Monday, October 10, 2022

Matte Art by Michael Pangrazio

The image above is of a Nepalese village in the 1981 film Raiders of the Lost Ark, painted by matte artist Michael Pangrazio (1956- ).  It isn't really a matte, because there is no space on it reserved for live action.  Therefore, it might be called a painted establishment shot.  (Final qualification: the chimney smoke might be a special effects "gag.")

Pangrazio's brief Wikipedia entry is here.

Nowadays, movies' special effects backgrounds and related settings are digital art.  In the old days, they were painted by hand.  This required a great deal of technical artistic talent.  Not only did the artwork have to appear realistic during their (usually very) brief screen time, the light-shade and coloring had to match the live action segments when the images were combined.

It seems that Pangrazio essentially lacked formal art training and learned on-the-job.  Apparently not a bad thing, because his matte work was very good.


Return of the Jedi - space ship
The live-action spot is the ramp at the front of the ship.

Return of the Jedi - hangar
Black areas are reserved for live action.

Return of the Jedi - Ewok village concept painting
Not strictly a matte painting, but similar.

Raiders of the Lost Ark - finale
This is considered a matte-shot "great" -- the government warehouse where the Ark of the Covenant was finally hidden.

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