DMP Mini Challenge_006 - December 2014 - Kung Fu Flashback


great article about the industry from mike seymour here;


Thanks for that link Dave. That article has actually answered a lot of my questions, and posed quite a few new ones haha. It’s really got me thinking. The comments are gold as well.


Thanks for the warm welcome and kind words Jonathan! Also, my apologies for the late reply to everyone. Holiday madness has consumed me!

Great question regarding the differences between photoreal vfx and animation matte painting. The goal is always to create a seamless extension of the world you are painting too. Both VFX and Animation have this goal in common. The greatest challenge for matte painting in animation is matching the style of the film. Obviously, “Kung Fu Panda” is more stylized than “How to Train Your Dragon”. We use all the same techniques as 2D and 3D techniques as vfx. Often, the look is very tangible texturally but colors are pushed way more in animation. The “rules” are more subjective to the style of the film rather than to the “rules” of nature like photoreal. We are often asked to make it look less “realistic”. The opposite is true in vfx. If it looks at all manipulated or painted then it is considered a failure.

I enjoy both types of matte painting. Photoreal really means you need to use photography for everything and be very careful how you choose your reference. In animation we tend to use more 3D renders from applications like Vue or Maya since that is the look we are going for. Photography is definitely still important but it is often painted over to remove some of the photographic qualities and detail. We need to simplify it to match the CG.

Photoshop is our main painting tool. We also create our own models when needed for texturing and lighting as a quick base in Maya and Vue. Then paint over them and camera map in Nuke for our final renders. Our main workflow is to approach the worlds as large cycloramas’s as much as possible. This means we create 12k paintings to cover an entire sequence of shots rather than “one offs” like vfx. We then “break out” special one off shots where the cyc does not work.

Hope this answers some of your questions :slight_smile:

Happy Holidays!



Very interesting and enlightening response… thank you, Scott.

12K paintings?? Holy cannoli, batman! I’d love to see (or maybe I should say enter) one of those up close.

I’m hoping you and/or David and Milan will please please quickly weigh in on this question…

Was trying to be specific, but I’m basically just curious what different studios typically look for when recruiting matte painters and if most only consider a narrow range of style (i.e., work that emulates that of the studio) when viewing portfolios or if recruiters generally prefer to see a broader range of artistic ability, as long as it feels relevant?

It’s something I’ve always wondered about and will appreciate your input, thank you! :slight_smile:



Great questions from everyone, and thanks Scott for answering them here!


Dear Thaddeus,

Thank you for sharing your question with the community.
I believe I have answered some things along those lines in my Meet The Thread here on CGTalk before:

Please, feel free to take a look at that.

Generally speaking, I would always advise to cater your application to the relevant studio. In live action film visual effects we tend to prefer before and after comparisons to be fully able to judge the level of proficiency in your work. Anything beyond that is mostly specific to the individual position that needs to be filled. You have to fit into the work dynamic and sometimes being stronger at one thing over another, such as 2D vs. 3D, can make all the difference.

Hope this helps in answering your question.

Best Wishes,


And the winners for December’s challenge are…

1st: Dave Tipper

David’s comments: You’ve put up a very strong image here in the style of KFP. The colors, the trees, the mountain shapes, the mist, and the classic sunset is all very striking. Congrats on placing 1st this month! Great sense of depth here, and marching of colors into the depth of purples near the horizon, while maintaining the magical “orange sky” that’s so dominant in KFP. I can really see one or all of the characters just sitting on the ground bathing on the sunset together and enjoying it’s sense of serene beauty. The one thing I would tweak is just having a little more green on the far right hand side mountain peak, as it goes into the purples maybe a little too quickly. And then the small guy right below the right hand side of the tree could get a little more purple to it and get just a little more orange sun light on it as it’s not entirely in the shadow of the peak to the right of it. Well done!

Milan’s comments: Your entries are always very artistic and creative. This month you also managed to get the style right and worked well within the given boundaries, while curbing but not limiting your artistic freedom. Well done. The shapes and colours work while you managed to keep your composition interesting. Your lighting could be improved here and there but you have overall found a nice balance. Maybe try to include a touch of warmer light on the leaves, as they appear very cyan at the moment but it’s all a delicate pushing and pulling at this stage. Overall nice achievement. Hope to see more of your work in the coming months.

