Catching a few lobsters...
/ Twinkling Stars Motion Graphic Matte Painting

I wanted to create a matte painting that wasn’t as static as matte paintings normally are. Since our goal, as a team, is to make a beautiful end result, I wanted to push even this matte painting further beyond just a painting– I needed movement.

The piece is meant to resemble the night sky, as seen from the earth, with only a campfire around for light. To begin, I found reference imagery of night sky scenes. Here’s a few of the images I based my design off of:


From these images, I realized that I needed to bring a few things into my design:

  1. The stars have to twinkle
  2. Stars aren’t only one color. There seem to be specks of blue, white and red.
  3. Stars aren’t all the same size. We’ll need some different sizes
  4. I need a cloud cover over the stars, which feature blue, purple and orange colors.

To develop this effect, I used Adobe After Effects. Again, It needed motion. I began by applying a fractal noise layer, which randomly distributes black and white pixels within a discernible pattern on separate scales. This fractal noise will later be what’s actually driving the twinkling.

Over the fractal noise, I applied a colorama effect. Colorama can take information from pixels and display them as colors. In this case, I decided that I wanted to use the luminosity value to pick a value on a continuum from blue to orange. Actual stars burn hottest at blue and coldest around orange, so these will help approximate the range of colors in the universe.

Finally, I applied Adobe’s Star Field effect. It creates specks of color influenced by the underlying layer. Since the underlying layer is constantly changing and changing colors, based on the luminosity of the value, each star is a brighter color when it’s burning brighter, and darker when it’s fading into black.

After finishing the first star effect, I was able to use different parameters within those effects to control how fast the blinking happens, the colors of the blink, where the stars are, and, even if one was so inclined, how fast those stars move.

I also knew that I wanted clouds over the stars. I did this also with a fractal noise, but applied some lighting to get the blue, orange and purple colors. Here’s the final result:

I’m pretty proud of the end result. For an asset that’ll probably only be seen in the roughing stages, I feel like this matte could really help push the overall polish.

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