. I had to rotate and transform a few of the buildings because of the lens deformation. I did also, rubber stamping in the left lower corner because I didn't have any photos of this specific spot. Because of an exposure issue, I didn't stitch the sky at all because I knew anyway that I will be replacing it with another one (Fig.04).

Fig. 003_plate_ready

Fig. 03_plate_ready

The Sky

Defining the sky wasn't a very long step because in this particular case, the sky is going to fill around 20% of the whole image which is not really that big. So I will concentrate my energies on doing the foreground city later instead. The main idea of this sky was of course, to not over-expose it like it was in the photos before and then, it was important to replace the new sun at the same place because all the building are lit in this way and the reflection in the water comes from this position. It would be too crazy to try to change the direction of light on each building (Fig.05)!

Fig. 004_sky

Fig. 04_sky

The Water

Doing the water was also quick. First, I did many selections with the polygonal lasso tool in Photoshop to have straight lines and then I color picked the real water with the brush tool to have the exact values and painted water everywhere according to my concept art (Fig.06).

Fig. 005_water

Fig. 05_water

The Bridges

Most of the bridges in the lower city are painted. The 4 main bridges in the middle ground were done in 3D to increase a bit of realism by adding pillars and vehicles (Fig.07)

Fig. 006_bridges

Fig. 06_bridges

All the towers, including the small one in the background are painted in by hand using Photoshop. I used the rubber stamp tool for the closest one. I didn't have any specific architecture in mind. The main idea was to increase a lot of the height of almost every important building (Fig.08 - 09).

3D Elements

Every 3D element in this case, can help to blend with the original photo. 3D elements are always sharp, clean and most of all, they follow the perspective lines. The war ships were done by my friend He did this 3D model in 3D Max and then, I exported it in Softimage XSI which is the 3D Software that I use on a daily base (Fig.10).

Fig. 009_3D_elements

Fig. 09_3D_elements

The Antennas

Each 3D antenna was color-corrected and the brightness/contrast aspect adjusted according to their positions with the sun. The next step was adding details such as highlights (Fig.11).

Fig. 010_3D_antennas

Fig. 010_3D_antennas

The Ship

I decided to blur the ships at the end because they were too 3D looking, which made them too different from the rest of the image. Instead of working hard to re-texture them, I chose to blur them. It's a question of priority! In this specific artwork, the priority was cityscape more than the ships (Fig.12).

Fig. 011_3D_ships

Fig. 011_3D_ships

The Detail

Last but not least, here is for me, the funniest part of every matte-painting. Defining the details, is the final touch that you should keep for the end. On top of every layer in your Photoshop file, you add layers only for drawing over. You add all the small detail that makes the overall look more realistic and rich in colors. I painted small lights, signs and billboards, reflections, kick light, highlights, windows, etc (Fig.13).

Fig. 012_details

Fig. 012_details

Colour Correct

Color-corrects and adjustment mode are very useful to reproduce the same effects that you want to reach when you do a good photo. You can play with the white balance, brightness and contrast, the hue, etc. This is what I do at the very end, on top of everything else (Fig.14).

Fig. 013_colorcorrects

Fig. 013_colorcorrects

Well that concludes this making of and I hope you found it of very informative.

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