Monday, September 01, 2008

Buck Rogers - Matte Paintings

I was watching the Buck Rogers in the 25th Century film recently, this was the pilot for the TV series that was run theatrically. I always loved the Matte Paintings in the film that Syd Dutton created.
There's something that still appeals to me about the old style matte work than the new slick digital stuff, I think old school matte paintings have a very stylized look, and back in the day they were primarily used to set up a location in just one particular shot, so they were something to look forward too, but by the time we got to films like the Star Wars prequels were every shot on Coruscant was glossy and impressive I always wished for the old less is more adage.
If you look at the top right corner of the bottom left picture you can see the brush strokes on the unfinished edge of the painting, I suppose this would have been cropped on the 1.85:1 cinema print. The shot of the ruined city really reminds me of the matte work from Logans Run and Earthquake, again not 100% realistic but it has a great artistic quality to it.

11 comments:

Fraser Lovatt said...

I guess true matte painting is a dying art. There was a great book published a few years ago called The Invisible Art: Legends of Movie Matte Painting.

The paintings in Buck Rogers were particularly evocative. I do still like watching the odd episode of Buck Rogers - but I have to be really quite drunk to manage it. I don't think I could sit through "Space Rockers" sober. When I was 9 it didn't seem quite as ludicrous.

Dylan said...

Used to love these too, even as a kid you sort of new they were paintings but it didn't matter cos they looked so cool.
Picked up Screamers the other day for 3 quid and there's some nice matte work in that quite subtle stuff that blends in really well, Assuming it'd be traditional given the film's age and budget.

Michael G Clark said...

I do like a good old matt painting. I was lucky enough to see one of the big (8foot) matts for Ghostbusters a few years ago.
It was used for the scene showing the devastated roof of spook central. Amazing skill to paint one of those things.

Andrew Glazebrook said...

Fraser, I have that book you mention and there's loads of great stuff in there !

Dylan, oh yeah the stuff in Screamers is great, I may do a post about those, I think they might have been in the early years of Digital Mattes though.

Michael, Ghostbusters 1 and 2 had some superb matte paintings !

Michael G Clark said...

I remember liking the matts on screamers, but nothing else. Apparently it was quite expensive but vanished due to rubbishosity.

Dylan said...

It's pretty good Matt, kind of falls apart a little bit towards the end and some of the actors are terrible. Overall though I'd say it's one of the better PKD adaps in a cheapo kind of way.

Dylan said...

Sorry I meant, Michael d'oh.

Ray Smyth said...

I got to see an exhibition of matte paintings recently that included mattes from The Birds, Young Sherlock Holmes, The Butchers wife and Julius Caesar. What amazed me most about them was how each one had a finnish that leaned more towards a sketch rather than a near photo-real image. Beside each matte they hung a smaller framed piece of the final composites. From The Birds they had that aerial view of the town with its gas station on fire. This painting was about 3 feet wide. The Julius Caesar matte was about 7 feet wide and was painted really loose and sketchy. The further back you stood away from it the more lost its painterly characteristics and looked more like a photo.
I always liked how those Buck Rogers shots were often complemented with a miniature traveling in perspective.

Matt J said...

Check out Paul Lasaine's blog-he started out in old school matte painting on films like Dick Tracy, then went on to digital matte painting on Lord of the Rings & now works at Sony Animation

Andrew Glazebrook said...

Ray, what they say about Matte Paintings is they're designed to be loose in terms of detail because it's all about light and shadow, if you look down the street to a far building say, you can see the windows, but mainly the shape, where the light is hitting, where the shadows are, you can't see the small details,just the shapes and form. So that's what a Matte artist is trying to do, not paint every rivet, or piece of wood grain etc...

Moonwatcher said...

That top left one is a real building they've expanded, I've seen it on other TV shows. These are all really great paintings, pity it was such a lightweight show.