DVD Review: Page (1) of 1 - 10/28/04 Email this story to a friend. email article Print this page (Article printing at MyDmn.com).print page facebook

Digital Matte Painting the Dusso Way

Gnomon DVD workshop reviewed By Stephen Schleicher

Training workshops can run you thousands of dollars for a few days of sitting in a classroom with 14 other people.  The more prominent the instructor the harder it is to get into the class.  Factor in travel and lodging costs, and you have easily spent the same money to buy a new camera or 3D application.  Fortunately there are numerous DVD training series taught by true masters.  The Gnomon Workshop has just released their new Digital Matte Painting series, which saves you both time and money, while learning from an expert.

Matte paintings are one of the best ways to create an environment for extended sets, virtual landscapes, or even whole new worlds.  To become skilled you must learn how light affects surfaces and objects, and then how the photographic world interprets that information.  Once you understand those principles, you can combine traditional photography, simple 3D models, and free hand digital painting techniques to create magnificent worlds.

Part of the Gnomon Workshop Designer series, The Techniques of Dusso (Volume 1 and 2) allows you to see how Dusso works while picking up tips and techniques for your everyday workflow.  Having spent 14 years in the visual effects industry, Yanick Dusseault (Dusso) has worked on projects such as What Dreams May Come, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and Star Wars: Episode 3.

Volume 1:  Introduction to Digital Matte Painting covers sketching, compositing, light, color palettes and contrast range.  These explanations are done while Dusso works through the beginning stages of the matte painting process creating nine quick sketches using Adobe Photoshop.  These simple pieces of art look fabulous even at this beginning stage, and it is clear with enough practice, one can deliver this type of work as well.

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It needs to be noted that Dusso does not stop and explain, compositing, what color palettes work best, or how to determine a contrast range.  This is not a step by step DVD that begins with a concept and follows through explaining everything in detail.  Instead it is understood that you should have some experience in both painting (traditional and digital) and photography. If you are using this DVD to improve your skills, you certainly need to be aware of all the tools in Adobe Photoshop and how they are used as Dusso moves very quickly.

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If you have ever watched The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross, or any other ?lets paint a picture show on PBS, youll have an idea of how Dussos lectures work.  He doesnt have to explain what tool he is using or why, he simply does and you know, by watching, how his technique works.  In other words, this is not a series for beginners.  If you want to learn to paint, and art class at your local college, university, or recreation commission would be a good place to start.

I dont want to give the impression that Dusso doesnt explain anything, in fact he explains quite a bit of what he is doing and why.  For example, while adding clouds to a painting he will explain that he is lining up horizon lines, using different transfer modes and crop tools.  He also talks about his workflow and being free with your creation.  When extending a sky shot, he will tell you to sample colors from the original photo and use a brush to paint it on, but he wont say, ?Use the XYZ brush with a setting of 12.  Make sure your strokes are ?blah, blah, blah.

Volume 2:  Digital Matte Painting Fundamentals takes the basics and applies it to real world type projects.  In this disc Dusso walks you through what a first day as a matte painter might feel like.  He begins with a still image, and adds a 3D model, clouds, and atmospheric haze to create a stunning coastalscape that could be used in a certain Sci-Fi film that takes place in a galaxy far far away in a time long long ago.

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Overall, I found this offering in the Gnomon Workshop Designer series very informative and educational.  I enjoy watching someone work through a project from start to finish and talk about why they are doing certain steps.  I find I can learn more from watching someone working, than from a step by step tutorial.  That is not to say step by step doesnt have its merits and keep in mind everyone learns differently.

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I was a bit disappointed that the resolution of screen capture was a bit soft, but if you understand the principles of digital painting, and know Adobe Photoshop, this can be excused.

The price point for these discs is right in line with what one would expect to pay for learning from an expert.  At $69 (US) each, these are great bargains.  I give both of these volumes a Good Buy Recommendation.

For more information on The Gnomon Workshop line of products, visit www.thegnomonworkshop.com.

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Stephen Schleicher is a well known writer, visual effects artist and media guru! You can see more of Stephen at
www.majorspoilers.com and www.stephenschleicher.com
Related Keywords:Gnomon Workshop, dvd, dusso, matte painting, schleicher, instruction, training

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