Philadelphia Experiment 2 WIP

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Old 06 June 2008   #1
Philadelphia Experiment 2 WIP

I have not done any matte work for nearly two months, finally got some leave and have been working for a couple of hours on this. Original image is from the flickr matte painters pool. I am grateful for the image that I have used. This is the basic blocking stage.

I am fascinated by the original philadelphia experiment, I wanted to do a second world war image based loosely on the events. I am struggling at the moment as I need some more power station images and a decent tesla coil photo. I also need some us army trucks and paraphenalia on the dockside.

I am going to do a daylight treatment and a night time treatment. I am also struggling to work out where the main light is coming from to work out the angles.

Remember this is the blocking stage. But being honest I am stuck in a few places.

Look forward to hearing from you

Rockhopper VFX

Old 06 June 2008   #2
Its either good or bad,

but 16 views and no reply

Rich Hmmmm
Rockhopper VFX

Old 06 June 2008   #3
Hey, Rich, sorry just saw this today. I know the feeling, man, yeah, I know the feeling.

Ok, great subject. I think you need NAVY trucks and stuff on the pier, no? Same stuff, just a different color. Ya know ships actually did have magnetic coils installed back then. They were degaussing coils. They were supposed to move mines away from ships. I think that's part of how the story started.
Old 06 June 2008   #4
Yea me too, I have just sketch out some pylons, a building trying to find a Navy truck of the period at the right angle,

Cheers for replying

Rockhopper VFX

Old 06 June 2008   #5

progress so far


still looking for truck pics, 1940-1950 us forces
Rockhopper VFX

Old 06 June 2008   #6
hey Richard, nice idea, but I think you need to work on the linear perspective again, it is obviously wrong and noticeable in the pier's concrete lines, also the new buildings you add are out of scale you have a lot of scale reference in the ship itself,I think the background is still boring, maybe more ships or anything interesting would do it, I like the sky , it fits perfect with the exposure, you're doing fine just pay attention to details
Jaime Jasso
Lead Digital Matte Artist
Industrial Light and Magic

Old 07 July 2008   #7
the "philadelphia experiment" is one of my favorite items of bourbon conversation as well. I notice that you have it sort of lying out for everyone to see, which is cool. But logic would tell me that the government would throw some type of tarp around it.

I guess it's up to everyone's interpretation of what it is/was.

What did you think that it was meant to be?
Old 07 July 2008   #8
Originally Posted by Rockhoppermedia: Yea me too, I have just sketch out some pylons, a building trying to find a Navy truck of the period at the right angle,

Cheers for replying


Rich. I am usually not abrasive but I think that you might need it. I really want to see you succeed. I read your blog regularly and your recent post about the "wedding" jerk further cemented my suspicions that you are tired of dealing with alot of the BS that comes with being a professional photographer.

Cliff and I have had alot of discussions about this. Photography is almost impossible to become famous for. (Although you're famous to me and I tell friends about your work all the time). However, the matte painting niche is relatively small, and you can become "famous" relatively quickly, but to become good at it and get a job it takes ALOT of hard work. As Feng Zhu said " The more you do it, the better you'll get. It's all about mileage. A lot of people try to look for shortcuts, but there aren't any. Just bite the bullet and do the work. There is no easy path." Just work work work work work work. Study the perspectives in other matte paintings and work by the dutch artists and the hudson river school. Paint paint paint.

You'll never find anything in the perfect perspective...YOU HAVE TO PAINT IT YOURSELF OR CHEAT. So quit looking at photos and get back to painting. I'm not sure where my quote book is, so I can't quote him verbatim, but there's a quote from another awesome artist named Andrew Jones "Don't focus on trying to get good, focus on being good. Because otherwise you'll just continue to try"

This basically means that you need to BELIEVE that you will someday be a matte painter. I will. I hope to see you there.
My journey to become a matte painter:

Old 07 July 2008   #9
Hi mate, be as abrasive as you want I do not mind. You are a good friend and good friends tell the truth to each other. I am flying of to canada soon doing some work there for three months. Hopefully I will find the time to sketch and sketch and sketch some more. I really want to succeed. I am not a naturally gifted artist, I think I have come a long way since starting out. I cringe with embarressment at some of my past posts.

The philadelphia experiment is still ongoing, I am banging my head on the desk with the crazy perspective. I think I am going to extend the painting to the right to include more of the dock.

As for photography, I cannot give that up, I met Magneto from Xmen last week and photographed him for an article. I just enjoy meeting people. I am famous in my organisation and am getting quite well known over the internet.

I am a good photographer and very highly trained as well my aim is to help mattepainters with photography issues as best I can, in return I hope to get more mattepainting training and help.

You and Cliff are really good mates to me, I have been less active on this site lately and this has come down to relocation and a new job. Hopefully Canada will help recharge my batteries and encourage me to use the wacom a lot more.

Privately I know that the Army is holding me back I cannot leave yet as we are in a recession in the UK and it would be foolish to jeopardise a weekly wage.

Wait out for a kicka**e painting, I know I am the worst matte painter here but that wont stop me from posting.

Lots of respect

Rockhopper VFX

Old 07 July 2008   #10
Originally Posted by Rockhoppermedia: I know I am the worst matte painter here but that wont stop me from posting.

You are not the worst matte painter here. You really shouldn't compare yourself to others. But...

