The American Art of the Matte Painting, Research Paper Example
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A History from Stage to Screen
The worth of background art in most films plays a great role in defining the meaning that is being sent through the each scene that the movie presents. In the history of the developing era of the American movies, it could be analyzed that the course of advancement from having plain movie backgrounds to utilizing particular images to enhance message has been an evolving element of the presentation of message through films. Through this particular evolution, it has been realized how background plays a great role in developing the story line and how the audiences could relatively connect with the entire film’s message. As a form of art, each film is expected to be established under a particular message that is supposed to be realized by the audience it targets to reach. In this case, background becomes a form of art that has a lot of value for the development of a movie’s overall worth (Rickitt, 144).
Painting is basically an art that represents the thinking of the creator or the artist. In movies, the story plots and the division of scenes does more than just send out the thoughts of the creator but instead it makes a great impact on how the entire film shall be given meaning by the audience. In this case, the backdrop or the background of each scene tells so much about a particular situation in a film. What the background says about the environment has a great impact on how the actors would react on the given situation and thus create a reaction on the part of the viewers themselves.
From being just a mere panting of huge scenarios, matte painting became an important element that created the foundation of the development of the American movies. Relatively, such condition of advancement has made it easier for the people to see through the condition of the changing times and how each social scenario is presented on films. Enhancing not only the presentation but the message of each movie, such backdrops make it easier for viewers to understand the how[s] and the why[s] of the reactions of the actors in the film. What makes such reactions more meaningful is the way by which the background specifically brings out the reason behind each turn of event. Such process of presentation enhancement creates a massive impact on how the definition of American film has changed through the years. The context of this research shall be focused on further creating a definition that specifically mandates the real importance of matte painting in improving the visual worth of each movie.
Matte Painting: Defined
Location is an important aspect of filmmaking. The area where a scene is defined to be occurring often creates a great impact on the value of the story being presented (Rickitt, 154). The actors may be able to act, however, without the existence of a specifically defined location where the scenes are shot, some stories might be confusing enough for the audience to understand. To make each turn of a movie’s story realistic for the audience to appreciate, it is important that the locations are realistic enough for the viewers to see. However, with the hope of making each scene realistic, transferring from one location to another becomes not only a hard part of the task but also an expensive process to consider in relation to filmmaking. In the aim of providing the viewers with utmost satisfaction through increasing the realistic value of each film being presented to them, matte painting has been introduced to the industry. Basically, a matte painting is defined as a visual representation of a landscape painted on a wide screen of glass or canvas that is utilized as an overall background for a particular scene in a film. It has been observed that through this approach, more filmmakers are able to control the cost of expenses especially when it comes to producing movies to be presented to the public. Nevertheless, through the years, it could be realized that the evolution of filmmaking has changed and this has definitely affected the advancement of the creation and utilization of matte painting as a form of scene background.
History behind Matte Painting
Projection is an important aspect of movie presentation. In the aim of projecting the right message, the image of the background pays so much value in relation to the worth of the entire film as a representation of a particular theme or topic in relation to human-defined aspects of meaning. Utilizing the matte painting as a source of increased value of movie production the importance of background projection has been better defined. It was in 1907 when the first matte painting has been created by Norman Dawn of ASC for the backdrop of the movie Missions of California (Barron, 54). What he did was to improvise a scene where the California skyline is supposed to crumble. Later on, such developments in graphical enhancement in movies were also adapted in movies such as The Wizard of Oz, Citizen Kane and Star Wars.
