are used in photography
and special effects filmmaking
to combine two or more image elements into a single, final image. Usually, mattes are used to combine a foreground image (such as actors on a set, or a spaceship) with a background image (a scenic vista, a field of stars and planets). In this case, the matte is the background painting. In film and stage, mattes can be physically huge sections of painted canvas, portraying large scenic expanses of landscapes.
In film, the principle of a matte requires masking certain areas of the film emulsion to selectively control which areas are exposed. However, many complex special-effects scenes have included dozens of discrete image elements, requiring very complex use of mattes, and layering mattes on top of one another.
For an example of a simple matte, we may wish to depict a group of actors in front of a store, with a massive city and sky visible above the store's roof. We would have two images—the actors on the set, and the image of the city—to combine onto a third. This would require two masks/mattes. One would mask everything above the store's roof, and the other would mask everything below it. By using these masks/mattes when copying these images onto the third, we can combine the images without creating ghostly double-exposures. In film, this is an example of a static
matte, where the shape of the mask does not change from frame to frame.
Other shots may require mattes that change, to mask the shapes of moving... Read More