Nice tutorial by Daniel Johnson
Daniel Johnson is a digital illustrator with a BFA in Illustration and a background in traditional media. Now a freelance artist and consultant, he worked for years as an Art Director, Illustrator, and Animator at an ad agency in Sonoma County, CA. Dan is an Adobe Certified Instructor and teaches computer graphics at various Bay Area locations. As a digital artist, he is largely self-taught and is now sharing his experience and techniques gained through years of trial and error. He won the Guru award in Illustration at the 2007 PhotoshopWorld. He was also the spotlighted designer in the May/June 2008 issue of Layers magazine. Dan is currently serving as the team leader of the Digital Matte team at San Francisco-based Pixel Corps. You can see more of his work here.
Ever wonder how those incredible scenes of panoramic vistas, impossible futuristic cities, or fantastic alien worlds come to life? It’s all through the magic of matte painting. If only I had a dollar (hey, inflation!) for every time someone responded, “Map painting?” But you know what I’m talking about, right? If you don’t, a brief history lesson is in order.
Ages ago, extremely talented artists painted these realistic scenes on large sheets of glass. It really is a lost art nowadays. The painting included blank areas that would get filled in with live action. The filmed segments were optically composited with the painting for the final result. A matte is a solid shape that is used to block out areas of the film frame so that no image gets exposed there. A simple matte shot would require a shot of the painting with a matte to block out the live area, the film sequence with a matte to block out everything but the live area, and a final piece of film for everything to be exposed onto.
See the tutorial here