Matte painting vs compositing

edited November 2016 in Everything Else

I find difficult to understand the differences btw these two techniques.

I've (I think) a clear understanding about compositing, using HF to combine different 2d and 3d layers and finally render a 2d video containing the whole integrated elements.

Since one of the tools I'm evaluating for live performances tell me they are more a realtime matte painting tool than a 3d realtime renderer, reading the description of matte painting it's hard for me to tell the difference vs compositing. They seems to me synonyms as their final effect and usage, I'm right?


  • In the digital age, there's a fair amount of overlap here. 

    Of course, a pre-digital matte painting would be painted oils on glass. The painting would either be done in front of camera position (on location) or in front of rear projection (post production). 

    Now, on-set, you would shoot deep DoF and would get am image combining the live set and painted element in-camera. This makes the matte painting a special effect. 

    In post, you would have a mostly-painted element with transparent areas where filmed elements would be rear-projected, combining the image in-camera. Matte painting as a special effect. 

    Non digital compositing literally was layering up different bits of film in a stack, creating a composite and running that through an optical printer. Visual effects. 

    So compositing is simply combining multiple elements together into a single image. It's a very generic term, and in digital, it really only means you have more than one layer/track in a project.

    Traditional matte paintings were 2D. In digital matte paintings really might consist of multiple layers or even 3D models!

    Currently a matte painter is still an artist creating 2D elements. A matte painting is still technically a 2D image of an environment.  However, a compositor might break up those elements into layers for parallax depth, add effects animation, use projection or add 3D elements, lighting, haze and fog... 

    IIt's confusing. 

  • Thanks @Triem23 this is in fact clarifying some elements. The fact matte painting is primary intended as 2D work give some focus on the technique. I also didn't find any difference vs compositing, but maybe compositing is more intended as a 3D technique?

    In fact HitFilm Pro it's indeed a matte painting tool, but also a compositing as well. The global effect for me it's the same: layering multiple sources, self produced or coming from the outside.

  • "Compositing" literally meams you have more than one image element in the shot. Thats all. 2D/3D doesn't matter.

    Let's say I have a Hitfilm project. My editor timeline has five minutes of clips on it, all on one track.

    Now I create a second track and drop in a composite shot of a text object on top for a title. 

    That text on top of the video is a composite. Because there is video AND text on top of it. In fact, it's a FIVE MINUTE composite, because Hitfilm has to look at the top track every frame to say "empty" and do nothing. 

    Any time you have more than one piece of media in the same frame you are compositing. A lower third is compositing. Putting a background under a greenscreen actor is compositing. Adding a 3D model to a camera solved video is compositing.


  • edited November 2016

    Really it's not that important, but I'm curious and stubborn...

    Ok compositing mean create anything adding multiple layers of something - video, text, images, 3d models, effects...

    Matte painting reading also  this interesting post is meaning the preparation of a 2D static background, to be used to create a scenography. This background is normally created from pictures, but can also using 3d elements, in any case outputting a 2d static image. Does not create a complete 360 view nor a full 3d environment, just a shot good for parallax effects. This will be later composited with real footage.  I hope was also what you mean. Thanks for the patience. 

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator
    edited November 2016

    That's pretty much correct. 

    Now, to add complexity, matte painting is starting to die out as a specialty. You're starting to see more films crediting "Environment Artists." Because matte painting are used to fill in backgrounds--skies, mountains, buildings, etc--all elements that make the environment of a scene. Since more and more of that is being done with projection, full 3D models and/or other methods, all artists who work on creating environments and virtual sets are starting to be grouped together into a single department. 

    But, yeah, you've got the basic definitions down.

    Take a look at this old HF1U tutorial. You'll see Simon has put together several layers of 2D images--basically making matte paintings--then used 3D compositing to match the matte painted elements to a camera move. This tutorial predates Mocha  Hitfilm, so the camera solve was in PfHoe.


  • edited November 2016

    Interesting video, really clarify the topic.

    To have a context I was evaluating SMODE realtime compositing tool, since apart short "promotional" movies my main interest is background environment creation.

    I used in the last years HFP to create still or short movies for background and next managed live with Millumin, but want to push more on 3d and my doubt was if invest more in learning a game engine (Unity3d) or this kind of tools.

    Probably I'll have more freedom with a game engine, but will be faster with matte painting techniques. I'll experiment a bit more, need to say I research a lot so that I finish to have little time to actually use the tools before the events I researched need to be fast to learn and use!


  • There are a couple of good books about compositing and VFX that would give you a very good overview of what's involved.

    There are also some very good tutorials on CMIVfx about matte paintings, where the VFX artist doing the tutorial describes how to take a photograph (in the case of the Nuke tutorial, he took a large collection of small photographs and combined them into a large backdrop), make a 3D extraction from it, and create a 3D movement complete with parallax. Starting with a 2D image.

    Most of the techniques they describe can work in HitFilm once you adapt them to the HitFilm toolset, and there are (were?) some tutorials on converting 2D images into simulated 3D environments using very similar 3D extraction techniques, simplified by some of the HitFilm tools.


Sign in to comment

Leave a Comment