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Why you slimy, double-crossing, no good swindler! You’ve got a lot of nerve showing your Behind the Scenes Pic of the Day around here after what you pulled.

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s Behind the Scenes Pic!

I’m a sucker for matte work. There’s something to the softness and artistry involved in painting, by hand, on glass, getting everything proportionately correct and lining up the camera so the shot looks like one giant image that really hits me deep down. Some would call it nostalgia and they may not be wholly incorrect, but there’s a deeper level of appreciation for the sheer amount of talent and smarts that goes into this work that really gets my geek juices flowing.

I appreciate the talent of CG designers, but I’m pretty old school when it comes to matte paintings and deeply miss them as a dying, if not dead, part of the legacy of cinema.

So today let’s fondly look back at this brilliant artform via the brilliant Ralph McQuarrie hard at work touching up a matte painting of Bespin for The Empire Strikes Back. Call me stupid, but I wasn’t aware McQuarrie also contributed matte paintings to the movies. I grew up with his concept art (had a Luke on Taun-Taun from Star Tours’ gift shop on my wall as a kid) and now have an even deeper respect for him, which I didn’t think was possible.

Click for a bigger version of the pic! Hope you guys enjoy!



Tomorrow’s Behind the Scenes Pic has the power!

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  • March 7, 2011, 6:41 p.m. CST

    Old School

    by BatRastard

    At least there are still people who appreciate it. In 50 years they ill equate this stuff to the silent movie days.

  • March 7, 2011, 6:44 p.m. CST

    Just incredible that some of those paintings are that small.

    by WriteForTheEdit

    What a talent. Yeah, this kind of work has gone the way of stone carving, pretty much.

  • March 7, 2011, 6:44 p.m. CST

    I wish I were old enough

    by Chocolate_Giddyup

    to fondly remember this. It's so cool!!! I was born in the wrong damn era.

  • March 7, 2011, 6:46 p.m. CST

    So, tomorrow's pic is from "Bruce Almighty?"

    by WriteForTheEdit

    Or "He-Man?" Hoping for some Frank Langella love.

  • March 7, 2011, 6:46 p.m. CST

    So, tomorrow's pic is from "Bruce Almighty?"

    by WriteForTheEdit

    Or "He-Man?" Hoping for some Frank Langella love.

  • March 7, 2011, 6:50 p.m. CST

    It was a matte painting???? NOOOOOO!!! My childhood has been raped!!!

    by Triple_J_72

    I kid... I kid... ;-P

  • March 7, 2011, 6:58 p.m. CST

    Does tomorrow's pic have the power..of love?

    by RedBull_Werewolf

    please be a Back to the future pic

  • March 7, 2011, 7:03 p.m. CST

    it's the Transformer Movie,with Wells doing the

    by KilliK

    voice-over probably.

  • March 7, 2011, 7:03 p.m. CST

    or Nimoy doing Galvatron

    by KilliK

  • March 7, 2011, 7:09 p.m. CST

    Bespin is the most McQuarrie-esque part of the finished films.

    by ROBRAM89

    I'm not terribly surprised.

  • March 7, 2011, 7:11 p.m. CST

    I'm a muralist, and stuff like this makes me feel bad

    by steve

    Because it makes me realize there's people with more talent in their pinky than I have in my entire body. But i'm good with it! Because this is totally totally awesome!

  • March 7, 2011, 7:12 p.m. CST

    Tommorows pic is He-Man Master of the Universe?

    by UGG

    Dolph and/or Courtney?

  • March 7, 2011, 7:30 p.m. CST

    Yeah I agree with killik

    by room23storeblogspotcom

    Its got to be the 2D animated Transformers: The Movie. The real Transformers movie, not the Bay movies with big robots that happen to transform.

  • March 7, 2011, 7:31 p.m. CST

    oh all right...

    by alxorange

    I'll be the biggest nerd here. Isn't it "You've got alot of GUTS coming here, after what you pulled."?

  • March 7, 2011, 7:32 p.m. CST

    tomorrow is Boogie Nights

    by Monolith_Jones

    You got the touch!

