Matte Paintings – Up close and personal!

A short post with some examples of matte painting details. Up close and personal!

I was going through some old work and thought I’d share some of these detailed sections of matte paintings. Wondering how loose they can be painted and still work on the screen, then check these out.

Each of these are parts of final mattes that ended up ON THE SCREEN, ie, what you see here was recorded to film and sent out into the world!

The first two matte images are from the Lord of the Rings – Fellowship of the Ring. Its the scene of the Fellowship leaving from Rivendell. The second series of images are from a Chinese film called, Seven Swords.

With the advent of digital projection and hi def TV’s I’m not sure if such loose painting translates as well. Every pixel in the painting literally is a pixel on the screen, whereas images recorded to film seem to come out the other side a little more organic and the looseness seems to blend in.

If I come across any more of my old matte paintings that show this loose approach, I’ll be sure to post them!


  1. Ankaris says:


    Hey Zoran, thanks for your comments! Yeah.. We got away with matte painting murder on LOTR.. yet it still holds up, it still works. A lot of vfx folks are unaware of how this optical process works these days and insist on more and more detail.. It’s counter productive.

    Cool site you got there too!

  2. Zoran says:

    Brings to mind Harrison Ellenshaw’s clasic matte work. I’m a sucker for traditional approach. Can’t help it 🙂

    Excellent work. Excellent site. My compliments.


  3. Ankaris says:

    Thanks for the comment!

    The lighting on the cliff face for the LOTR matte was hurriedly scribbled in as a rough idea of the lighting I wanted, then I went on with something else. I later saw the shot projected on screen (film) and had forgotten about that area of the matte until several loops in.. no one said anything and the shot was approved, done! I couldn’t believe it myself.

    Happened with several other mattes from the other guys too.

  4. NeecHMonkeY says:

    This is really cool – I knew they could be somewhat loose but this is such an eye opener. The looseness of the digital painting somehow makes it seem more ‘old school’ matte than the tendency to use all photographic elements. 🙂

Leave a Reply