We spoke a long time ago about the cyclorama which has been used on the set of Oblivion to create the background (article here), with different type of skies, clouds, etc… and also create the lighting on the set. This technique is commonly used now on Set through what we call Translight, or Translite. Imagine a very high resolution painting printed on a big canvas put behind your windows. There is nothing new in this. But now, imagine that you can also light it with different light setups, and have this canvas lighting the set, both the actors and the decor at the same time. You can then shoot all at once.
Imagine you can flip from a day version of this Translite to a night version and have the lighting of all the scene following naturally, then you start to see how useful that could be ! The implication are really important as you can save a lot of time in Matte Painting and Compositing, you can also, in case you would have to get CG elements in your scene, have a perfect representation of the lighting on Set. At the moment, the chrome and grey balls capture the lighting on the set. But if you are supposed to had a row of building or big trees around, it means the lighting on set would not be correct. With the translite, you already have in the scene what would affect the lighting on your set. The lighting ref you capture is way more accurate. This is why we see this technique used more and more often in Production.
Of course, I am talking about fixed background, perfect for windows views, etc… We usually are still using a green screen which we fill later in post prod, with an environment trying to match the lighting we have on set. With the translight, everything is solved at once and the director can shoot the scene with the background and the set living in the same lighting.
I think it is crucial for Digital Matte Painting and Environments in general to look at this technique, as at the moment, the translight are mostly created from high res photographs. If you want to represent a Sci-Fi background, then you would have to create this BG first, as a dynamic matte painting which can flip from day to night, or sunset.
Here is a video explaining how Translight works. It is really efficient, as you will see.