DMP Mini Challenge_009 - March 2015 - Level Up


Welcome to the ninth 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 a special guest judge TBA.

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 x CGTOD, 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: “February 2015 - Alex Nice”

Instructions and Scenario:

In a production meeting, you get briefed with the details of an upcoming project. It’s set in the future and the premise is that cities have been developing in mega building blocks rather than spreading out on the surface. Each building complex is like it’s own neighborhood with different areas. Some floors are dedicated to shops,
others are homes with various social class divisions. Most inhabitants have no need to ever even leave their local environment.

As many VFX studios are currently bidding to obtain a number of shots on this feature film, your company wants to present a pitch that speaks for itself. It is your task to visualize this intricate interior space with a photo-realistic looking production Matte Painting, which will not only impress the filmmakers but also help
them solve the logistics-based issue of transforming plates shot on location into science fiction sets in post production. Make them believe that they can film an action sequence in a mall and your team has the ability to digitally alter every shot into a futuristic mega complex.

For this you must use photographs and paint over the existing environment, utilizing Matte Painting techniques, in order to achieve the desired look. Your final “clean” DMP should not only communicate your idea clearly but also display a strong solution to the logistical challenge, while presenting an actual finished product to the potential clients. We recommend you shoot your own photos at your local shopping centre or help each other find royalty free stock images of multi-level interior spaces via the internet. This is common practice on pitch projects but for legal reasons all copyright aspects must be respected throughout the process.


Base Plate: For those of you who are absolutely unable to get their hands on any usable photos, we have provided an optional plate RAW .Cr2 file here: However, you’re still encourage to go shoot your own plates!!

Base Preview:


  • Read the provided description and come up with your own unique idea based on the story. Matte painting is all about supporting the story!

  • Resolution: Please submit works in both 1000px wide for preview, and 1920x1080p full HD .JPG format in the end.

  • The final image can include atmospherics but should ideally NOT contain animated objects such as water, vehicles (again NO spaceships) or people, as we will be judging primarily based on the clean DMP itself.

  • 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 is very interesting! i"m going to give a shot for this one! :smiley:


I’m so excited about the theme for this month. It will be very challenging for me, because of the perspective and architecture, but I’ll try my best. Good luck everybody!


Looks like a fun one again.


Sounds like a fun project.



Where I live, this kind of mall don’t exist, so I can’t shoot a plate by myself, unfortunately.

My question is the following :

  1. Is somebody have found a link with royalty free image to download and can share it ?

  2. I found on flickr, some interesting pictures. The creative content is :

[I]You are free to:

Share — copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format
Adapt — remix, transform, and build upon the material
for any purpose, even commercially.
The licensor cannot revoke these freedoms as long as you follow the license terms.
Under the following terms:

Attribution — You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.[/I]

Is this kind of pictures are usable for this challenge ?

  1. If 1 and 2 don’t work, is it allowed to model the mall, to extract a base plate ?

Thanks for your answers.



  1. We do have a RAW format plate provided for those who can’t shoot their own plate, feel free to use that one to build upon.

  2. You can use it under the Creative Commons license, just be sure to credit the original photograph for the base plate, or other plates at the end of the challenge when possible.

  3. You can use whatever technique you wish, including 3D modeling your own mall, so yes!


Each month we feature a professional guest judge from the industry in order to assist us in judging these monthly mini DMP challenges. For the month of March, please welcome Alex Nice.

Alex Nice has a varied career in the visual effects industry. In 2006 he left his position in San Francisco as Lead Technical Artist for a 3D Trial accident reenactment firm, and moved to Hollywood to work as a freelance CG-generalist and illustrator for small commercial studios. His first major feature as a Matte Painter was for Roland Emmerich’s 2012. Since then Alex has spent time at most major studios in both Los Angeles and Vancouver on big budget films such as Sin City, Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Oblivion, Pacific Rim, Elysium, Tron Legacy, Amazing Spiderman, Hugo and more. Hugo’s team won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects at the 84th Academy Awards.

Alex has working knowledge in most major 2D and 3D applications and because of his background as both 2D artist and 3D generalist, Alex has been able to deliver shots from concept to final. By utilizing every available tool, he’s able to create some of the fantastically epic and photo-real shots for Hollywood’s biggest features. Alex is currently Art Directing for Magnopus, a visual development and design studio in Downtown Los Angeles.

Below are some examples of his work. See more at:


Quick question… so I thought I’d go shoot some malls around here…I’m LA area. While I did shoot plenty of interiors there were also tons of outdoor malls…wondering if this needs to be for sure an interior mall DMP setup? I know the brief suggests interior… just curious?

Nice guest judge!..I went to a Gnomon workshop a couple summers ago that he presented at, really great talk… Superior work!!.. :slight_smile:

Really hope to find time to get back into it this month… :smiley:


For those looking for images to use, here is the iron clad way to do it. I am a professional photographer and sometimes have to source imagery for clients, and research.

On flickr if you go into the advanced tab for search, scroll down there will be a couple of check boxes for your search. Its on the drop down menu under licence.

Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content

   Find content to use commercially 
   Find content to modify, adapt, or build upon

You need to tick creative commons only, images for adaption, (if you want to protect yourself click for commercial purposes only).

Once that is done use your search terms, it helps every so often to double check that it is still creative commons, free to adapt (commercial). Bring up the image, if you have a large monitor this helps. Click for download a box will appear for resolution size.