  • March 7, 2011, 7:36 p.m. CST

    so tomorrows pick is from C&C Music Factory

    by vin_diggler

  • March 7, 2011, 7:41 p.m. CST


    by J-Dizzle

  • March 7, 2011, 7:41 p.m. CST

    Without McQuarrie, there would have been no Star Wars

    by alienindisguise

    This man is the greatest inspiration to me as a concept artist I'm glad to see people giving Ralph the respect and credit he's always deserved. Man, I hope tomorrow's pic is from Masters of the Universe!!!

  • March 7, 2011, 7:47 p.m. CST

    Tomorrow COULD be Labyrinth:

    by Fuzzyjefe

    You remind me of the babe. What babe? The babe with the power. What power? The power of VOODOO. Who do? You do. Do what? Remind me of the babe. It'll probably be a prosthetic dick though.

  • March 7, 2011, 7:50 p.m. CST


    by Chewbacca_Khan

    first BtSPotD that actually moved me to comment. For some reason, that, even more than a pic of the principle actors or Lucas, drives home the magic of a uniquely wondrous and formative cinema experience from my childhood. Kudos, Quint.

  • March 7, 2011, 7:50 p.m. CST

    tommorows pic will be from Perfect weapon or He-man ?

    by ace mccoy

  • March 7, 2011, 7:52 p.m. CST

    Matte Paintings Rule

    by Barron34

    So much CGI looks like bad animation. It is no slam against CGI artists, I just think that it is an inhererent limitation of the medium. Matte paintings can be executed in a realist style, so they can look both fantastic (in subject matter) and realistic (in style) at the same time, creating a breathtaking capacity for suspension of disbelief in fantasy and science-fiction movies.***** Fantasy, horror, and SF movies that are live-action but which rely on a lot of CGI seem like a form of hybrid movie to me: not wholly live-action or wholly animation, but something oddly in-between both. Old school pratical effects, matte paintings, etcetera, mixed with live action create a texture and believability that CGI really doesn't. *****AVATAR, for example, succeeded, I think, becuase most of the movie was CGI, and the live-action elements were not predominant. It was more like an animated movie than a live-action flick.**** The STAR WARS prequels, on the other hand, followed lead characters who were primarily live-action, through a world and setting that were heavily CGI. It seemed like a bunch of live-action characters moving through a computer-animated movie.***** I think one reason that the original STAR WARS trilogy works better is because it used matte paintings, models, practical effects, and other old school technologies, which seem less artificial and more believable than a bunch of effects that are obviously computer-generated and therefore are less able to allow the audience to suspend disbelief. Just my opinion.

  • March 7, 2011, 7:55 p.m. CST

    you've got the touch

    by Anakin_Piecocker

    you got the power

  • March 7, 2011, 8:29 p.m. CST

    There is nobody like Ralph McQuarrie

    by Geekgasm

    Nobody. So let's heap praise upon him while he's still around and can appreciate it.

  • March 7, 2011, 9:12 p.m. CST

    If you want modern matte paintings so much...

    by jonathancaltman

    Play pretty much any videogame that isn't open-world/real-time. After one of Quint's really insufferable rants on mattes, I had to think about it. But then I played Halo: Reach, and was reminded that there are INCREDIBLE matte paintings being used for skybox backgrounds. True mattes. With small action and lighting mixed in to give a sense of depth. And I guess that's my problem with Quint's perspective on them. We've chucked them out of movies for the most part for the sake of real camera moves. But they've migrated into serious games that want to extend their sets beyond their computational power. In short, they're being used for the exact same reason they were used back in the day. So open your eyes and appreciate where they are, not just where they were.

  • March 7, 2011, 9:21 p.m. CST

    Tomorrow... He-Man???

    by Deep13

  • March 7, 2011, 9:22 p.m. CST

    The prequels are shit!

    by elsewhere


  • March 7, 2011, 10:01 p.m. CST

    Anybody remember...

    by ObiBen

    ...the Star Wars and CE3K McQuarrie portfolios? 5 or 6 large art prints in a big document envelope? Much cooler than the 3000$ picture book in the faux venetian pine case they're pushing these days... As for matte painting, it's still alive, albeit in digital form. ILM alumni Craig Barron and Michael Pangrazio (very talented matte painter as well) founded Matte World Digital which produced some great work for Fincher movies.