You're trying to do some of the hard stuff. And that's really the best way to learn. Try some simple set extensions. just add one thing to a plate. Keep building off of positive experiences and lessons. At some point things will really start to click.

There's a lot of creative people who find a way to cheat a matte painting by using easy perspectives, simple extensions, and a few adjustments. Their work looks good but they'll never be able to build a matte painting from scratch or paint something they can't find reference for. Keep painting and keep practicing. Your work will will get better. In 4 months I've grown by leaps and bounds but I'm far from where I want to be. Keep setting up small goals and then achieve them.

I don't know if it's true for everyone, but matte painting for me is all about putting minute pieces together. One of my recent paintings has gone through seven versions. Most of which is just building up things and then tearing half of it down. 2 steps forward, 1 step back.

Keep on truckin'.
My journey to become a matte painter:

Old 07 July 2008   #11
Its true that sometimes tgoing headfirst into a real tough matte can be a bad experience. If im having trouble with a set extension, i sometimes extend my canvas in small increments and work on the extension piece by piece until im there because it can feel too daunting sometimes to try and tackle it all at once. Composition can suffer as a result of this, but once you have something down that you are happy with its easier to reshape it into a better composition that have to work everything out at once.

Matt is right tho, dont let comparisons to other people be the 'be all and end all' of your painting ventures. Just try and learn from other peoples successes and strive just to get better day by day, then suddenly you will look back one day and realise just how far you have come!


p.s. Happy 500th post to me
Old 07 July 2008   #12
I wont build on the sage advice that Matt has given you, you got potential and an eye for composition which is half the battle. In my experience... as little as there is... I always get to a point of "where do I go from here" when I paint. It makes me stop painting. In essence though it is what leaves most of pieces sitting in a hard drive somewhere unfinished. It has been my intention to push past that in the preceeding weeks which as you can see has paid off to a certain extent. I think you may suffer from the same thing where you get a little bit of artist block and don't know where to go on your paintings past a certain point. I emplore you go beyond that... if it helps I usually drown my concious mind in music or a tv show where my mind can be listening to the noise in my ears and its too busy to say "hey you don't know what your doing with this painting".

In regards to this piece, perspective is you curse... as a trained photographer you should now that the biggest reason why this isnt working is lens distortion. Im assuming that the lens using something like an 18-25mm which is giving you some serious curves on your perspective lines. Try un distorting the lens and then painting the matte... after words if you want you can reverse your distortion back and you won't have the headache of trying to match the curvature.
Cliff Berry
Digital Matte Painter

VFX Supervisor
Axum Project
Old 07 July 2008   #13
Hey Richard,

Well, in parts i agree and disagree with some of the above posters, but i'm sure they all have the same positive goal at heart.

Im not going to critique your life choices im afriad but what i will say is keep your head grounded, avoid all the non existant fame crap that seems to grow from these forums, it really is like pursuing a white elephant over a cliff. Been a matte painter, or photographer is a job, that puts food on the table, as simple as that. Do your job to a consistant standard regardless of what it may be and you'll do well in life.

... I did write a few paragraphs more expanding on the somewhat bent perspective people have of the matte painting industry but two hours in i felt it was'nt appropriate for your post .. in fact i might write a blog someday

Regarding the direction of your work in general, you need to understand how a scene is assembled from the ground up. Matte painters aka environment artists (as they are more commonly known today) use various elements to contruct a scene, you need to understand this from before you begin your work, and figure out which elements will be taken from photography, plate, 3d, minitures etc ... ie in your example you could use the photography you have, the horizon would be painted from photography, the forground activity to the right would be a combination of live plate and 3d elements, any cars etc would most likely be 3d. Another option, would be to use minitures. go to any model shop and you're presented with a whole range of model air kits of military cars, vans etc, so that would one good option. Build up a few kits, paint em then photograph them in an outdoor lighting to the right angle. Alternatively you could hunt down a premade 3d model and comp that in with the added advantage of been able to animate.

Regarding your progress with the ship, there's a few perspective issues, whenever you start work on a plate you need to undistort it first, i think this was one of your first problems. Head into photoshop > filters > distortion > lens correct and get use to this tool. Thats your first step. Generally all photography by nature of a lens is usually distorted, so first job is to undistort. In fact in a pipeline you will always be provided with an undistorted plate to work from, the compositor will then add the distortion back in when you've finished.

Next thought about your progress is the sky .. when the camera is elevated upwards it introduces more light and thus blows out the brightness, check out your original photo ref, notice the sky is blow out? well you need to reintroduce this into the new sky.

Yeh to sum up, start from the beginning and rethink your approach, in fact ask here, tell us what you want to produce in the end and maybe we can help with the direction you need to take.

I've done a quick concept/rough to demostrate that it can work:

Please forgive the german/british/american/cruiseliner style port

I also agree with one of the comments above, try starting simple, dont use strong perspectives that will cause difficulties, try a few simple set extensions.

Whatever you do begin by saying, "how should i do this, what would be the best approach?"


Last edited by everlite : 07 July 2008 at 02:28 PM.
Old 07 July 2008   #14
Originally Posted by RiKToR: Im assuming that the lens using something like an 18-25mm which is giving you some serious curves on your perspective lines.

Yep, the lens was set all the way back to 24mm for that shot (a true 24mm on a full frame camera)
Old 07 July 2008   #15
Dave - One of the best posts to be found on these forums, couldnt agree more with everything you said there!

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