If you see this, LicenseCopyright All rights reserved by ********* & Download The owner has disabled downloading of their photos. You cannot use this image, screen grabbing is illegal. So play fair and leave alone.

If you see LicenseAttributionNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by ************

Check the terms, most often none do, so email the artist, explaining what you are doing, why you are doing, promise to share with them your finished piece, and thank them twice. First thank you is by email, the second thank you is giving them credit in your forum or blog.

Before downloading the image, for your own protection screen grab the rights page. Put that somewhere safe. If you do get a cease and desist, you have proof that the image was under creative commons. It saves on soliciters fees. Which are quite pricey.

There is also a very similar format on Google images as well,

If you are after texture, CG texture is free to use, by means of payback, if you have your own texture library send a few to CG texture by way of thanks, I have seen the same corrugated sheet on medal of honour, call of duty and far cry, add some diversity to the mix.

If you get a email back from the original photographer saying dont use it, respect their right to backtrack and play nice.

If you play nice with photographers, explain what you are up to and nice about it, it means they may be warm to sharing more images. Gives them self respect and helps future matte painters knocking at the door get better imagery.

If you are unsure on how to get better images from your camera and not sure how to do so, I am here on the forum every couple of days, I can help you out. I dont give advice on what camera to buy so dont ask!!

In summary, play nice, play fair, and play to share.

Looking forward to your work.


WIP of my matte painting for the contest.


Final Out put of my matte painting for the contest.


I saw this today,…seemed fitting and I just had to share :slight_smile:

Level Up Times Square


Is there going to be an April contest? I really need to get off my arse and do one of these!


Lol wow, that’s just crazy talk! :stuck_out_tongue: haha cool envisioning though. They even have a mountain resort up there!

There sure will, we hope to announce it today. Easter and other holiday events last weekend put a damper on us all!



And the winners for March 2015’s challenge are…

1st: Nikolay Razuev

David’s comments: Love the overall post and care in the lighting/color of this piece. I can really see it as a DMP to be used in a production shot with animated holograms running across the welcome sign there. The curves really lend itself well to the composition and flows very nicely. Nice work Nikolay!

Milan’s comments: One thing I don’t think many people caught onto is that I based this
brief on an actual meeting I once had for the movie Dredd 3D while it
was still in pre-production. It is interesting to see various artist’s
interpretations of the same conceptual outlines. While your entry is
the most photo-real and of the highest quality, I am still missing the
Mega Block scale. From a creative POV I’d simply recommend blowing
away the ceiling and extending the interior with an endless row of
upper levels continuing out of frame in order to imply the intended
dimensions. You have a strong, working DMP and at this point changes
should be easily integrate-able. Keep in mind that these sort of art
direction notes can come quite late in the game and make sure you
always structure your file in a way that allows you enough
flexibility. Good job.

Alex’s comments:(coming soon!)

2nd: Aaron McNaughton

David’s comments: The color scheme and graphic design of this reminds me of the video game, Portal. Very minimalist but futuristic as well in it’s design with a strong modern flair. Great use of the orange paint along the sides of the walls that lead the eye around. Would have loved to see just a little more of the stores inside the windows though. Color palette really is strong with the orange and teal DI treatment here.

Milan’s comments: In order to follow the brief closer and make each building complex
like it’s own neighborhood with different areas, you could introduce
some more visual breakup throughout the different floors. Your image
is very clean and would benefit from some dirtying it up in my
opinion. Right now everything feels extremely uniform. Technically,
you show a good understanding of perspective and integration. It’s
currently just missing a little spark to infuse some life into your

Alex’s comments: (coming soon!)

3rd: Daniel Kyle

David’s comments: I think this would be a pretty fun mall to walk around and explore in. Lots of things to see in each level, and I’m sure, things to buy :slight_smile: Cool archways for the walk way designs and general window building faces to really integrate the style. I think the perspective could be tweaked just a bit since the horizon is pretty low, and the camera is up high, so the buildings in the BG would get much more tilt for the vanishing points.

Milan’s comments: The brief asked for you to depict a cultural variety similar to
walking through different areas of a large city. Some floors are
dedicated to shops, others are homes with various social class
divisions. I think you have creatively achieved a nice mix of this but
it still doesn’t feel like a Mega Block. It is a very strong start
though. Also nice to see you having based this on an outdoor mall,
which shows some good creative problem solving and openness to explore
fresh ideas. Overall, from a Matte Painting POV this is an unfinished
piece. To get it within the realm of photo-realism, you could overlay
some more real life textures because it currently feels like you have
“brushed” in some lighting on top of various elements in order to
bring them together. With the proper attention to detail you can
surely make it a strong portfolio piece. The sci-fi architecture gives
it an interesting touch. Try to continue that in your set-extension by
removing the ground and creating more levels downwards. Keep up the
good work.

Alex’s comments:(coming soon!)

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

Congrats to all! Thanks to everyone for joining, and we hope to see you next month for April 2015!


Wooooow!!! Congratulations!!! :applause:
I am grateful for the high appreciation of my work! Thanks a lot!
It’s amaaaaaazing!!! :cool:


Oh wow! big congratulations Koly & Daniel:) and thank you very much judges for picking me too :slight_smile:

all the best,


Awesome Awesome guys! …Thanks Aaron,… Truly amazing work worth accolades & congratulations!.. :keenly:


congratulation to the winners :applause: