Digital Matte Painting Essentials 1: Concept
Illustration by John Hersey

Prepping the plate


From:

Digital Matte Painting Essentials 1: Concept

with David Mattingly

Video: Prepping the plate

Let's take a lot at the plate we'll be working over for this project. If you're a lynda.com premium member, you'll have access to all of the files I use to create this project. If you're not a premium member, you'll still have access to the Photoshop plate and to the movie file we'll be compositing our final castle into. Before starting this tutorial, you should download the exercise files to your desktop then double click on the folder to open it. The first folder 1 concept contains all of the exercise files for the first section. The first file in this folder is ConceptFinal.psd, which is my final concept painting.

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Watch the Online Video Course Digital Matte Painting Essentials 1: Concept
1h 40m Beginner Jul 29, 2013

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Learn to create new worlds, both fanciful and totally realistic, in our series on digital matte painting in Adobe Photoshop with David Mattingly, a matte artist for many groundbreaking motion pictures such as Tron and I, Robot. In this installment, he shows you how to set up your palettes and workspace, tone the underlying plate, create silhouettes in your background, and paint in light and other details. Plus, learn to paint waterfalls, smoke, and other elements that make for fascinating movie backdrops.

Topics include:
  • Setting up your Photoshop workspace
  • Toning the plate with adjustment layers
  • Examining transfer modes
  • Finding the silhouette
  • Drawing internal forms
  • Creating a custom brush for clouds
  • Painting the sky
Subjects:
3D + Animation Design
Software:
Photoshop
Author:
David Mattingly

Prepping the plate

Let's take a lot at the plate we'll be working over for this project. If you're a lynda.com premium member, you'll have access to all of the files I use to create this project. If you're not a premium member, you'll still have access to the Photoshop plate and to the movie file we'll be compositing our final castle into. Before starting this tutorial, you should download the exercise files to your desktop then double click on the folder to open it. The first folder 1 concept contains all of the exercise files for the first section. The first file in this folder is ConceptFinal.psd, which is my final concept painting.

You should look at this when you're done with this section. The second file is Plates.mov, which is the movie we'll be compositing our final castle into. Double-click on the movie and let's take a look at it. This is a piece of high definition footage that I shot in the Virgin Islands and it's a beautiful coastline with some waves crashing in on it. We're not going to be able to work on this moving footage, so we need to copy out a single representative frame to paint over in Photoshop. So, stop on a frame that you like and Cmd+C to copy that frame out of QuickTime. Then return to Photoshop and press Cmd or Ctrl+N to create a new document. And by default, Photoshop opens up a document that's same size as the copied file.

In this case 1920 by 1080, which is the same size as the high definition movie file. Under color mode, you'll want to choose 16 bit which is that supercharged color space I mentioned before. Then press OK and then Cmd or Ctrl+V to paste the single frame of the movie file into your Photoshop document. Next, you're going to want to double the size of your Photoshop document. This will allow you to work at twice the size of your movie file and add lots of detail to your castle. Go up to Image > Image Size and make sure Re-sample Image is checked. In the width drop down, choose Percent rather than Inches. Change the height and width to 200%.

Now your file size is 3840 pixels by 2160. Press OK. Press Cmd or Ctrl+Minus key so that you can see the whole plate. Since you doubled the size of the video footage, it's now softer than what you should work over. I've provided you with a high resolution reference file that was shot at the same time. Reference.cr2. The CR2 file format is Camera Raw. A special file format with a much richer color environment than a standard JPEG photo.

That's because it gives you access to that 16 bit mode I mentioned before. Double-click on Reference.cr2 to open up the Camera Raw control panel. First, pull the Exposure slider to the left. You need to make sure that none of the whites on the wave tops are blown out or completely white. Click in the bottom center of the window to open up the Workflow Options. Under Depth, the default is 8 bits a channel, but I want you to choose 16 bits a channel.

Then under size, I want you to choose the native resolution of the camera sensor, which is 21 Mega Pixels. Press Ok to accept it all, and open image. And then the file opens in Photoshop. Select all, which is Cmd or Ctrl+A. Return to the file that contains the single frame from the movie. Before we paste in the high resolution reference from the Camera Raw file, let's add some room at the top for the sky. Go to the top menu and choose Image > Canvas size. And then you're going to change the height to add more room for the sky. I'm going to change it to 3024 pixels.

Since I only want to add room at the top, I need to click on this down arrow. That way it'll only add pixels to the top. Click OK. Now remember you still have that high resolution 16 bit photo in the clip board. Press Cmd or Ctrl+V to paste it into this plate. If you turn the visibility on and off by clicking on the eyeball to the left of the layer, you can see the two photos are not lining up. Press Cmd or Ctrl+T to invoke the Transform tool, scale and reposition the two layers until they line up. When it looks pretty good, hit the Return key to accept the transformation. In order to not have that band of white at the top, invoke the Marque tool, either from the toolbar or by pressing the M key.

Draw a Marquee right around the top sliver of the sky. Press Cmd or Ctrl+J to copy that section out. Then press Cmd or Ctrl+T to invoke the Transform tool again and transform that section up to cover up all the white. We now have a lot of extra pixels outside of the border of our image, so we need to apply a crop to this. Invoke the Crop tool by pressing the C key, then make sure that the Delete Cropped Pixels box at the top is checked. Press the Return key twice to accept the crop.

Then merge all of these layers together by selecting them all and pressing Cmd or Ctrl+E. The reason we went through this process is we want our high resolution file that we're going to paint over. To match the video footage that we're going to be compositing the castle into. You can either save and use the file we just created, or go to the Linda.com course materials and open up the file plate.psd. Either one will work as the prepared plate for us to paint over for our castle concept.

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