Join Seán Duggan for an in-depth discussion in this video Create surreal scenes with the Matter app, part of Mobile Photography Weekly.
- Hey, everybody, Sean here. And, you know, one of the things that I really love about science fiction films is when they create a beautifully surreal landscape with strange, futuristic structures. And when I found an app that would let me do that with my own photos on my iPhone and export still images and hypnotic animations, I bought my ticket right away. Today on Mobile Photography Weekly we're going to take a look at this really cool app for iOS called Matter. So let's get started just by checking out some photos that I've already modified using the Matter app.
So Matter will let you choose from a range of different three-dimensional objects that you can place into your images. There are some basic object collections that come with the app, and you can also purchase additional packs. The objects can be sized and rotated any way you like, and there are different surface characteristics that you can choose that interact with the details in your photo. You can also add a color to an object and adjust shadows that are cast by the object. And you can create a custom mask to control how the object is placed into your image.
You can export out still images of your Matter creations, or as you see here, a looping video of the object in motion. So let's dive in here. Matter is made by a company called Pixite, and they have a lot of really cool apps for imaging and graphics. I'm going to open up this shot here of a geothermal area in Iceland. And right away Matter will place an object in there. So if you can't see what's going on, as is the case here, I'm going to use a two-finger gesture to size that smaller.
And you can see that I've got a strange, bisected cube in there. So apropos, resizing and rotating the elements, just use two fingers to make it larger or smaller. Use two fingers to drag it to place it in a different spot. And you can use a single finger to rotate either horizontally or vertically or diagonally. Before we dive in too much deeper, let me just also point out the Random button. That's this little button that is two crossed-over arrows there, and that will randomize the object and its treatment.
So this here is part of an alphabet pack that's available. Hit that again. And, you know, you get very graphic treatments almost like wire frames here and things that look a little bit more photographic. To change your objects there's a little menu down here in the middle. You can change objects, or you can come to this little menu button on the left side, and that's where you can access object packs. Now, not all of these are available with the app when you purchase the app. Some of these are additional in-app purchases.
They only cost about $2 or $3. I think I probably purchased most of them just because they're pretty cool. I'm going to go into the Primitive Objects. This is one that comes with the app. And I'm going to come down here and choose a ring. There we go, this kind of thin ring here. And let me just going to rotate this around so we can have this floating up here. And before I get any further, let me just demonstrate the video capabilities. If you tap the triangle in the upper right and just go into video, there you can choose a video motion.
You can change the rotation, the speed. You can have it pulse or hover. You can even add music and have the object react to beats in the music. So, pretty cool. I'm not going to do a video here. I'm just going to cancel out of that. Next let's talk about the shadows. So if I drag on the shadow, I can move it around and have it placed in a different area of the image. And obviously, that's important if you want to match it to shadows that are already in the scene, such as we have here. Another cool control is the Shadow Floor.
So to demonstrate that, let me actually just change the placement of this ring a bit here. And let's just kind of have this kind of off to the side, something like that. Looks good. Okay, there we go. So with the Shadow Floor, if I tap back on Shadow and I move this slider, that controls how close to the object the shadow is. So, obviously, if it's far away and the object's up high, it's going to look like it's floating. But watch what happens if I bring the Shadow Floor up. It looks like this object is sort of coming out of the snow and is actually embedded in the ground.
So that looks really cool, and that is actually kind of a look that I want to work with here. So let me go back to the Object mode so I can just adjust this to where it fits. Something like that looks pretty good. Go back to Shadow. And now I want to drag the shadow so it looks like it's matching the shadow that's already in place here. So something like that looks pretty good. I'm going to go and tap on Shadow Opacity, 'cause I do want the shadow to be a little bit darker just to match the shadow that's already there.
There we go, that looks good. And then the other shadow control I have is Shadow Blur, and I'm not going to worry about changing that right now. The other thing you can do in here is you can come in and change the Style. There's a lot of different styles you could choose from. Sometimes exploration is really the best way to figure out what works for the project you're working on. Notice also there's an option here to change the color. That's that little three-colored circles. And you can even add an image inside the object. So that's that little, what looks like a Polaroid picture with a plus symbol in it.
You can add an image in there. I'm not going to do that with this picture, but towards the end here I have a couple of examples to show you where I did use those two features. Alright, let's move over to the Masking mode, 'cause I want to make it look as if the plume of steam here is passing in front of the metallic ring there on the far side. So I have three different brushes I can use. I've got the Hard Brush here, the Soft Brush, or a Square Brush. I'm going to use a Soft Brush. I'm going to leave it set to the Eraser mode that's already selected.
When you're in the Masking mode, a two-finger gesture allows you to zoom up on the image. So I'm going to just get my Soft Brush and paint over there to mask out the metallic object. So it looks as if it is behind the plume of steam. So there we go, that looks pretty good. Now if you make a mistake and go too far like I just did there on the bottom, just switch to the draw tool and paint it back. So nothing is ever deleted here. It's just masked out.
So that looks pretty good. I like the way that that's looking. So I'm going to now just save that, so I'll tap on the little triangle in the upper right. Choose Export. And I'll Save that out to the phone. Now another interesting option here that you should be aware of is the Add Object button. What that will allow you to do is essentially flatten down the object that you've already added. So you won't be able to edit it anymore. But it will duplicate that object and all of its attributes such as Shadow, Styles, Surface, Textures, et cetera.
And then you can have a second object in there or a third or a fourth if you choose to add more. Let's go take a look at an image where I have added in another object. So here you can see I have added in two different objects. The one on the left has had some masking to make it appear as if it is behind the embankment on the side of the road. And the one on the right was just adjusted using the Shadow Floor. But you can see that the object which had a solid style applied to it just looks kind of very flat and plastic and digital.
It doesn't look real at all. So what I did was I took a texture that I created from a Hipstamatic Tintype photograph just of a blank background. And I turned up the contrast and made it a little bit more gritty in Snapseed, and I used that to add that texture into the objects in the Matter app. So you can see that looks a lot more convincing there now. I also added in a color in the Style section to make this the sort of structure appear to be a little bit brownish, maybe suggesting rust or just age from being out in the desert all that time.
And then keep in mind that you can also take what you've done in Matter and then bring it into another app for further styling. So here you can see a version that I took into Snapseed. I applied a foreground blur. I added a look to it to create an interesting color style. And I also added some grain just to tie everything together and make it look like it was all part of the same photograph. So Matter is not one of those apps that you're going to be using on a daily basis. But, it's great if you want to explore creating surreal scenes where you can add three-dimensional objects that interact with the photo.
When combined with what you can do in other apps, you can get some really cool results. Check out the Matter Instagram feed for inspiration and to see how other people are using this very interesting app.