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Preparing the sky for cloud replacement

From: Digital Matte Painting: Changing a Scene From Summer to Winter

Video: Preparing the sky for cloud replacement

Now that we've finished winterizing the mountains and the chalet, I want to replace the sky. The sky in the plate doesn't silhouette the mountains very well, and I want a larger sky, so I can move it during my After Effects animation. I have some beautiful skies in my library that I shot while I was on vacation in the Virgin Islands, and I'm going to use a couple of them here. Both of these skies were shot in the Camera Raw format. Camera Raw is an amazingly flexible format that keeps all of the data the camera records at the moment a picture is taken.

Preparing the sky for cloud replacement

Now that we've finished winterizing the mountains and the chalet, I want to replace the sky. The sky in the plate doesn't silhouette the mountains very well, and I want a larger sky, so I can move it during my After Effects animation. I have some beautiful skies in my library that I shot while I was on vacation in the Virgin Islands, and I'm going to use a couple of them here. Both of these skies were shot in the Camera Raw format. Camera Raw is an amazingly flexible format that keeps all of the data the camera records at the moment a picture is taken.

I recommend to anyone interested in matte painting that they invest in a camera capable of taking pictures in that format. This sky is lit from the correct direction for my scene, and I'm going to make a couple of adjustments before I open it. First I am going to raise the highlight and darken the exposure a slight amount. I'm going to raise the contrast a couple of points and go ahead and open it. First, I want to get rid of the clouds that I already have on the plate. So I'm going to go ahead and make a new layer, and I want to return to that sky that I just opened and do a little color correction on it.

Looking at the chalet scene, I think this Caribbean scene has a little bit too much red in it, so I want to take some of that out. I'd also like to increase the contrast, so I get some pure whites in the cloud, so I'm going to pull in that white point. So now I'm going to raise the midtones to lighten the sky overall and accept that. I want to select some blues off of this sky to use on my chalet plate. I'm going to select the Gradient tool, set the foreground to transparent, and then drag straight down to use that color from my sky plate.

I am going to return to the sky and choose a lighter color near the horizon, then return to the chalet and gradient up to get that lighter color behind the mountains. I'm going to select that intense blue off of my clouds one more time and then return to my plate and gradient down again. The sky is now obviously bleeding through and covering the areas of the plate that are still showing through, something I don't want, so I need to prepare a layer mask.

Now, Command+Click or Ctrl+Click into the layer icon preview for the Mountains layer and then Shift+Command+Ctrl+Click on the Painting layer to add it to the selection. Then holding down the Shift key, I'm going to lasso around the bottom of the plate to add that part to the selection. Now I've selected the opposite of what I need for this mask, so I need to invert the selection. I'm going to go up to Select > Inverse, then click on the Add Layer Mask icon at the bottom that looks like a card with a dark circle on it.

Now the sky only show through where there is white in the layer mask. Next up, we're going to extract some clouds that we can use to create a new sky for our plate.

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