Ok, so now we have a goblin in costume and a sword. Let’s look at how I would do the exterior cave shot. Remember this shot is only seen twice so I am not going to spend too much time or money on this. I want a basic pretty solid shot so I have at least something for the film. As the film progresses if I feel that it can be improved and I have time or money then I always can go back and tweek it some more. But right now, I want a shot of an exterior cave on a mountain side. It will be seen once as the locator shot, and then once again when goblin leaves the cave with the sword.
So, for something like this, I usually would go with a photoshopped image. I collect some images from either ones I have taken, or from the internet. Here is the two I pulled from online to use.
I decided to add a little road up to the cave. The plan here is to composite a few images together in photoshop to make a single image. This will be the background image and I will add a greenscreened actor later. This is a good way to begin a digital matte painting. You can just use photoshop images or you can go in with a brush and add details. This method is good for people that don’t have enough artistic skills to draw the entire image free hand. The road image I cut and pasted on top of the mountain cave image. I had to flip it so the shadows would match better. Let me show you the final image so we can pick it apart.
So, I did a few things. Remember this shot is only 3 seconds long so we don’t have much time to focus the viewer’s attention to the cave. So, I added the road first. Which meant resizing the road, erasing extra stuff, blurring the edges, and placing it where I desired it. I ended up not keeping very much of the image at all, only that white strip but sometimes that is how it works. Sometimes you only use a tiny piece of your collected image in the new composite.
Once the road was in place, I darkened the outside edges so your attention would not drift off the edges. I used the really bright road and the dark cave to draw your attention to what I am trying to get you to see. I also erased any stray highlights in the image that also might distract. Remember, you are painting with light and shadows. I highlighted anything that pointed towards the cave, and darkened/erased things that led your eye away from the cave. I did a tiny bit of hand drawing to make a few columns around road, just to make it look like someone had been there in the past.
I also used this image.
I added it on the left side. I had to darken it a lot. This is just another little bit of human remains, old ruins to add a little bit of interest to the image.
So, this is not my greatest composite ever, but it kinda gives you an idea of the steps I would take to make a background/set for a simple or quick shot. Even if I craft a whole set in miniature, I usually still add photoshop elements to it. Richard Svensson does the same thing in his films and we have found that it really works well for people that don’t have access to real sets or locations. It just takes a little practice in photoshop to blend your images together.
So, I will use this same image for both shots. I could zoom in a little on the second shot so it doesn’t look exactly the same.
Photoshopped images are great to show a location without going there. It is cheap, easy to do, and is great for real life places like a desert. It gets a little trickier when you are trying to show a fantasy/sci fi location. Sometimes it gets difficult to find images of what you need. Like a statue of a dwarf king for example would be hard to find online, not impossible, but more difficult than a desert rock. So, in the sci fi/fantasy world you make have to make some or all the elements in miniature so you can photograph them and then go to photoshop.
Go ahead, make a mess, have some fun.