Originally Posted by NanoGator
Principles yes... (sort of, anyway). Execution, no. Making paint on glass look real is a very different skillset than making something look real in Photoshop. I can't speak for the shot you referred to, but in the Avatar trans-light we used, many of the trees in the jungle actually started out as photos of real trees that were then modified info the Pandora jungle. When somebody like Rob did those glass-paintings, they might have photographs to look at, but they still had to paint all base detail in. I've talked to him about it before and... wow... it took a certain breed of painter to do that job. Try to imagine painting on glass, outside, keeping the colors matched up as the clouds come and go, and having to be ready on a moment's notice for the Director to shout 'Action!'
There is a certain amount of 'the more things change, the more they stay the same' here, but that definitely is a lost art.
I talked with Stromberg a couple weeks back, mainly about OZ, but also about his career, and when he was barely a teen he took his grandmother's sliding glass door off and used it to paint some post apocalypse type city backgrounds, then he shot it in-camera with his friends acting below the painted vista. I was pretty impressed ... I mean, I remember using the sliding glass door as a horizontal 'live' animation stand, where you put photo cutouts of spaceships on it and slide the door while shooting through it at a starfield in the backyard, but I never took the door off or painted it!
In a quarter-century this guy went from CAPT POWER to STAR TREK matte painting to MASTER&COMMANDER vfx designing to AVATAR/ALICE/OZ producution design and now he is directing ... not many folks can claim that kind of career arc.