The Matte World team formed to provide realistic matte-painting effects for film and television. In 1992, the company was renamed Matte World Digital, reflecting the new technological tools available to matte painters. Since then, MWD has created digital-matte environments for films directed by (among others) Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, James Cameron, and David Fincher.
After working on shots for more than 100 films, Matte World Digital closed its shop in August, 2012.
MWD was the first visual-effects company to apply radiosity rendering to film in Martin Scorsese's Casino (1995). Recreating the 1970s-era Las Vegas strip was made possible by simulating the indirect bounce-light effect of millions of neon lights. Radiosity rendering allowed for the first true simulation of bounce-light in a computer-generated environment.
For David Fincher's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, one of MWD's challenges was to create 29 digital matte paintings of a New Orleans train station and its various looks throughout time: new, run-down, and remodeled. To accomplish all these scenes from one 3D model, the company used Next Limit's Maxwell rendering software--an architectural visualization tool--revamping the software to accurately mimic real-world lighting.
When Fincher requested a low-altitude helicopter shot over Paris, Barron took digital reference photos from a helicopter flying over the city at a higher altitude (as required since 9/11). Then the team at MWD used a flight simulator to determine aerial views at a lower height. Once the height and angles were worked out on the simulator and approved by Fincher, a high-resolution CG model was built for a completely computer-generated flight shot.