  • March 7, 2011, 10:02 p.m. CST

    Ralph McQuarrie is a master jedi...

    by Dark Doom

    It was his vision that sold George's story to the Fox Execs...

  • March 7, 2011, 10:05 p.m. CST

    Harrison Ellenshaw's opinion on CGI via the Blackhole DVD

    by TheJudger

    "Visual effects today in many ways have changed, but in many ways they have not changed. There is no slider in Photoshop that says Good Composition / Bad Composition. Computers are still a tool. A tool is a hammer, is a paintbrush, is a computer. The Artistic side of it. The creative side of it, still has not been supplied by anything other than a human being. I have nostalgia for the past, but not nostalgia for the methods- they were hard." ----------------------------- And there you have it. The blackhole movie had 150 matte paintings.

  • March 7, 2011, 10:06 p.m. CST


    by Rebel Scumb

    I agree its surprising how small those paintings are in real life. Gorgeous work, its sounds cheesy, but thats true magic right there.

  • March 7, 2011, 10:18 p.m. CST

    I love pre-90's matte paintings

    by Nasty In The Pasty

    I think the last shot of Die Hard 2 was one of the last hand-painted ones ever done.

  • Leeeeeeroooooooyyyyyyy!!!!!

  • March 7, 2011, 10:37 p.m. CST

    The line is "Youve got a lot of GUTS coming back here..."

    by D.Vader

    Jeezus Christ, Quint...

  • March 7, 2011, 11:14 p.m. CST

    ^^^^^lol d.vader

    by William

    I was thinking the same thing. We've got the internet. Google that shit before you post and make sure it's correct. :/

  • March 7, 2011, 11:20 p.m. CST

    Freddy Krueger: "Now I'm playing with Power!"

    by TheJudger

    "Heyyy, you forgot the Powerglove!"

  • March 7, 2011, 11:50 p.m. CST

    Tomorrow's pic

    by dukeroberts

    I think it is from "The Bachelor and the Bobbysoxer".

  • March 8, 2011, 2:14 a.m. CST

    I love Blade Runner...

    by The Dum Guy

  • March 8, 2011, 2:37 a.m. CST

    Dammit Cageholic

    by Shubniggorath

    You beat me to the Jeff Speakman guess!!

  • I honestly thought Super Mario Bros would have become a cult classic by now. I don't even think there was a DVD release. Too bad. Samantha Mathis was cute.

  • March 8, 2011, 3:25 a.m. CST

    concerning tomorrow's pic...


    It could even be The Silence of the Lambs.

  • March 8, 2011, 3:29 a.m. CST

    You mean that above angle shot of the Falcon...

    by Gabba-UK

    With Lando, Leia and Chewie shooting back at the Stormtroopers was all matte!?? I've always believed that was the full size mock up Falcon on a studio floor painted like the landing pad surface and it was just the background, the edges of the pad and under it that was a matte painting. But the Falcon is too??! Respect to McQuarrie with this one. Had me fooled for 30 years. Another reason of many why GCI sucks and practical models and mattes rule. Computers should be used for compositing shots only. Artists use paint, brushes, glue, clay, get their hands dirty and their work looks alive because they physically breathed that life into it. All GCI looks soulless and dead becaue no one touched it. Avatar didn't fool me for 30 seconds, never mind the 30 years McQuarrie has.

  • March 8, 2011, 3:42 a.m. CST

    Samantha Mathis is still cute.

    by Gabba-UK

    Just needed to be said. I honestly think it needs to be said more.

  • March 8, 2011, 4:32 a.m. CST

    Shut the fuck up about tomorrows pic ....


    You bunch of cunts .... Enjoy and appreciate todays for fucks sake ...