Scott’s comments: Congratulations Dave! This is a fantastic image that definitely fits into the style and aesthetic of the “Kung Fu Panda” world. The mountain shapes are reminiscent of the Valley of Peace silhouettes. Excellent use of foliage on the"Sugar Loafs" as we call them here at Dreamworks. The repetitive pattern and rows of plants are a signature to the style of the films. It was an influence from the famous artist Eyvind Earle that the production designer really loves.
Color palette is great! Composition is well thought balanced and executed.
On that note, I would add more foliage and greenery to the mountains on the back side that are near the sun. They tend to have rock surfaces but only on the shear rock side. Adding a darker subtle value to the far side as a grad will also help the forms turn a bit and give more shape. I actually showed this to a few co-workers of mine (working on KFP3 at the moment) and they were impressed with how well the image would fit in to our films! Well done.

2nd: Ashok Kumar Dass

David’s comments: Your concept is very vivid, and love that you really saw through to the shapes and color palette through to your end matte painting. Great use of the metablobs in Vue to get the shapes you wanted at first. I can really see Po and Sifu training on this cliff edge here. Great composition of the sloped hill to break up the vertical and horizontal feel of the fog. I think also, the light intensity and saturation on the red vegetation on the bottom left is ok, but the right side FG and especially the mid ground flowers red is getting clipped in saturation value and intensity. Probably take out some saturation a bit or lower the intensity so it’s not so blasted in value. Nice work overall!

Milan’s comments: Congratulations on second place. You have perfectly matched the look and feel of the corresponding original sequence. Your composition is solid and very straight forward, while your shapes work complimentary to the rest of the Panda world. What sticks out to me is something phunky that’s going on with the reds in the mid-ground. I’m not sure how it happened but if your renders came out this way, a Photoshop paint-over could fix the final appearance. Since it’s a still, you can take that even further in a 2D software, touching up elements in order to break the uniform 3D appearance here and there. Be careful not to lose the style which you have so well matched here already. Very strong submission.

Scott’s comments: Congratulations on the beautiful image you’ve created here and receiving 2nd place Ashok! The Dumpling/Chopstick Fight sequence you chose is very special to me and the entire “Kung Fu Panda” Matte Department. This was the first environment that we created for the original film and the first time we had ever used Vue in our workflow! I distinctly remembering Jeffrey Katzenberg’s reaction when he saw this sequence in dailies. He was so excited and made a personal visit to our department to congratulate us on “finding” the look for the entire film and series.
Great to see Vue being used to help execute this environment! Nice use of ecosystems on the metablobs and foreground hill. You really nailed the “brush stroke” texture on the rocks. Bravo! The diagonal clouds in the sky are also distinct to the KFP style and work well directing your eye back to the temple. I would suggest taking this further in Photoshop and refine some of the rock textures. They are a bit procedural looking and could use a natural rock texture pass over them. It would also be good to fill in some of the gaps where the Vue trees separate from the main group. “Draping” the foliage is something we always strive for in these films and reduce the “spotty or sparse” look. Overall a very successful extension of the Kung Fu Panda world!

3rd: Alexey Soroka

David’s comments: Having a gigantic Po statue for his given legendary status and legacy is just such a unique and great idea. I could definitely see something like that in a future KFP movie that is 20-30 years after Po’s time. Great light rays coming in to lead your eye from the left to the bottom of the lake up to Po’s big statue on the right thirds. For your sky, having it more consistent rather than having a few purples then a pocket of blue, then back to saturated purples would be good. can probably go less purple, or less blue, and go more towards a red/orange sunset look that KFP usually has at this time of day. I also think the FG right hand side wooden pole could be played down more and just be silhouetted how you had it before, but have the background of it more lit to bring out the shape, and maybe some of the grass below instead. The intensity and saturation of it maybe leading the eye too much away. Congrats on third place this month!

