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Matte paintings in movies need to make a comeback

Nymphae

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Just read this article titled
How the Original Star Wars Trilogy Fooled Everyone With Matte Paintings

I had no idea that many things from the OT were matte paintings. Makes sense I suppose, how else were you going to get that level of detail back then?

Where is this artistry today? Disney has all the fucking money in the world and for all that, can't hire a painter anymore. Not a lot from the ST stands out to me visually. New ship/character/world designs are seriously lacking.

Quoted the images below to save some space. What are some of your favourite movie matte paintings?

 
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kunonabi

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Under the Silver Lake has an amazing one. It's obvious, which is sort of the point of it, but it still looks fantastic.
 
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triplestation

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nobody gonna return to that unless there's a demand for the vintage look

and if there is demand for it, it's probably gonna be a quick trend if at all
 
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VysePSU

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I thought they still use matte paintings as a background layer before adding all of the render passes for the visual effects and color correction.
 

Nymphae

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The ability to photorealistically render interactive background perspectives has made this art all but obsolete
Sure, I mean I understand why this is used less nowadays. Likely cheaper to produce CGI, probably can be completed and revised faster, technically you can achieve even more detail.....but I dunno, these just look better to me. They have a glow to them, somehow they seem more real to me than computer rendered environments...perhaps because they are real things. I have always disliked the look of CGI. It has it's uses for sure, but movies with predominantly practical effect just feel better, and utilize a ton of creativity to get stuff that would be generally considered impossible to look real.
 

Darth

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Absolutely love these types of movies, miniatures, matter paintings, all of it. I need to go watch Flash Gordon again soon.
 
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Space Runaway

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Their effectiveness was always hit and miss but they did produce a certain artistic look for films which hasn't really been replicated for a number of reasons.

One that comes to mind Dick Tracy from 1990, which pushed for a live action version of the 30's(ish) comic strip.

The mattes didn't look very real yet that was fitting as they enhanced the fantastical look of the world:




 

Nymphae

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Their effectiveness was always hit and miss but they did produce a certain artistic look for films which hasn't really been replicated for a number of reasons.

One that comes to mind Dick Tracy from 1990, which pushed for a live action version of the 30's(ish) comic strip.

The mattes didn't look very real yet that was fitting as they enhanced the fantastical look of the world:




That movie looks so cool.

Early in the development of Dick Tracy, Beatty decided to make the film using a palette limited to just seven colors, primarily red, green, blue and yellow—to evoke the film's comic strip origins; furthermore each of the colors was to be exactly the same shade.
You can see this in the film, though I think they had to ease up a bit and allow some shade variance. But it really does help make it look more like a comic.
 

The Elite

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I imagine a lot of the high quality photography today will break the immersion of a matte painting these days. Your supposed to believe it's real and if you have a better option to make it look real you need to go with that.
 

Nymphae

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I imagine a lot of the high quality photography today will break the immersion of a matte painting these days. Your supposed to believe it's real and if you have a better option to make it look real you need to go with that.
I understand this point academically, but for example, something like the scene in A New Hope where Darth's ship enters in the big docking bay, and you have the hundreds of guards standing there while he walks by them, it never seemed fake to me. I think it still works and looks great today. I'm not like, oh there's a brushstroke! It's just believable. And it has an altogether different look and feel than the kinetic modern shots. I don't think it's as simple as just "well this one is more cost effective and technically provides better results", matte paintings have this quality about them that CGI has never been able to replicate, for me personally. I don't think I've ever been fooled by CGI might be a way to put it, it is so inherently fake looking, even with insane details at high resolution.
 

Gifmaker

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I understand this point academically, but for example, something like the scene in A New Hope where Darth's ship enters in the big docking bay, and you have the hundreds of guards standing there while he walks by them, it never seemed fake to me. I think it still works and looks great today. I'm not like, oh there's a brushstroke! It's just believable. And it has an altogether different look and feel than the kinetic modern shots. I don't think it's as simple as just "well this one is more cost effective and technically provides better results", matte paintings have this quality about them that CGI has never been able to replicate, for me personally. I don't think I've ever been fooled by CGI might be a way to put it, it is so inherently fake looking, even with insane details at high resolution.
First, there is no such scene in ANH. You are thinking of ROTJ.
Second, you have probably seen insane amounts of CGI in movies that you did not even realize was CGI at all. Trust me that you have definitely been fooled by CGI more often than you are aware of. And vice versa, you have probably seen a lot of things that you considered CGI, but would be surprised to find that they are actually miniatures and models. Movies' looks have changed, not because of CGI alone, but because of different cameras, lenses and lighting techniques, as well as digital vs film and stuff.

I get your overall point and matte paintings were a fantastic achievement for their time, but from a realistic POV, CGI has the upper hand. Matte paintings might be more pleasing artistically, but then again, artistic looks can be replicated digitally as well. It is just that digital effects usually aim for definite realism, whereas matte paintings tend to come across more artistic and surrealistic, but in the end, more artificial.
 