Such backdrops were mainly created on glass and/or canvas depending on what the production managers decide to use. Most often than not, it was the glass-based matte painting that attracted the attention of most producers. This form of background simply creates an illusion of both space and the continuum of the scenario being represented. Glass-based matte paintings allowed for light to pass through the images making each background more realistic to the eyes of the viewers (Rickitt, 156). On the other end, canvas-based matte painting appeared to be more solid hence is used when solid backgrounds are called for. The main value that makes up a matte painting’s worth of contribution to the overall presentation of the movie is that of its capability to copy an actual landscape and retain its life through color hues and glass or canvas backdrop. The indicative condition by which the audience envisions the reality through the said images makes up the overall value of the movie as a good presentation of both message and imagination of the creators of the film. Observably, through the years, movie making has been based upon the different conditions by which the viewers intend to seek particular elements of satisfaction from the movies they tend to see. Relatively, to make greater appeal to the viewers they intend to serve and increase the satisfaction they have on the films they watch at the same time, movie producers hope to create specific adjustments allowing the viewers to see more than what they expect. In relation to advancements, the capacity of movies to adjust the condition of development in the film actually relay their capability to become more connected to their viewers. Labeled as form of special effect, matte painting has become one of the most important elements that improve movies as a form of special effect (Rickitt, 157). Relatively, it is through the development of this particular industry that makes a distinctive course of definition that made it easier for movie producers to capture not only the worth of the stories but also the appeal of the audiences. Through this industry, several artists have been given way and their works specifically considered as the foundation of the developments of movie graphics and special effects.
How an Art Enhances the Value of another Art
Art as it is is considered as a form of expression. Through the years, there are different conditions by which the message of artists is being sent out to their target audiences. Some chose writing, some chose songs, however, visual art is one among the most effective forms of expressing one’s self especially in relation to the kind of appeal that most artists want to get from the people who they hope would appreciate their work. Among the most flourishing forms of visual arts that has been introduced to the human society ever since the early 1900s is that of the creation of movies and films that reflect the realities of life. Ever since the introduction of such form of artistic expression, humans have become more interested in seeing how much reality is carried into each film being produced for audience appreciation. Most often than not, the more realistic the presentations are, the more effective they are in getting the attention of the viewers.
On the other end, getting the attention of the viewers is not that easy. This is especially true when it comes to the assumption of the behavior of the viewers as a whole. The question on how much the audience expectation is met is basically a source of specific tension among movie producers. Relatively, getting to what they most appeal to would ensure not only the movie’s quality, but also that of the profit that could be gained from producing it. In a desire to make each moment of the scenes count for the entire movie presentation, movie creators look towards the possibility of expanding their resources and choosing more practical conditions of work operations that could define them and their craft at the same time. This is the reason why three particular artists in this genre specifically made a name in the industry. These three artists include Norman Dawn, Albert Whitlock and Peter Ellenshaw. Through relatively examining their works, the past, present and future developments of matte painting shall be better defined through this research.
First to note is that of Norman Dawn. Given the 2D aspect of visual representation during the early 1900s, Norman Dawn decided to bring his artistic talent into higher levels of recognition (Vaz, 212). Using glass as a basic groundbreaking element for his work, he has tried to change the practical elements that make up a regular painted artwork into becoming a basis of scenario presentation in movies.
(Source: 50 Greatest Matte Paintings)
Here, Norman Dawn could be seen not only as an artist but as an inventor and discoverer of the modern movie industries. It could be analyzed that through the years, Norman Dawn’s vision of a film that is better defined through graphical enhancements have been developed from picturing the reality to creating a vivid visualization of the almost impossible scenes dedicated to creating Sci-fi movies. Coming from the silent era’s blossoming years, Dawn was able to create a phenomenon that made the movie industry hoping for more as they intend to bring the audiences’ viewing satisfaction into higher levels of excitement (Vaz, 220). The glass shot, as popularized by Dawn himself, became a great source of confidence among movie creators as they explore the possibility of extending their course of development especially when it comes to manifesting a good depiction of what was a good background apart from what was relatively realistic in appearance. Shooting through a glass shot allowed more freedom for filmmakers which was relatively in low-grade distinction when it comes to matte painted backgrounds. Nevertheless, matte painting was still considered by historians of the movie industry as the basic foundation of modern movie-graphic art.
