What does a digital matte painting (DMP) artist do?
A digital matte painter paints believable, photo-realistic environments and backdrops (interiors and exteriors) on a computer that seamlessly replaces live-action elements and/or improves existing live-action footage for films and TV series. They can also paint backgrounds for video games and game cinematics. Matte painters work with several types of content: live-action footage, digital still photography, CG elements, and digital painting software.
Digital matte painter job description
Digital matte painting is a cross-disciplinary role that straddles the border of 2D and 3D and requires an understanding of working in both mediums. DMP artists will work closely with the CG environment artists with a strong commitment to teamwork and technical level.
Role and responsibilities of a DMP artist in film and games:
Create digital paintings of photo-realistic environments based on concept art and/or photo reference
Understand all aspects of digi-matte workflow and know how to combine 2D and 3D elements
Experience working with shoot data; including photographic and reference data, HDRIs, and photogrammetry
- Setup, image re-projection, and apply atmospherics and light effects.
Assist with and develop the look of a shot/sequence in liaison with the supervision team
Work in partnership with CG environment artists and compositors to ensure shots are delivered to the very highest standard
Seek out and build photographic reference material
Continue to become familiar with new tools, software, data, and other related technology
Skills required to become a digital matte painter for film and games
Along with being able to paint realistic backgrounds and environments, digital matte painters must have at least a basic knowledge of modeling, layout, lighting, rendering, and compositing, as well as a strong understanding of all facets of CG production including color theory and LUT. A strong understanding and sympathy for real-world materials and lighting are essential.
Film and game companies may look for the following skills in a DMP artist:
- Strong knowledge of matte painting techniques including color space, digital paint techniques, and Photoshop file management (be it file format, bit-depth resolution, or appropriate layering of elements)
- Demonstrable experience integrating matte paintings into 3D environments using Maya and/or Nuke
- Possess a strong understanding of light, color, and perspective
- Possess excellent artistic communication skills, as well as an excellent eye for detail
- Flexibility to produce concept art from scratch
- Solid knowledge and understanding of visual effects pipelines, production, and implementation
- Good knowledge and ability with perspective, color, and value matching
- Good knowledge of camera focal lengths and composition
- Knowledge of film resolution and aspect ratios
- A good understanding of 2D and 3D workflows within a feature film environment
- Business Systems Experience
- Expert working knowledge of Photoshop
What software and tools do DMP artists use?
Digital matte painters work with a selection or combination of 2D and 3D software, primarily working in Adobe Photoshop or similar.
Digital matte painters may need knowledge of a combination of the following software:
- Adobe Photoshop
- 3D Studio Max
How much does a DMP artist make?
The average wage of a DMP artist is about USD 67,528 for a junior position to upwards of USD 93,342 for a senior position. (Source: Glassdoor)