DMP Mini Challenge_005 - November 2014 - Viking Village


Welcome everyone to the fifth 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 Nick Marshall (please read about him in the post below).

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: “November 2014 - David Luong”

Objective: For this month of November, make a Viking village out of it by opening it up wider, adding some more houses and rolling hills or fjords in the BG. All done in 16:9 TV ratio instead of 2.40 Film. Use the Viking Village base provided below (4K res) to create a cinematic digital matte painting production Styleframe environment shot. This can include atmospherics but should ideally not contain animated objects such as water, vehicles or people, as we will be judging primarily based on the clean DMP itself.

Base Preview:

Base Download:

  • 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.

Resolution: Please submit final works in preview form of 1000px (jpg) width and 1920x1080p full HD as a final resolution.


  • 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:


Awesome, can’t wait to start this, are we free to change the season, i.e add snow?


Great topic, but it takes a lot of details …
I think I’ll need one more month!


Ha! Great theme! I’m in of course :).

Before I’ll start I would like to ask a few questions.

  1. How much of original plate should we preserve? For example: can we remove everything except closest home and tree on the left?
  2. Can we move closest home down and to the right to get more space above and on the left (additionally to “opening it up wider”)?
  3. Should we preserve original light direction or we are free to set it whatever we want?

This might be silly questions because in the brief is mentioned only, that we should “Use the Viking Village base provided below” so it looks like the answer to all three questions is “yes, we can”. But I simply would like to be sure.

Thank you in advance for the answer :).


P.S. Yet another question just came to my head. I know that we should not have in our scenes “animated objects such as water”. But fjords are usually filled with water, so… would it be acceptable if there would be a water in a distance (like for example over rooftops on one of inspirational images:


FANTASTIC topic!!! I’m going to try my hardest to join and work around my school projects!! :slight_smile:


Loving this month’s theme!! I think I am in!!


Please keep the look similar to this, it could be spring/fall/summer almost here, but no snow for winter (in the plate) distance is ok.

  1. I would keep the foreground viking building, and mid ground viking building if you can fill in the rest of the aspect ratio on the left and or higher. Cement on the ground leading up to the foreground building can be kept too, just keep it consistent when extending the set in any direction.

  2. Sure can! Don’t crop it too far though, and also be mindful of the horizon line change when moving that building down too.

  3. You should definitely preseve the light direction, as it’s baked into the plate. Use the cues in the plate to estimate your own lighting direction of course. This was shot at around 2-3pm, Bavaria time so it’s late afternoon.

No worries on the questions!

PS Answer: Yes, having water in the distance is fine. (although your image link isn’t working on my end)

Glad this works!! Good luck everyone!


Thank you very much David for your answers :).

The link doesn’t work because i copied it directly from above as it is - with dots instead of what there should be - sorry, my bad. I meant this image:



Nice topic I’ll give it a try.


Anybody notice the guy hiding in the picture! Awesome little easter egg, like finding waldo :bounce:


Lol, yeah it seems he’s taking some photos behind the pillar too :slight_smile:


Woww!! vey interesting theme!
This might be my first try :thumbsup:


Hi everybody,
I just wanted to bring our season 2 breakdown reel to your attention
[VIMEO]102670083[/VIMEO] in case anyone needs some more inspiration to get into the mood :slight_smile:
We also have some more Kattegat stuff on our 2014 studio reel at

Hope you like it.


Thanks for sharing Seema! This is great, I’ll add it to the Tome of Knowledge :slight_smile:


We’d like to introduce this month’s special guest judge, Nick Marshall!

Nick started his career as a runner at Double Negative London in 2009 after graduating with a degree in Digital Visual Effects from Teesside University. After a year working as a roto/prep artist, Nick started work as a matte painter on Captain America: The First Avenger. In the
years that followed, Nick contributed matte paintings and concepts for several feature film projects such as John Carter, Total Recall and Les Miserables, before working as a lead matte painter on Thor: The Dark World.

