Pffft, no, don’t trust the DMP leads where Oleksiy works, I hear they all suck!
My two cents on the topic:
Matte painting now sits firmly as a 3d discipline. 10 years ago it was maybe 50/50, depending on where you work, as to whether you would be considered a 2d discipline or a 3d discipline. Now, I don’t think I could be convinced to hire a DMP artist who has zero skills in 3d. They don’t have to be amazing 3d artists - just strong knowledge of projections even if it’s just in Nuke, and they need to be comfortable exporting geometry and cameras for themselves from whatever 3d application is being used at the heart of the pipeline.
Our ENV/DMP team rarely creeps much over 10 artists. That may double, or even triple for a large show nearing delivery, but core crew would usually be 10 or less for us in ENV/DMP. So I just couldn’t afford for 2 or 3 of those people to need the assistance of some of the others in the dept to be able to fully get their shots through the pipeline. A pure Photoshop painter, even if they were Caravaggio or Sargent reborn, would probably find themselves surplus to requirement before long. Even our concept artists now are moving more into being 3d concept artists who can quickly use 3dcoat or zbrush to create very fast 3d ideation and then paint over it as a last step - therefore being able to hand actual geo down the pipe to aid the build team and also to be sure they are working with accurate perspective and lighting that isn’t something that can’t be replicated later. That said, a matte painter would have to be at least a decent Photoshop painter to be considered for a DMP role.
I think ‘environment artist’ is a more accurate description of the modem matte painting role. At least at my current facility we are more generalist artists.
As an example on my current show, in the last week alone this is what I’ve had to ask of various people on my DMP team:
- concept work to establish an environment at a pure design level.
- concept work to establish mood and colour of a shot/sequence.
- matte painting to take a concept to a photoreal level.
- matte painting to improve CG that hasn’t quite worked out from the build/assets dept.
- projection work in Nuke (or Clarisse depending on shot requirements).
- asset/geometry layouts in Maya.
- doing photogrammetry to create some 3d textured assets we can use in multiple shots.
- modeling, sculpting and optimising geo in Maya/zbrush/mudbox.
- creating shaders and textures.
- setting up lighting and rendering CG in passes.
- figuring out how to set up a complete environment to be used across a sequence from initial single shot paintings.
- doing slap comps, either simple or more complex to present shots in the best manner possible.
So in some ways, despite the fact we may not have to get as deeply involved in technical 3d work or serious, complex shader writing etc, I feel like in many ways the pressure on a DMP artist to know an entire pipeline and all its tools is greater than any other department by quite a large margin.
I both love and hate this… I love jumping around and doing whatever technical or artistic task is required at the time, as it never gets boring. I also love those rare occasions that a huge, epic shot is handed over to our ENV/DMP dept to be handled exclusively by a single artist.
I hate that there’s a simultaneous massive massive massive expectation from sequence supervisors and CG supervisors for DMP artists to be able to do anything and everything, whilst also not acknowledging that they can often do a lot more than they are given credit for. I also hate that we generally become the ‘fix it’ department for the problems of every other dept in the last 6 weeks of a show. And that this is never properly planned or accounted for early on in the production. Lastly, I hate that every show, whether they have shot 50,000 perfect high res references or handed over a 500px badly compressed JPEG as a rough guide, expects a DMP artist to come back with a photoreal result. We all know that the ideal scenario for a great matte painting is that it’s something that exists in real life and we happen to have thousands of shots of exactly that thing from the right angles and under the correct lighting conditions. But if that’s not the case and there is literally nothing to work with, we are still expected to produce gold and allowances are rarely given for a lack of material.
All told, I love modern environment work, especially when it’s done right on a show. It’s just problematic right now because each facility and show has their own preconceived ideas about how much the ENV/DMP team can contribute, and there’s no consistency to this because we are still going through that transitional phase.
Really interesting discussion here, always great hearing people’s thoughts and workflows. Nice to see more activity here again too!