A Matte Shot is a special effects shot in filmmaking combining two or more image elements into a single, final image. It does so by masking out part of an image and superimposing another image with the rest of the original. Most typically, mattes are used to combine a foreground image (such as actors on a set) with a background image (i.e. a scenic vista). In this case, the matte is the background image of the scenic vista.
Matte shooting is one of the most common techniques used in studio filmmaking, either for economic reasons. For example, it is much cheaper to shoot a picture of the Eiffel Tower. Then, you can use it as a matte background rather than travel to Paris and shoot on location. It would also be unlikely or too dangerous to try to shoot at the real location.
In more recent films, similar effects are now usually created digitally with computer-generated imagery (CGI). In this case, it is called digital matte.« Back to Glossary Index