History of Visual Effects - Traveling Matte

One of the disadvantages of matte paintings that early filmmakers found was that the camera could not move, which often created very dull scene work. Visual effects artists began to experiment in techniques that would allow for a matte to be produced for every frame of film. One process involved filming a scene against a blue backdrop in high-contrast black and white film, then dying the negative in an orange dye. When the film is then processed using a blue filter that matched the backdrop, the result was a solid matte of the foreground elements. This was process was used extensively in the 1933 film King Kong:

Another process involved filming the foreground elements against a flat black backdrop, then producing a matte from that. This was the process used in the 1933 film The Invisible Man:

A process that was used extensively by Disney was the sodium vapor process which involved filming live action against a yellow backdrop. For example, this was used quite convincingly in the film Mary Poppins:

These processes all gave way to the more modern blue screening techniques of compositing. The rise of the optical printer also gave filmmakers the option of creating better effects from fewer generations of film. Mattes could then easily be drawn from the negative, allowing for better quality of effects. In addition, the use of the technique of rotoscoping (or hand-drawing mattes for film) gave additional options for filmmakers. These all, of course, laid the foundation for modern digital techniques in compositing:

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