Interview with Francesco Corvino
Q. Hello Francesco, could you tell us a bit about yourself and your background in CG and are you self-taught or have taken some training?
My name is Francesco Corvino and I'm an Italian concept designer and digital matte painter working in Hollywood at the Aaron Sims Company mainly on feature films.
My interest in CG started during my studies of architecture. I started playing by myself with software like Rhino and Vray to create images for architectural visualization. Soon enough I understood I liked more CG than architecture!
At that point I really felt the need to reach the next level and I sent an application to the Gnomon School of visual effects in Hollywood where I studied CG for two years.
Q. Please tell us about your past and current jobs. How you end up with the current job and what your nature of your job?
After I graduated with a master's degree in architecture, I worked for a while for some architectural firms in Italy. It was cool, but it was not creative enough.
Therefore I decided to apply to Gnomon, I was accepted and I moved to Hollywood. I spent the next two years working hard to learn as much as I could. I learned Maya and many other software, great techniques and amazing artists. I understood that I could have enough talent to make it as an artist, focusing in particular on the creation and design of environments and architectures. Before the end of the program I was hired at the Aaron Sims Company.
Here I'm responsible for the design of architectures and environments and the creation of digital matte paintings for feature films.
Q. For all those, who are new to the art of Digital Matte-Painting, can you briefly explain about this form of art?
Long story short, as a Digital Matte Painter I create photo-realistic backgrounds for movies.
I make images of environments using photographs and 3d elements and integrating them together in a seamless and consistent composition. Then, sometimes, accordingly to the camera movement, I project the 2d image I created onto a simple 3d geometry, a procedure called camera projection. In this way I can give the illusion of parallax and that the audience is moving inside my environment.
Q. Can you describe your typical workflow when you're working on a project, whether it be personal or for a client? How does the matte painting department work in the post-production stage of a feature film?
It really depends on the specific kind of image I have to deal with. Sometimes is very straightforward, just a few modifications on a plate. In that case I don't need a real pre-plan and I just drag the plate in photoshop and play with photographs to accomplish the final result.
Other times the task is more difficult. The image is very complex, there are lots of elements, maybe I have to deal with a camera movement and keep everything separated on different layers. In that case I really need to spend some time thinking about the best strategy. I make a quick sketch and I search for photographs. In this way I can understand which elements I must create in 3d, and how much time I have to spend refining the model, the textures and the lighting.
When my strategy is clear, I move on quickly roughing out the overall image, not caring too much about the details but rather focusing on the fundamentals of lighting and composition.
When I understand that the image works, I start refining all the details and rendering the 3d elements, until the image is perfectly polished. Eventually, if needed, I create a simple geometry in Maya to make a camera projection, going back to Photoshop from time to time in order to fix problems in the 2d image.
Q. From a creative standpoint, is it easier to work on personal work or client work?
Definitely on personal projects. That's because on a personal project you can create whatever you want, and as an artist, when I try to envision something, I immediately know which elements will work and which are better to avoid, which is the best camera angle, light or storytelling elements. Furthermore I can take all the time I desire to refine details and to develop intriguing designs.
Many of these things are impossible or very difficult with a client. First of all, you usually have short deadlines. Secondly, you must stick with the client's vision, which many times it is not really the best to become an appealing image.