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Nymphae

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Gifmaker Gifmaker I was going to add that to my post, about there being rather mundane uses of CGI that do go by unnoticed. Absolutely sometimes it is very effective and the ideal tool for a scene or effect.
 
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dan76

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For matte painting to make a comeback they would have to start using film and optically compositing images again. It's a lost art. Digital has basically killed off a lot of traditional work in films. I've long thought they haven't made films better, just easier to make. Paintings are all done digitally, films are edited and coloured digitally, yet I would argue they don't look as good as the traditional way of lighting, shooting, editing and grading in film.

One of the worst things digital has done is fucked up the colour palette of most films. I tried to watch the most recent Bond movie and for about half an hour everything was just yellow. It looked like shit. in a digital film there is no such thing as true black, it seems beyond them.

Yeah, I wish matte paintings would make a comeback too.
 
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VysePSU

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One kind of CGI that usually goes unnoticed are invisible effects. If I remember correctly, in Spider-Man 3, actor J. K. Simmons is looking at blank pictures where Spider-Man is later added in digitally.
 
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VysePSU

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One of the worst things digital has done is fucked up the colour palette of most films. I tried to watch the most recent Bond movie and for about half an hour everything was just yellow. It looked like shit. in a digital film there is no such thing as true black, it seems beyond them.
That reminds me, I think Star Trek Beyond has one of the absolute worst, uninspiring color grading in any modern movie. Much of it is the usual teal and orange but I found it to be very distracting.

Older movies like Terminator 2 and Independence Day and any other movie released prior to 2005 looked more natural before movies like Mission Impossible 3 and Transformers donned the new look we see in most movies today. Coincidentally, this was during the advent of HDTVs and the Blu-ray/HD-DVD war, so maybe this was their way of selling high-definition movies to the average viewer.
 
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newtypepilot

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One kind of CGI that usually goes unnoticed are invisible effects. If I remember correctly, in Spider-Man 3, actor J. K. Simmons is looking at blank pictures where Spider-Man is later added in digitally.
This happens a LOT more than you think. Whenever a character is looking at a TV, phone, or some kind of monitor. 95% of the time the screen is green or blue and the footage is added in digitally.

source: works in the vfx industry.
 

#Phonepunk#

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This happens a LOT more than you think. Whenever a character is looking at a TV, phone, or some kind of monitor. 95% of the time the screen is green or blue and the footage is added in digitally.
yeah cos shooting screens is difficult. if you've ever seen footage of a CRT with slow black lines going up and down, you can see why. often the screen is outputting at a different frame rate or Hz than the camera you are using to capture, so it goes out of phase. easier to just matte it in.
For matte painting to make a comeback they would have to start using film and optically compositing images again. It's a lost art. Digital has basically killed off a lot of traditional work in films
not really on the first point, now that digital video is of high enough resolution, you can scan in physical art at high enough quality to be useful. digital video lived in a low res low bandwidth/storage ghetto for several decades, it is really only recently that making full use of analog materials even became possible. "Cuphead" is a good example of hand drawn art being used in digital media. it totally agree on your latter points though, this is a lost art. there are things you can do with painting that are impossible with realistic modelling. it allows for far wider range of expression. 3D modelling is reliant on lighting, cameras, space. painting or 2D art is only limited by your imagination.

here are several of my favorite mattes from film:



Raiders of the Lost Ark



Ghostbusters 2
 
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newtypepilot

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yeah cos shooting screens is difficult. if you've ever seen footage of a CRT with slow black lines going up and down, you can see why. often the screen is outputting at a different frame rate or Hz than the camera you are using to capture, so it goes out of phase. easier to just matte it in.

yes that's one of the reasons, but most of time it's mainly due to the element not ready or not finalized yet. And the fact comping it in post lets them make changes (which they always do) without an expensive reshoot.
 

VysePSU

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Alien is another good example. I really liked the atmosphere in that movie.



I remember watching Raiders of the Lost Ark and I don't think I ever picked up on the fact that they used a matte painting for the ending. Honestly, now that I think about it, that's probably why I like the original Star Wars trilogy. The look of the movies are so consistent that I never really thought about what was a still image or an actual set (though I did watch the making of documentary in the DVD collection).
 

MetalAlien

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Alien is another good example. I really liked the atmosphere in that movie.



I remember watching Raiders of the Lost Ark and I don't think I ever picked up on the fact that they used a matte painting for the ending. Honestly, now that I think about it, that's probably why I like the original Star Wars trilogy. The look of the movies are so consistent that I never really thought about what was a still image or an actual set (though I did watch the making of documentary in the DVD collection).
That's a model ship and landscape... but yea Alien is amazing.

Not all mattes were good though. Check out this stinker from Beyond Thunderdome.

 
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Nymphae

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A 380-foot-long matte painting provided the city backdrop as viewed from inside the Nakatomi building's 30th floor. It featured animated lights and other lighting techniques to present both moving traffic and day and night cycles. As of 2011, the painting is still in Fox's inventory and is sometimes used in other films.
I was wondering while watching if that was real or not, that's cool that it's one huge ass painting. I just find it awesome that this is how things used to be done.
 
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