At the beginning of the 20th century one of the technology wonders was the possibility to broadcast the recorded TV programs, and in the age of technological progress it is becoming really difficult to distinguish between real objects and images, which exist only “inside” the computer.

In this article we will try to find out what techniques of computer graphics help designers to create an unreal reality for the viewer, that is, to combine 2D images and 3D graphics …

Why, in fact, do we need to combine 2D and 3D? Drawing additional details and nuances in ready photos and videos is quite a troublesome, but interesting process, and it is often the only possible way to create a desired effect.

Today computer editing is used in a great variety of fields:

  • advertising prints,

  • commercials,

  • movies,

  • television programs,

  • music videos and more.

The success of work depends on many aspects.

It does not matter what genre you are working in, what is really important is the environment – it should not distract, irritate, and certainly not in any way cause discomfort and lead to the idea that “something is wrong” or “this character or object does not exist in reality.”

Designers create a reality that no one has ever seen. Let the audience know exactly that everything is different in the reality, but people have to believe that this bus is real and it flies (!) over the real city, that it is run by a live pilot and there is fuel, which makes the bus fly over the streets of the city!

How to Create a Digital Picture

There are several ways to create a digital picture:

  • take a picture of anything and download photos to your computer,

  • draw it on the tablet PC,

  • use the three-dimensional graphics,

  • scan the appropriate picture.

It is logical that someone had the idea to mix it all – for example photos, 2D and 3D graphics.

Popular methods that add photorealism to the model

1. Matte paintings

Let’s start with Matte paintings, which can be treated as “vignette, drawing on the masks.” This technology is used to design virtual spaces and create backgrounds. It can be used to create an entire object or add details to the existing one.

Matte painting was used long before 3D-graphics to call the technique when an existing image was overlaid by glass with painting on it.


Matte painting – is one of the oldest tricks in the film production: it was first used in 1907 by Norman Dawn (ASC), a production designer of Missions of California. At the times huge scale models of cities were not built and films were shot mostly indoors. As decoration they used glass boards and painted the required background on them.  These boards – there could be two or even ten of them – were placed in parallel at certain distance. The camera was set before them. On the back board there was a background landscape that remained motionless, for example painted jungle. The front board contained a lot of details, such as plants, rocks, etc. – so the effect of perspective was created. Artists acted out a play between the boards. Paintings were performed so professional that viewers often mistook them for real.

Modern Usage

  • Matte painting in 3D.

With the development of computer technology the “matte paintings” term possessed another meaning. Now, this technique is used on tablet PC for drawing, in 3D-graphics and 3D-animation. Matte painting in 3D – is an image, which is based on previously captured photos or films. Designers complement and draw additional details transplanting real objects into the virtual world.

  • Matte painting in movie.

More often matte paintings are used in motion pictures, when it is too expensive to order real scenery. This is done not only for economic reasons, but also when there is no other way to achieve the desired result, for example it is physically impossible to shoot the actors on the Moon.

To facilitate the process, it is necessary to think over the final image before the shooting starts. Make a rough sketch and determine what will be real and what will be designed on a computer. Most often, real objects and main characters are in the foreground. If, for example, the bird flies directly in front of the camera, it is easier to shoot a real bird than to create an animation – there is still a high probability that the movement of “computer” wings will be unnatural. But if the background is a huge flock of birds flying in a certain path, it is easier to draw it than to make the birds fly to where the director wants.

At the stage of post-production a special attention should be given to lighting, colors and sharpness of the whole scene.

2. Compositing

It is the technique of adding special effects and refinements to the image using 3D-graphics, in other words it is a construction of an image from several individual objects or layers, a method of overlaying objects and special effects.

Professional compositing includes:

  • color correction

  • chroma key or “blue / green screen” – it does without chroma keys only if the whole scene is modeled in 3D.

As Brian Buongiorno, a vice president of 525 Studios (studio specializing in creation of visual effects, located in Santa Monica, US), said, “Compositing is like a marriage: all depends on the mutual understanding of the parties”.

Compositing is generally a combination of 2D and 3D images: embedding photo and video materials in 3D environment and, on the contrary, transferring 3D objects into the real world.

High professionalism of 3D-Ace team allows to apply different techniques including compositing when creating 3D models and scenes to achieve the desired result.

Contact us to learn more about 3D modeling services or visit our Portfolio to find more examples of our work.