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Matte Painting Teacher Interview - Rahul Venugopal

Rahul Venugopal

How would you define what you do? 

Matte painting as an art form existed from the dawn of filmmaking from the movies such as "Trip to the Moon" by George Méliès. What we do today is only the digital extension of the same techniques. The goal is always been to create a location or an environment which is practically impossible to capture on film or sometimes it is much more cost effective to create a matte painting than actually filming in a specific location.


Did you need to explain to your mom that this is an actual career?

I was fortunate enough not to do so, my mom always has been my inspiration and she strongly suggested me follow my dreams whatever it may be. She supported my passion for films and I took media and film as my major studies right after my senior high school. So it really gave me a jump start in the industry. Being a teacher, she also motivated me to share my knowledge with others.


In a studio, what is your day like?

In most studios I have worked, a typical day starts with going through the reviews of the shots which was left by the supervisors the other day. If there was no review then I would be still polishing and improving the shots based on comments from the last daily review sessions. The daily session review once or twice a day is a common practice at almost all the medium size to big size studios. So most of the day's work depends upon the timing of the review session and follow up with comments received. I would also spend some time catching up with my co-workers and review each other's work. It is crucial communicate within the team about the work we do since we are working on the same project most of the times.


What was your big break into the industry?

"The global nature of this industry has given me the opportunity to work in eight countries around the world.."

My big break was working on "The Expendables 2" as a digital matte painter at Worldwide FX, studios Bulgaria. This was also my first international freelance gig.


What are some of the cool things about working in this industry?


Definitely one of the coolest aspects of working in the industry is getting to watch your favorite blockbusters before it gets released and also the pleasure of watching movies you worked on a big screen together with your family and friends.
Also, the global nature of this industry has given me the opportunity to work in eight countries around the world. I believe the experience of traveling and working with different people made me a better human being and also gave me a much bigger perspective in life.



What's are some of the challenges of your profession?

"matte painting as an art form is moving more towards full-scale 3D environments."

Crunch times and keeping up the deadlines are always challenging but it also gives you the experience to learn and grow as an individual. Also keeping up to date with changing technology trends in the industry can sometimes be taxing on your work life balance.





Can you mention some of your career highlights?

After "Interstellar" won the Oscar for VFX, my friends and family were quite thrilled as I was fortunate to work on that feature film at Double Negative, London.


How do you stay awesome?

Keeping myself always open to learn new pieces of stuff from others and being humble about the work I do.


Where do you think the bulk of work is for in your profession?


The bulk of matte painting work is always been in high-end feature films but these days we could find a lot of matte paintings in VFX heavy TV shows as well. There are also niche amount of matte painting/environment work in game cinematics.
Also, matte painting as an art form is moving more towards full-scale 3D environments so that it means this could be relevant to any digital forms including new exciting mediums such as virtual reality.



What advice can you give to aspiring artists?

"Be humble, learn, create and have fun."


Try to spend more time developing your fundamental art skills such as a strong base in composition, color, value, scale and most important perspective. Software and techniques will keep changing but fundamentals of creating art will always remain the same.
One should also spend time developing his or her's unique visual library by studying films, literature, architecture, and nature. I think it is very important to follow your instincts and do what you enjoy. It's not just about what working in a cool studio or getting your name on big blockbuster's credit list. I think it's more about creating something that other people can marvel at and enhance their life experience. So it's very crucial to treat yourself and the art you create with the utmost respect.
Finally, it's easy to get overwhelmed by the quality of amazing digital art you can find online but always keep in mind that everybody started at one point and they worked their way up. Its just passion, practice, persistence, and patience.



Is there anything else you would like to add?

Be humble, learn, create and have fun ;)




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