  • March 8, 2011, 5:57 a.m. CST

    Watched ROTJ......

    by daglesj

    ..a few days ago for the first time in many years. Didnt realise how cheap a lot of it looked compared to Empire. I didnt realise till then they didnt even bother using the full size mock up of the Falcon in the hangar scenes. All you see is Han and Lando standing rather sheepisly in front of some not too great matte paintings of the Falcon. Looks awful.

  • March 8, 2011, 6:53 a.m. CST

    It would be interesting to know

    by Matt

    on which matte paintings Ralph McQuarrie also worked. I just love this, just take a look at the colours of the sky, the whole painting got this romantic sci-fi look, and one can argue that this unique painterly effect cannot be replicated with cgi.

  • March 8, 2011, 8:12 a.m. CST

    CGI vs. Practical

    by Essemtee

    All this talk of SW's practical effects vs. CGI made me wonder: What if Lucas had made Episodes I, II and III first with all the so-called "technological limitations" of 1977/80/83, and episodes IV, V and VI in 1999/02/05. Fully CGI ewoks? Actors playing clone troopers?

  • March 8, 2011, 10:44 a.m. CST

    Did McQuarrie ever find time to sleep?!

    by Royston Lodge

    He must have had a brush in his hand 24/7!!!

  • March 8, 2011, 11:11 a.m. CST

    @ obiben I remember and still have those

    by v3d

    Plus a lot of "Art of.." and sketchbooks. Probably the coolest thing I have is something called the Animage Replica Series for Luputa. It has replica full size animation cels. That's the sad thing about CGI, the lack of film artifacts.

  • March 8, 2011, 11:13 a.m. CST

    barron34: the originals worked because just about every

    by UltraTron

    scene in them is filmed on this amazing technology called a set or actual location. You're right about Avatar working because the entire environment and characters are digital. An interesting thing about Avatar's live footage of characters is that they get reflection bloom on their faces from the hot lights that causes this slight haze atmosphere around their features. They need to add some of that to the digital characters in closeups to better blend that shit in the next one

  • March 8, 2011, 11:37 a.m. CST

    Digital can be used not only to simulate this exact look

    by UltraTron

    but you could paint the fucking thing on glass- take a picture of it with your iPhone 4- and then composite it. Digital can be used for anything imaginable. It's harnessing it all under one vision that works that's usually the problem. And for the record. This painting doesn't work. It's off. It's not even remotely real. If it fooled you as a kid you must have seen it on a small tv. Yes your brain has to work to make it real and that is what makes it spectacular. Avatar is the greatest visual effects I've ever seen in terms of technical quality, execution, extensiveness, etc. I've seen everything the way the director intended in his wettest dreams. You have it better than you can possibly imagine. A movie like Avatar provides more bang for your dollar than any nation has ever produced a thing for entertainment. There is just no way you will ever see a studio make a movie with deliberate flaws to simulate this painted look unless tarintino does his dream project he's been calling Space Opera.

  • March 8, 2011, 4:59 p.m. CST

    Re: utratron/digital simulations

    by kevred

    There's a lot of insight in your last comment about digital, but I notice that one word is nowhere to be found in what you said: Art. I believe that computers will never achieve the "certain something" we saw with the likes of Star Wars because they're just computers. They are, inherently, shortcuts. Being fooled is not the same thing as being moved. To my eyes, Avatar is candy, not art. We know that great matte paintings aren't real skies and landscapes, but we do know that they're *real* - real paintings. CG isn't real, it doesn't exist anywhere in physical reality. We know the difference, at some level. I don't think we can escape that.

  • ...will discourage future TBs from being cluttered with such repetitive comments.

  • March 8, 2011, 6:21 p.m. CST

    Have signed lithograph of Cantina scene concept

    by KarlKolchak

    It's my most-cherished Star Wars possession. Kudos to you, Mr. McQuarrie.

  • March 8, 2011, 6:25 p.m. CST

    Well said, barron34


    You took the words right out of my mouth. I could always spot mattes in the past, and I can always spot CGI now. It's not a question of fooling anyone, mattes just look "more" realistic to me and are actually quite beautiful. Like a work of art, not a video game background. P.S. some of my favorite mattes are in Escape From New York. Those were truly the days.