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Tutorial of CGTantra's Matte Painting Challenge Winner by Szabolcs Menyhei

Hi, my name is Szabolcs Menyhei. Currently I live near Budapest/Hungary. I studied traditional art at the Hungarian University of Fine Arts. While attending university I started my career as a background painter for traditional animated series and animated features. I also worked as concept artist/digital painter on several smaller game projects. My long term goal is to became a matte painter for live action films.

If you want to know more about me and my works, visit my website: www.menyhei.com. You can also check out my latest demoreel which features two entries I made for CGTantra Matte Painting Challenges: http://vimeo.com/20594742

The challenge was to take a plate shot of Vancouver, and make it look like my own home town. This was the plate provided by one of the honorable judges, Alex Jenyon.

I had to use the entrance of the building. It had to be left exactly as it was - like this was the area where the actors would be in shot. I could do anything with the rest of the picture, but absolutely no changes were allowed for this part of the picture.
So the process looks something like this: keep the entrance of the building from the plate and fill the rest of the picture with an environment that is believable and looks Eastern European.
I set up the scene in Maya in order to get the perspective right. I imported the plate as an image plane. I checked the EXIF data of the plate file, which contained some very useful informations (Focal length 40 mm). I used the same parameters for the projection camera.
I tried to match the perspective of the plate as much as possible. Simple geometry and the grid helped me to make sure it was correct. It was an important step, because later on it was really easy to add new objects to the scene.

I took several photos while walking around in my city. Even though it was rather cold at that time I was waiting for the sun to shine in the afternoon. The light conditions were quite similar around 2-3pm. I tried to find buildings that matched the style of the entrance. We have several old buildings around here. But integrating the entrance into art nouveau architecture would have been quite tricky. So I stuck with an old shopping mall (CENTRUM is quite well known here, I don't think it exists anywhere else.).

This stage is one of my photos dropped behind the plate. I felt that the reference would fit well, but I would have to flip it in order to match the lights of the plate. There were some smaller perspective issues as well. I decided to keep the first floor of the plate.

Flipped my photo. Cut my photo into two pieces and used the free transform tool in Photoshop to match the perspective of the plate. I also started removing people. Had to flop the signage and reintegrate them. Using another reference I extended the top part of the entrance.

Besides using Maya to establish the perspective, I quickly drew a two point perspective grid in Photoshop (I'm sure everyone's familiar with the process.)

These are the 3d elements I wanted to add to the scene. I used my own references for modeling these objects. I could get them done quite fast because they are very simple. Rendered with Mental Ray (Using Indirect Lighting / Physical Sun and Sky)

Started to combine my render with the matte painting. People had been removed, most of the signage flipped. Added some more signs here and there.

Even more 3d added to the matte. This was the stage where I dropped the idea of using the big C above the entrance.

After some grading, colour correction and smaller tweaks, here's the final version.

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