Filmmaking Basics/Matte Painting/SpaceStation Intro

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This school is:
Wikiversity Film School - Narrative film production
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This course is:
The basics of narrative filmmaking
This lesson is:
Lesson: Creating a matte painting
Pages of this Lesson:
Introduction to Matte Painting

Assignment #1 - using Art Rage Free or Adobe Photoshop or the free GIMP or Corel Painter:

1A - Matte Painting for "Seduced by the Dark Side!"
1B - Building your own starter pages (optional)

Assignment #2 - using Tux Paint:

2A - Matte Painting for "Out For A Walk"
2B - Starter page sets for Tux Paint
2C - Building your own starter page set for Tux Paint (optional)

Which paint program?
Matte painting Out for a Walk.png
Simple enough for kids
For this assignment, you can use any paint program you want. Many people like ArtRage FREE. The illustration to the right done by Tunderboy9 with ArtRage.
For kids, the most fun art program is TuxPaint.
So here is an assignment what is easy enough for kids 5 years old to do (once their teacher has download the starter pages and placed them in the correct folder.)
Baby Tux crop mask.png Matte Painting with Tux Paint
Sample Illustration in TuxPaint.png

Easy for kids

Tux Paint
Tux Paint is a free painting program for kids which has special advantages for doing matte paintings.
  • Tux Paint has starter pages. These are pages that can be used by many students in a classroom situation where kids share the same computer.
  • Tux Paint has protected areas. To create protected areas, the starter page has two parts -- the protected area mask and the background picture. Kids will find it very easy to create a matte painting.
Mistakes are impossible
For this assignment, the completed part of the movie set is protected so kids will not paint over the good parts of the shot. Therefore, it is extremely easy for kids to paint a matte painting since they can never make mistakes. Kids can paint all they want and they will not accidently cover up the protected area.


Last shot of "Out For A Walk"

Matte painting to end this scene
Here is the final shot of the scene called "Out For A Walk" which you saw in the lesson on film dailies.
The movie set is not complete. It is supposed to be a huge space station in deep space. But really, it is just a movie set in Burbank, California. You need to create a matte painting.
The Camera Movement
In this shot, the camera moves. Because this scene takes place in outer space, this cannot be a real camera. Therefore we make our matte painting very large and create the effect of the camera moving. Using a compositing program such as Adobe AfterEffects, you can use a matte painting to create the effect of zooming out into space.
So for the final shot, the scene starts with a shot of just the window. Then the camera moves back to show the window on the huge space ship. Wow!
Therefore, the matte painting must be large -- as large as possible. The size of the matte painting determines how much of a zoom effect we get.

Sample Matte Painting 2 cropped.png → → → Sample Matte Painting 2.png

This is the zoom out shot.

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Quick Start

For this lesson, you need to
  • Download the correct pair of pictures (starter) and put them into the STARTERS folder in Tux Paint.
  • Create matte painting for both scene.

Tux Paint Resources Folder.png
Out For A Walk 1024 768.png
This is the mask for the matte painting
Out For A Walk 1024 768-back.png
This is the background for the matte painting

Space Station Images

The images you use depends on the size of your computer screen. The larger, the better!

Tux Paint has a setup program which allows you to specify the window size of Tux Paint. You need to make it as large as will fit on your computer screen.

Storyboard movie set

On the next page, you can select the correct set of pictures for your computer. Click on the images to see the original. Download this pictures from Wikiversity and place the the correct folder in Tux Paint.

Basic information


Only half a movie set

Half real; half matte painting
A matte painting is a painting which completes a movie set. Only half of the movie set is built. This is the half of the movie set where the actors are. The other half (where the actors never go) is simply painted. That is the matte painting.
Using a matte painting is not the same as a blue screen or green screen where all of the movie set is replaced by a painting, photograph, or 3D model. Instead, a matte painting extends the physical movie set beyond the area where the actors are. The painting completes the movie set.
The second cheapest optical illusion in filmmaking
This means that a matte painting is an optical illusion. You build half the movie set and then you paint the rest of the movie set. Therefore, this illusion is very inexpensive yet the actors are able to interact with a physical movie set.
Look to the right at the half-finished movie set. Part of the movie set is gorgeous. The rest is just scrap lumber and empty space. Your job is to replace the ugly part (the unfinished part) with a painting. Your painting should be a space station in outer space.

The physical movie set

Out For A Walk still frame.png

A sample frame

Here is a sample frame from a the video clip which is 320 by 240.

You can see the film clip on the disk from the Star Movie Shop called "24 Unedited Scenes". This scene is called "Out for a Walk".

Actors in deep space

Sample Matte Painting 600 800.png

The matte painting

The complete movie set

Here is the final matte painting. This is the movie set combined with the matte painting.

All around the actual movie set, you see the imaginary world of the matte painting. You see still see the original movie set but now it is inside a painted movie set which, in this case, is an entire exterior of a space station.

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The next page

For your next page, you can get a quick start using Tux Paint (a fun kids program) to create a matte painting.

Contact your instructor

Your instructor for this filmmaking class is Robert Elliott. You can email me by clicking here. Crystal Clear app xfmail.png