DMP Mini Challenge_004 - October 2014 - Barlangis


Welcome everyone to the fourth Digital Matte Painting monthly challenge, presented by CGSociety! These short monthly challenges will give you a chance to hone in your skills or learn new ones. We will be providing a different theme each month, with (sometimes) a base plate, as well as guidelines. It will be judged as usual by David Luong, Milan Schere and one special guest judge!

These are meant to be fun while at the same time, allow you to hopefully, create a nice looking piece in the end (and win some prizes if you place in the top 3!). These pieces will be a production Styleframe to be presented to the client for approval, so it could be a clean matte painting, or a concept in photo real quality. As always, supporting the story according to the theme is paramount in both technical terms, and creative terms.

All skill levels of artists are welcome in this challenge!

The prizes for top 3 placements are:

1st Prize: 1 x CGWorkshop, 1 xCGTOD, 1 x Ballistic Book of Choice, 1 x CGSConnect Membership
2nd Prize: 1x CGTOD, 1 x Ballistic Book of Choice, 1 x CGSConnect Membership
3rd Prize: 1 x Ballistic Book of Choice, 1 x CGSConnect Membership

Required in every monthly challenge to qualify for the prizes:

An early rough concept of your idea, at least TWO W.I.P’s (work in progress drafts) in the forum for critiques or you will not qualify. Your final draft must be delivered on or before 11:59pm PST on the last day of the month of the challenge.

To enter, simply create a new thread in this forum with the DATE of challenge and name such as: “October 2014 - David Luong”

For this month of October, the theme is “Barlangis” and the brief as follows:

[I]"BARLANGIS can be reached in two ways: From the East coming by train or the West after hiking through 2 days of darkness.

The first thing becoming visible once your eyes finally get adjusted to the distant spotlights are the enormous metallic structures rising out of the solid mountain walls, ceiling and ground. The dark, cold industrial shapes seem out of place in their earthy environment. Faded and worn down by humidity and hard labour.
Whether Barlangis is unfinished or has been demolished is hard to tell if one does not know its past.

Travelers might question the mysterious bond between man and nature but soon come to understand the necessity of their connection.

Only after spending enough time underground can one truly understand the meaning of sunlight and begin to miss the stars.

For the inhabitants of these complex labyrinth of poles and strings a seemingly never ending shift work pattern, in order to secure the very existence of their home, is just as much part of their everyday life as the daily mental recreation in-front of the television, enjoying one of the endless amount of available channels offered to Barlangis’ citizens."[/I]


Objective: There is no base plate this month. Participants will have the unusual freedom to create a DMP from scratch. There is also no format limitation this time, as long as your final entry reflects the brief in a visually pleasing way. This is more of a photo-realistic shot design task which can include animated objects such as smoke, water, atmospherics, etc. but this is to be a finished Styleframe image, as if presenting to a potential client.

  • REQUIREMENT: Capture the visual essence of the brief in a Matte Painting based photo-realistic production art illustration. Read the provided description and come up with your own unique idea based on the story, it can be but does not have to be inspired by the attached reference.

Resolution: Please submit final works in preview form of at least 1000px (jpg) width and while there is no set format for this month’s challenge, we recommend a 16:9 aspect ratio, as this is mostly an industry standard DMP practice for all participants.

Reference: Gunung Mulu cave system

Inspiration: Neil Miller’s Bethmora production art at
and “The Hobbit - Goblin Town” environment

  • Tip: Not every detail of the description must be incorporated, as not all landmarks of a city are always visible simultaneously on a postcard.

  • Works in progress (W.I.P.) MUST be shown here in order to be considered for prize placement. You must have at least a basic concept, AND at least two rough versions posted in the forum for critiques or you will not qualify.

We’ll be judging on technical and artistic skills in these. Good luck to everyone! Please feel free to ask any questions here.

As always, you can ask general digital matte painting questions, and post WIP work not pertaining to this challenge in the regular DMP forum here:


This will be fun!

Some inspiration, the son doong cave is the worlds largest even has it’s own weather system in the largest parts. This thing is definitely worth reading more about.


Oooo yeah, nice one Nick! :slight_smile:




Fascinating topic, can’t wait to sink my teeth into this one. You guys rock! Coming up with new challenges every month is really inspirational to guys like me, I really appreciate all the hard work you’re putting in. Also great concept video Milan!


Amazing idea. :cool: Cant wait to start this piece.


The brief of concept sounds interesting and I can’t wait to see different interpretations!
And nice video of simulated cave interior.


Such a great concept!!

Are we allowed to use 3D?


Of course! Use whatever it takes to make it look as photo real as possible in the end.


Gonna have a crack at this one I think. actually sounds like a concept I did a while ago albeit with more buildings than industrial machinery



Yeah, nice one! I´m in!


Sorry for double post, site went down for maintenance.


Hi guys, I am looking forward to this competition, It has been a long time since I have entered in one, but I have the time now, so I can’t wait.

I have one question regarding the brief, right at the end, you mentioned the televisions, is this indicative of a modern culture? It initially sounded as thought the city was somewhat ramshackle and primitive, but now it sounds as though it could be much closer to the present.


Fantastic topic! The description is really inspiring and I can’t wait to start some concepts. :slight_smile: As a first time poster, I might have a noobish question, are we allowed to create our piece of the path taken to get to Barlangis instead of directly inside the cave? (Thinking of the postcard idea) I was really inspired by the train ride into the city and was hoping to incorporate that in the dmp. I would like to illustrate the train ride and a look at the cave and a bit inside as well, would that idea work? :slight_smile: not giving away too too much but not limiting the imagination either. I hope my question isn’t too vague!!


