Discovering the UFO- in The Thing (1982)
Albert Whitlock was one of the most respected matte painters ever. He had magic brushes, and often he would be called in to save a shot, if something had gone wrong. For the sequence in John Carpenter's The Thing where the crashed UFU is discovered, Whitlock provided a number of paintings to illustrate the find.
The second unit was supposed to shoot the inserts of the characters, but bad weather made it impossible, so Whitlock had to take care of that too. The inserts were reshot on the Universal backlot, by having the actors walk on a white sheet, which looked like snow under the right condition. Other inserts were accomplished by shooting the actors against a blue screen.
The big reveal shot is a stunning sight to behold, enhanced by a typical Whitlock trick: Sunlight. As the three character watch this incredible sight, the sun comes out and the shadows move ever so slightly in the background, making the entire image come alive.
The matte painting was actually painted "flat", and the sunlight was added to a transparent cell laid on top of the painting. The sunlight element was shot with several moving mattes to achieve the proper sense of depth.
Movie magic with little more than glass, paint, and a brush.