A few months ago, I was excited to once again contribute to 3DArtist magazine. This time I was asked to write a piece involving set extensions, which of course means matte painting. I hired an actress and headed right out to shoot something that could be open to lots of different creative interpretations! The printed article (and what was offered for download) was limited by space, but I thought it was a fun tutorial so I really wanted to go over all the details here on the blog and take it even further.
I suppose I should state right up front that this course will not cover the actual creation of the painted elements. Also, those elements were not created inside of Blender. I used Photoshop for that, but Krita or Gimp would have worked just as well, so please use the one with which you are most comfortable.
This is a big one, so I hope you’ve got some time to spare. 11 video tutorials, most of them ranging from 15 to 40 minutes long, so it’s almost 5 hours of tutorials. You’ll definitely have to be familiar with Blender to follow along. I tried to move fast to keep the lengths of the videos down, but they still came out a bit longer than intended. Some things just take a bit of time. Hope that’s ok!
Here’s what the final shot is going to look like. Download the clip HERE.
For the magazine, I considered shooting a city street or something where we could extend the buildings upwards, which has always felt to me like the traditional set extension tutorial. But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do something where people would have a bit more flexibility in what was added to the scene. With a street full of buildings, sure, there’s a bit you can do to extend them upwards, but with a natural, wide exterior, the possibilities are really endless. So be creative, don’t feel obligated to use the matte painted elements I’m providing!
For example, maybe you would just add more things similar to what I’ve used, like a campsite or some distant smoke. Maybe you envision it more sci-fi, or maybe you would rather see a much bigger castle, or an army gathering for war. Maybe you would just rather see a completely different natural environment, like a lush forest with native temples peeking out of the treetops, or maybe our actress has stumbled upon her first sight of the distant ocean. Have fun with it! And of course, we can always do a city extension in the future if there’s a demand for it.
Let’s quickly run through the steps we’re going to take. We’re going to take our handheld footage and matchmove it first. Then we’ll use zero weighted tracks to help us reconstruct the set, which will make placing the 2D cards with the matte paintings very easy. Once those cards are placed, we’ll create a few 3D elements to help bring some life to the scene, including the infamous background birds. And finally, we’ll bring it all together in compositing, which is going to require some tricky matte creation for our actress and other plate elements that need to remain in front of the 2D cards.
So what do you think? Ready to dive in? Let’s get going!
- Canyon_set_extend_01 footage
- Matte painting elements & fabric texture
- Rendered CG fileset – birds
- Rendered CG fileset – fabric
- Project files
Right click the names of the tutorials to download the videos directly.
Tutorial 2 – Zero weighted tracks – Next we’ll drop in some trackers that don’t affect the solve but will help us visualize the location where the scene was shot.
Tutorial 3 – Building set geometry – Now we can use all those track points to create the basic geometry of the actual location. This will let us place our matte paintings on cards in the correct places throughout the scene.
Tutorial 4 – Bringing in the matte paintings – We’ll start bringing in the matte paintings and placing them, making sure they’re the correct scale and right where they need to be.
Tutorial 5 – Creating a 3D cloth element – To bring some life to the shot, we’re going to add a fabric overhang to the side of the hut.
Tutorial 6 – Birds! – No outdoor matte painted scene is complete without background birds! I’ll show you how to build a super quick, basic bird, rig it, and set it up as a particle system in the far background. (Bonus – watch me struggle in vain to get the particle birds correctly oriented in the scene! Shameful!)
Tutorial 7 – Compositing – We can finally start the compositing, which at this stage is pretty straightforward. Let’s keep it nicely organized, though, so it’s easy to follow what’s happening and make changes.
Tutorial 8 – Foreground matte & rotoscoping – Now we’ve got to do some rotoscoping and some creative alpha channel work to get some of those matte paintings integrated behind our actress and other foreground objects.
Tutorial 9 – More Foreground matte & rotoscoping – Here we’re continuing on with our use of the 3D matchmove and plane tracking to assist with the rotoscoping. Hopefully this technique gets you thinking of good ways to use tracking to help rotoscope other scenes you may work on in the future.
Tutorial 10 – Timelapse Rotoscoping – If you want to watch a short timelapse video of the actress being rotoscoped, you’ve come to the right place! Sped up 400%, which only reduces boredom by about 25%, strangely.
Tutorial 11 – Finaling – Lastly, we’ll make sure the compositing is all looking good, colors are matching nicely, and we’ll render our final shot.