Milan’s comments: The main thing I would recommend you to pay attention to is colour unity. As I see, you have started to address this issue since David’s feedback by adding purple and contrast to your image. I think the franchise does not really have many blue skies though. Make sure to keep playing off light against dark to pop focus points. Do not wash out your image while trying to fix it now. That said, you must unify it by having the same colours bounce around in the foreground, as to what you see in the background. If that means replacing the sky it might be worth a try. Either way, make sure you don’t end up with a too narrow colour palette. Animation tends to have a broader range than live action. Keep at it and this will potentially be a nice portfolio piece in your gallery.

Scott’s comments: Bravo and congratulations on receiving 3rd place Alexey! Interesting concept adding this Po statue to the environment. I wonder how Shifu would feel about it though :wink: Po is after all the “Dragon Warrior” and worthy but Shifu may be a bit jealous!
I agree with David and Milan’s previous comments about the color palette. The big one note that Milan mentioned is changing out the blue sky. One of the signature styles of the films are unique colored skies that are not found in nature and have significance to the film. The golden sky in the Dumpling/Chopstick is important color for Po and his personal growth (heroic color). The mist fog could use some refining and appears a bit air brushy here and there. Denser fog shapes are important in Panda and allow the “lost and found” of mountain edges. We tend to use cloud photography and then squash them and paint on top to create the fog shapes. This way they look “painted” but retain realistic edge quality and density. Well done my friend!

Honorable Mention: Nikolay Razuev

David’s comments: So many strong entries this month, it was really hard to choose for all of us, congrats on the honorable mention here. Really great poses for Po, and even though you didn’t have to animate anything, the breakdown was nice for your dmp here. Also the Oogway theme always pulls my heart’s strings, I miss him! Lovely dusk colors, with a red moon reflecting the light from the surface of the planet. I like your silhouetted mountain shapes and pockets of mist between them. At this time of day though, I think they could go a little darker, and a little more of the orange, that the moon would be reflecting back on the ground, in some parts that’s not occluded. Po’s rock below him and the tree is definitely in the style of KFP.

Milan’s comments: This is the first time all judges found it necessary to include an honourable mention. Your final image is wonderful, and as a stand-alone piece, a great achievement. The main reason you did not rank higher is that you have gone somewhat beyond the premiss of the movie reference in terms of realism. The set style could however be respected by painting a bit over your current textures and bringing it back into a more feature animation world. That said, I enjoy your painting very much the way it is now. Good job. As for other improvements, I might want to add a lighting note concerning the light wrap around the silhouettes of the cut-out mountains. They currently feel too flat. You can infuse some dimension into your layers by treating the elements more spherical. Make them a bit brighter towards the outside in order to mimic the way the moonlight would be caught on the receding surface. Keep it up.

Scott’s comments: Congrats on the honorable mention for the DMP Challenge Nikolay! Your image is very compelling and nicely composed. Impressive animation also. You really went above and beyond with it. This would work well if we created a live action version of “Kung Fu Panda” :slight_smile: But as a environment in the film it definitely is too realistic and photographic. The palette is too de-saturated and mono-chromatic. Although this is what we strive for in Visual Effects, it needs to move away from that for animation. It definitely is a challenge to set aside those inclinations for the animated look. Trust me I know! Jumping from one to the other, Kung Fu Panda to Avatar, is not always easy. This is an excellent image on it’s own merit! Excellente!

The winners will be getting:

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

Thank you again to Scott from Milan and I for being apart of December’s challenge. You can catch his CGWorkshop, Matte Painting with Vue, starting next week if you haven’t signed up yet. It’s a fantastic chance to learn grow as an artist and learn more directly from Scott! Limited seats remaining!!


Congrats to all three winners and the honorable mention. Great work from everyone, this month challenge has lots of strong entries. :applause:


Thanks a lot David for Honorable Mention!
I’m very excited for attention to my work. It gives strength and confidence. Thank you!
Your comments and Milan’s and Scott’s comments are themselves valuable prize.
I congratulate all three winners!!! :thumbsup:


CONGRATULATIONS ! :applause: :bowdown:


Huge congratz guys, massive well done! :smiley:


Congratulations to the winners and honorable mentioned - very good work!



Congratulations to the winners, I wasn’t able to follow this months challenge as closely as I would have liked, but the final results have been great, well done guys.