Matte Painting Feedback – Mars

Kammka on Reddit sent me an environment shot he’s done to get some feedbacks on it. I wanted to record a video, but as I couldn’t find the time to properly seat at my desk with a microphone, I decided to write the feedbacks in a post.
So Kammka’s project was to reproduce a shot inspired by Martian, you know, this wonderful shots of Mars’s surface, very moody, which I believe have been done mainly by MPC (but I might be wrong, so no offense…)

 First of all, I must say that the shot works technically. The length is good, the camera move is all right, could probably has been better but we’ll come back on this later. You probably could have given the impression the environment is even bigger.
So technically, I think it looks ok and probably has been a very good exercise to practice DMP and projection in Nuke ! And I encourage every Matte Painter to do this sort of exercise 🙂

Now, I’m going to focus on the DMP itself, the painting, because I think there are few things that could be improved.


First, the light direction and the sky don’t match enough. The light is coming from the screen right, as you can tell by looking at the mountain, or the shadow of the element on the ground. The light on the main mountain is fine, but my issue is that if you look at the sky, it’s brighter on the left than on the right.
If you want to imply the light is coming from SR (screen right), then you should probably have the brightest section of your sky on the same side. That would add a bit of consistency.


My second comment would be that there is a wall in the composition, preventing the eye to travel from the foreground to the background. It kind of blocks the perspective, which is a shame because the artist probably wanted to create a lot of distance in this vista.
Try to compose the mountains in a way you can represent the Z as well, and let the eye moving in the distance.
As you had a wall, you’ve had to raise the distant mountains so we can see them, which makes them now very tall. If you had wanted to add another layer of distant mountains, they would have had to be even taller.
So try to create openings so you can travel in the distance by staying on the same level
Pushed to the extreme, that’s the sort of things I’m talking about


By forcing the “valley” style, you automatically creates some distance.
You don’t have to go that far, of course, but adding a couple of openings and overlaps could be nice.
For example, on this shot I’ve done for Thor 2, we had this question of creating a wall of mountains but keep the feeling of opening. Here is what I’ve done.


So we have the feeling of a wall, but we also have the feeling of distance with the way I’ve created openings, and played with the haze and overlap.

I would also suggest to bring a bit of the texture of the big mountains into the smaller one. At the moment, they don’t necessarily feel they live in the same environment. The rock is probably quite similar in an area of this size, so you could just add a bit of this rocky texture in the smoother mountains around it, just to link everything nicely.

I come back now a bit on the shot itself and the camera move. The scale of the whole scene makes it feel a bit small. You probably would have improved the sense of scale by having a bigger environment, shot from a more distant camera, with a longer lens. The rocket especially would not have moved so quickly, and would not have slided so much on the distant mountain. The parallax is too important at the moment and  give the impression we are dealing with a miniature. Try to just change your shot camera, increase the focal lens, put it further away and have a slower move (don’t cover that much distance). You want to see the ground sliding, but not so much the BG which should be almost fixed.

This is a picture from The Martian, the film.


Look how naturally it feels. You will notice my comment about the sky, which is brighter on the side where the light is coming from, and with nice openings and overlaps that makes your eye travelling from the foreground to the background.
You feel how big the environment is.

This is a great exercise you’ve done Kammka and that is good work ! I’m just giving you these feedbacks to try to help !

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