Since then, Nick has worked as lead matte painter on projects including Godzilla, Jupiter Ascending and Ridley Scott’s upcoming biblical epic Exodus: Gods and Kings, as well as providing additional matte paintings and concept paintings for the upcoming Alice Through the Looking Glass and Gunman.

For the past couple of years Nick has also been involved with online training alongside Dneg colleague Ludovic Iochem, creating an Advanced Digital Matte Painting course for fxphd, and launching training platform DMPcoach as well as industry blog DMPworld.

You can see more of his professional and personal work at

Some of the work Nick’s worked on:




From Milan, Nick and myself, good luck to everyone in the Viking Village challenge and have a great Fall season!!


Nick also worked on that awesome Total Recall trailer shot looking over the city from that balcony


plse tale me where are upload my final image…


Please embed your final image as a post in your thread. We will go through each thread and judge the latest, greatest version of your entry.

Thank you.


At first I thought it would be particularly difficult to do something original with this plate and to work with the perspective, but the results this month are really awe-inspiring! Can’t wait to see the winning entries.


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: Nikolay Razuev

Milan’s comments: Work on some more lighting consistency throughout your image. You have the benefit of artificial lighting but must keep the motivation behind it in mind. In any case, your image is almost there and needs only some more attention to detail and overall balancing. Make sure your saturation levels are in check and don’t miss out on opportunities such as moonlight reflections or specularity in a shot like this. Paintover:

David’s comments: Congrats on first place for this month! The best part about this image is it’s overall mood and palette which all work very well together. The warm orange lights inside the hut contrasts well against the colder, desaturated blues on the outside. The best part about this image for me, is how you treated the ground, and the lovely reflections of water in the mud from the environment. I like the fog you’ve put in that’s low lying, and in some pockets, while not being too overpowering and all overt the place. A few things that could improve this is maybe removing the skull in the foreground, as I feel it’s drawing too much attention to itself. Also you can keep focus on the smaller animals as a main food source, and go with more fish/pheasant type of foods perhaps hanging out to dry somewhere near the houses to be more subtle. Also the background building on the island feels out of scale due to the black values being so strong and contrast on the roof a little too strong at this distance. Getting a little more brights in the sky would help give reasoning to have brighter bits on the rooftop there. Congrats!

Nick’s comments: Great work on the image, it has a lovely feel to it. The details like adding in the reflections into the wet ground tie things together very well and the interior lighting is a nice touch. Be careful of things like the perspective as some of the buildings appear to vanish to a point lower in the image than your horizon appears to be. The water with the longboats looks great though, and in general the world you created is interesting and expansive. I would be temped to change the front gate to lead the eye in to the image rather than act as a blocker that stops the viewers eye entering the image. My main criticism would be to get the lighting feeling nice and consistent though. Milan’s comments there were spot on. The skull in the front suggests a very strong light source and the opportunity to get some nice specular pings should be jumped on! You translated well from your concept though, which is a good skill to have in itself, so well done there. All in all, a really nice job, and worth winner, congrats on the 1st place. You clearly have a good eye, so keep it up!

2nd Place: Andrew Burles

Milan’s comments: Your image is the most photo-realistic this month. At the same time it is very simple, clean and straight forward. The mood you chose is almost depressing, which also makes it very real. All this taken into account my main criticism is that it does not tell a clear story. You might want to help your audience in guiding them into the environment. Simple tricks like darkening the FG elements can be rather effective for this. Paintover:

David’s comments: Congrats on second place here Andrew! I agree with Milan, this is the most photo real to me, with great exposure on all elements. I checked out your 4k resolution, the matte edges are very clean, and textures of everything is pretty sharp and consistent. Great handling of the extension of the viking plate image. I can really see people walking through here with this matte painting in the background. I actually prefer just a little more of the drama in the sky to come back in rather than it being this bright and plain, but every art director has their own opinions :stuck_out_tongue: Some nice vignetting done there by Milan, it does help draw your eye more into a middle focal point. Overall, great work!