How then is a matte painting shot to be incorporated into the film? Basically, the process begins with the idea of putting the film at a limited exposure. The artist who is making the background painting would then set up a large plate of clear glass, which would be situated as set-up in front of the camera (Jones, 34). There, a particular form of scenery would be painted according to the directions of the director in relation to how he would like to enhance the scene to where the painting would be used as background. A particular area of the glass [serving as canvas for the painting] would be left unpainted for the sake of filming the actors along with the capturing of the matte scenery being places as a background to the presentation.
To make the filming more effective and specifically on proper timing, some directors choose to take still photos that would be reeled in alongside the overall recorded film with the matte painting used as a specific background for different scenarios involving the same backdrop. This would allow the production process easier to handle and less costly to pursue. With this implicative add on to the movie-creation, producers have the choice to become more vivid or even at some point exaggerated as they desire in presenting the plots of the story they wish to show to the target audience.
(Source: 50 Greatest Matte Paintings)
Other names in the industry that made a great impact on how matte painting is embedded within a particular filmmaking procedure include Emilio Ruiz Del Rio. Seen in the photograph below are Ray Harryhausen and matte painter Emilio Ruiz Del Rio who created the walled city for a fantasy film that was produced under the title The Golden Voyage of Sinbad. The creation of this matte painting was rather tedious in a way that it was first created in aluminum then cut out and placed in front of the camera for a direct shot. Observe how the castle was placed from one location to another and how such change in the background of the castle affects its overall presentation based on the different angles that the actors are supposed to be shot from.
Another well-celebrated name in the industry is Peter Ellenshaw who specifically spearheaded his career through creating the backdrop for the movie Mary Poppins in 1964. Through the entire film, matte painting by Ellenshaw played a great role especially in relation to how the condition of the actors radically changed from one scene to another with the consideration on the fact that Mary Poppins had to appear to be flying on several shots of the film.
This photograph of Mary Poppins specifically shows how realistic the London skyline appeared to be in the movie. In this particular shot, Julie Andrews [the actress playing Mary Poppins] was matted into the scenario after shooting the matte painting first.
Cliff Culley is another name that could be recognized as somewhat extraordinary in the field of matte painting. Relatively, Pinewood Studios took his services for the production of the movie Khartoum in 1966. During the time, he was asked to create vision of a desert-city. Utilizing the inspiration he got from Albert Whitlock and Peter Melrose, Cliff turned his matte painting into a grand presentation of the vast desert of Arabia and how it appeared to be a great city of wealth in the film. Saluting the classical works of Whitlock and Melrose, Cliff was able to capture the imagination of Basil Dearden [the director of the film] an place it in a realistic backdrop that was used in almost at least 70% of the entire film’s representation of scenarios.
The turnaround of film themes from classical realism and fantasy to sci-fi stories made way for artists such as Mark Sullivan. Being head of ILM’s matte department, using oil painting on glass allowed him to improve plain matte painting into well-lit backgrounds that could be changed from time to time.
From this image, Mark Sullivan could be seen to be completing the painting for Ghostbusters II and how the same matte painting was used repeatedly through the entire film simply changing appearance through the use of adjusted background lighting.
On the other end, mobility of matte painting has become the basis of development that Warner Brothers took into consideration. In producing the film Rhapsody in Blue in 1945, the network welcomed the artistic talent of Robert Alda and the excellent photo shoot techniques that George Gershwin is known for and utilized both elements of unique excellence in creating a mobilized matte shooting. Each scene was captured frame by frame allowing the entire scenario appearing to be moving.
In this image, the frame-by-frame technique of shooting the piano, the player and the entire auditorium through a matte painted art created a sense of space and population into this particular scenario of the movie. Observably, the special effects of creating particular drop areas and shadow-defined sections of the captured images allowed for a more systematic process of representing the entire event that is being considered in this particular situation in the movie.
The Love Bug of 1968 was a distinctive movie produced by Disney Productions. With the use of several dozens of matte shots, painters Alan Maley and Jim Fetherolf were able to capture the imagination that is being presented by Robert Stevenson [the director]. The artworks were defined as nocturnal and striking. Utilizing different levels of distance-depicting hues, the matte paintings created for this film allowed the changing of scenes to be radical enough hence suggesting a continuous transition of one specific scenario towards another. One of the remarkable matte paintings used for the film is presented below:
this painting specifically shows the New York skyline at night. Observe how a distinctive blurring of the farther elements of the painting created an illusion of both distance and the mist of rain for the entire scenario on which this matte painting is used for.