I interpreted the brief is more as a place where it is surely dilapidated but also areas where they have found technology and use it to it’s advantage, as long as they know how to operate it!


Hi Stephanie,

Welcome! For these challenges, they should be sticking with the environment in the brief rather than show what’s outside of it or on the way. Good luck!


I kind of had city of ember or that radioactive district from the hunger games books in mind, as for the social/cultural background.

There is also no format limitation this time, as long as your final entry reflects the brief in a visually pleasing way.


We’d like to introduce this month’s special guest judge, Heather Abels! She is also the new instructor for our Part 2: Photo Real Matte Painting which feature some great advanced Matte Painting techniques. View here:

About: Heather began her career in visual effects in 2005 at Matte World Digital while earning her masters at the Academy of Art. Matte painting on feature films for the last 9 years she has worked at high end vfx studios including Matte World Digital, The Orphanage, Weta Digital and Rhythm & Hues. She recently left her job at Rhythm & Hues as Matte Painting supervisor to join the newly developing set extension team at Walt Disney Animation where she has been working on her first animated feature “Big Hero 6”. She currently lives in Burbank with her husband and 2 sons.

You can see some of her professional and personal work on her website at with a preview of her work below:

DMP from “Avatar”

DMP from “Big Miracle”

DMP from “Life of Pi”

DMP from “Night at the Museum 2”

DMP from “Winter’s Tale”

Good luck to everyone in the “Barlangis” theme this month![/QUOTE]


Congrats to the winners. Hope you continually practice and learn as you do these challenges!

Prizes for monthly winners are:

1st Prize: 1 x CGWorkshop, 1 xCGTOD, 1 x Ballistic Book of Choice, 1 x CGSConnect Membership
2nd Prize: 1x CGTOD, 1 x Ballistic Book of Choice, 1 x CGSConnect Membership
3rd Prize: 1 x Ballistic Book of Choice, 1 x CGSConnect Membership

And the winners are…

1st: Max Last

Milan’s comments: You have demonstrated good abilities in taking direction, identifying valuable feedback and strategic problem solving with time management in mind. The result is a somewhat stylized Matte Painting styleframe but it has all the necessary elements for a successful final image. It is very creative. I enjoy the dynamic of the un-leveled camera. Good job on playing with those pools of light and balancing so many various light sources in such an interior space. The people and FG rocks could have some more highlight detailing, while making the blacks darker this close to camera. Might be my monitor but instead of just washing it all out with the big shadow, you should try to punch out some spec hits in order to tell a complete story? Good job.

Heather’s comments: This is a really fun shot. I too think it’s quite stylized, and still has an illustrated quality to it, but I like the attention you’ve given to all your different light sources, and breaking up the silhouettes of the fg rocks with the cables. For me, the fg is too dark and clipped (I liked it before you darkened it), and near some of your light sources things can get a little muddy. Some of the back rock structures seem pasted together and while the lighting works the rocks themselves have many different qualities from piece to piece that I can almost pick out where one photo reference starts and ends. Otherwise, I love this piece, it’s visually stunning with a lot of movement to keep the eye entertained and dancing around. :slight_smile:

David’s comments: coming soon!

2nd Place: Aeaey

Milan’s comments: This image has hit some slight controversy and made judging more difficult than usual because while it does not really qualify as a photo-realistic Matte Painting, you have added such an amount of illustrative detail that it actually utilizes Matte Painting techniques in the proper way with a visually pleasing result. It also tells a nice story but in some areas of the picture you have resulted to painterly shortcuts which are usually used in conceptual art. Never the less, your sense of lighting and atmosphere are good. Watch out for low res images and do not mix them with high resolution details right next to each other, or make sure to upgrade those areas for final next time.

Heather’s comments: This shot has a lot of really great details and moments, but I agree with Milan that it feels like this has the potential to be a great matte painting, but is currently still in the concept phase. The mixing of image resolutions, and texture overlays still leaves this shot looking more like an illustration, but it has a great composition and fine details that one would expect in a matte painting. You have a great sense of lighting, and all the tiny little light kicks throughout the shot are a very nice touch.

David’s comments: Coming soon!!

3rd Place: Sue Jang

Milan’s comments: Awesome feel. Very good eye for composition and realism. Your image would have won if it was more finished but it’s currently not all the way there. I would keep adding spotlights and punch-out some highlight hits here and there, while making sure you maintain the way you lead the viewer’s eye. You have a good sense for Matte Painting but still need to pay more attention to detail. One huge criticism I have is the softness that has slid in somehow, as if your lens would be accidentally out of focus or something.

Heather’s comments: Great job! There are parts of this painting that have a really pleasing and photographic quality. I like all the scaffolding, it adds an area of focus and fine detail that I can imagine seeing in a movie. The torchs gave you a real opportunity to play with delicate lighting on the wood. For me, the fg rocks feel a bit cut out and were a missed opportunity for adding nice backlighting (from the torches) to help them feel 3 dimensional. Some areas of the painting get softer than others, and perhaps paying closer attention to keeping the overall sharpness more even would have helped. Overall… this looks like a movie I’d want to see. :slight_smile:

David’s comments: Coming soon!!

Congrats all, onto next month’s challenge!!