Nickk’s comments: Great work on this, I had a hard time picking between this and the eventual winner. I’ve seen plenty of dmp’s done on real world jobs that don’t have the photorealism that you attained, and the integration with a difficult plate was very nicely handled. The fact that it holds up so well even at 4k really is testament to your ability. You impressed me with changing the sky at the last minute too, as you were right about the theatrical nature of the initial sky (although sometimes clients do like that drama). One thing that hurts your image a bit is that you have quite a clear horizon going pretty much straight through the centre of the painting. I would have been tempted to reframe things slightly to break that, but you could probably have done it by just accentuating the hills in the image and building on that idea - maybe put the big central building on a much taller rocky strut that tapers off to the back and then have more supporting buildings around the base. More buildings in general would have brought this to life a bit more anyway, as would some more street debris and signs of activity. With such a diffuse light scenario there isn’t much to comment on with the lighting, but everything matches in nicely and nothing pops out grade wise (again, helped by being a very desaturated image). It certainly feels very Nordic. Again, I thought this was a really good effort, so congrats on 2nd place, very well deserved.

3rd Place: Aaron McNaughton

Milan’s comments: One way to quickly get your digital painting into a more realistic realm is by sucking out some saturation. You have a really great sense for painting with light and a good idea of how to lead the viewer with your lighting. This sometimes results in a more staged concept art feel to it, which however still mixes well due to the high complexity of your finished illustrations. You always have a clear sense of what you’re doing and are not afraid of making decisions. I truly hope all this exercise will soon lead you to your dream job because you have been demonstrating a high level of professional efficiency in your WIP so far. Paintover:

David’s comments: Congrats on 3rd place this month Aaron! You’ve been the most consistent in all of these months and really have pushed yourself to getting better and better each time. Love that! Your concepts are solid, and they transfer to your matte painting pretty well. This is one of the more colorful, and less dreary type of environment and time of day matte painting. The composition is great, and I love the layering of the fog against the mountains with a dapple light use (which you are pretty good at!) from the foreground forest out to the clearing. I would push the exposure further, getting more darks in the foreground, and brighter highlights from the sunlight as the background indicates you have a pretty open sky to have bright light pouring through. There are also some black value inconsistencies on the left side of the trees/bushes against the houses, be sure to layer them well from FG to BG. Lastly, just a few elements I spot that are a little blurrier than the plate, such as the far BG mountain, and some trees on the right hand side that could be breaking the photorealism just a bit. Great stuff!

Nick’s comments: Generally really nice work, good job. Trying to maintain quite a saturated image is hard work as all your colour matching has to be totally spot on, but you pulled this off pretty well which deserves a bonus point. There are tweaks that you could make to the mountains still to get more consistency in the image - the colours back there are a bit too monochrome, id like to see all that nice variation that you get from a tree lined cliff being hit by light. The warmth and the different hues in the foliage really help, take a look at this shot for example: Notice how the lighting is very easy to read and the quality of light matches very well to the foreground. I understand that Hobbit shot is a later time of day that your image so it will have warmer lighting, but there was a good opportunity to reinforce your lighting back there in the mountains and maybe tie the whole thing together by adding in some cast shadows from the clouds that we can see in the sky. having some clouds with a slightly more obvious lighting direction would probably help here too. Moving into the foreground, you’ve done some solid work here, the justification of your dappled light with the trees you have works well and the integration with the plate looks fine. Some more contrast between the light and shadow could help still, and some finer attention to the sharpness of the shadows also would benefit. Sometimes lighting even in plate can look slightly inconsistent when studied too closely because nature doesn’t give us everything exactly the same, but when doing the dmp it’s better to have everything match perfectly and then work from there to add some randomness if it looks a bit too perfect. The path leads the eye through the image well, and your additional buildings hinted at here and there do a good job of suggesting a wider environment beyond our immediate buildings. A well deserved 3rd place, keep up the good work!

Congrats all, onto next month’s challenge!!