The Sting, a movie released by George Roy Hill in 1973 highlights the work of Albert Whitlock. Shown herein is a shot of Whitlock at work with his masterpiece for the said film. Observably, the matte painting shown herein is divided into two sections allowing the capturing of the matte painting and the actors playing their roles easier to match up together. The rows of buildings are separately created from the train way which is at the forefront of the said creation.
As presented through this section of the development of creating and utilizing matte painting as base background for most films, the changes that occurred in the industry through time intended to follow the desires of the viewers as the primary audience served by the said industry of modern media art. What more could be extended from this particular industry is shown through research on the section that follows.
The Future of Matte Painting
Given that there are already several developments in the field of modern technology, matte painting, its creation and its utilization in film creation is also expected to develop. With the theme of movie creations changing through time, the ways by which matte painting is treated in each film is also taking different forms of considerations. From this point, matte painting has been produced from hand to electronic devices such as the computer. 3D animated movies such as The Avatar (2009) follow a new trend of matte art that calls for the correlative utilization of action animation to make the entire film relatively appealing to the modern audience. Some of the matte paintings used in modern films are presented herein.
Both matte painting shown in this section came from the movie Avatar. These paintings have been embedded through 3D technology hence enhancing the value and vivid creation of each scenario.
Art as a form of expression has specifically increased its own value in the aim of defining human values at a higher condition of recognition. Through the years, the film industry has proven this particular fact especially in the field of improving visual value of movies as they represent considerable messages that are dedicated to defining public understanding of fact versus fiction. Implicating an effective aesthetics into a modern film however do not only involve the need to create a realistic scenario, but to entice the imaginative behavior of the viewers into thinking the possibility of each event in the film to happen in actual life. Disaster movies and Sci-fi movies are among the films requiring best-defined matte paintings from artists as they create backdrops that are able to make an implicative value into the events that they present to the viewers.
Through the years, the manner of utilizing matte painting is expected to evolve fully, exposing the different possibilities through expanding procedures of creating and applying the said element of artistic creation in filmmaking. Noted as an industry of flourishing creativity, the entire movie industry celebrates the expansion of procedures in relation to creating modern matte paintings that are livelier, more animated and more effective in defining impossible truths for the viewers. Such development in the industry is expected to make distinctive dictations on the path of advancement that modern films are to take into consideration in the future. With 3D technology even making a distinctive redefinition of the said industry visual matte paintings are now more than ever more reflective of the reality that film makers hope to represent in their masterpiece creations.
Barron, Craig. (2002). The Invisible Art. The Legends of Movie Matte Painting. San Francisco : Chronicle Books. pp. 54-57.
Cook, Peter. (2012). 50 Greatest Matte Paintings of All Time. http://www.shadowlocked.com/201205272603/lists/the-fifty-greatest-matte-paintings-of-all-time/page-2-of-2.html. (Retrieved on January 9, 2013).
Jones, J. (2002). “Review: Masters of illusion: How did Hitchcock, Kubrick and Cecil B DeMille fill their films with such extraordinary, realistic landscapes? Jonathan Jones on the vanishing art of matte painting”. The Guardian.
Rickitt, R. (2007). “Special Effects: The History and Technique”. Billboard Books; 2nd edition.
Smith. T. (1987). “Industrial Light & Magic: The Art of Special Effects”. Ballantine Books; 1st edition.
Screen Narratives: VFX Compositing – Montage, Collage And Decoupage http://www.mikejones.tv/journal/2010/11/8/vfx-compositing-montage-collage-and-decoupage.html. (Retrieved on January 9, 2013).
Vaz, M. C. (2002). “The Invisible Art: The Legends of Movie Matte Painting”. Chronicle Books.
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