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Thomas Valentino
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Joined: 2007-09-11

[B][URL=http://www.dperry.com/archives/jobs/descriptions/artist_and_anim/]Artist and Animator FAQ[/URL][/B]

The artist/animator is an essential part of the game development team, working with the designer to turn ideas into reality and supplying the visuals that the rest of the team will bring to life. In this section you'll find the answers to the most common questions we are asked about artists and animators in gaming, as well as a list of suggested reading materials.

* [URL=http://www.dperry.com/archives/jobs/descriptions/artist_and_anim/#degree]Do I need a university degree?[/URL]
* [URL=http://www.dperry.com/archives/jobs/descriptions/artist_and_anim/#artist]How do I become a video game artist?[/URL]
* [URL=http://www.dperry.com/archives/jobs/descriptions/artist_and_anim/#animator]How do I become a video game animator?[/URL]
* [URL=http://www.dperry.com/archives/jobs/descriptions/artist_and_anim/#software]What kind of software should I learn to use?[/URL]
* [URL=http://www.dperry.com/archives/jobs/descriptions/artist_and_anim/#hardware]What kind of hardware should I buy?[/URL]
* [URL=http://www.dperry.com/archives/jobs/descriptions/artist_and_anim/#demoreel]How do I sell myself? How do I make a demo reel?[/URL]
* [URL=http://www.dperry.com/archives/jobs/descriptions/artist_and_anim/#schools]What kind of schools are there for artists and animators?[/URL]
* [URL=http://www.dperry.com/archives/jobs/descriptions/artist_and_anim/#ready]I'm ready to apply for a job![/URL]

[B]Should I get a college/university degree?[/B]

In other words, should you spend the time/money/effort in getting a degree, or should you polish some skills and go straight to the job market?

Overall, traditional art training is indispensable -- you've got to understand color, lighting, texture, anatomy, architectural style and construction. etc. It�??s all used in video game art. As you'll see below, artists not only create characters, but environments, buildings, explosions, etc.

Game developers tend to look for veterans and/or diamonds in the rough. While it certainly couldn't hurt, per se, having a degree (or any other certificate) means very little when applying for a position as a 3D artist. When it comes to getting your foot in the door, a PICTURE paints a MILLION words. So my point is that even a nice long resume with lots of text will not help -- you need a web address or a video tape or an .AVI or a .MOV file to catch someone's attention.

I suggest you make a a great demo reel at home, learning what you need from the Web, from other artists, from classes, from books, etc. Start a gallery online, somewhere like [url]www.raph.com[/url], because game companies watch sites like these.

Once you have your BEST POSSIBLE gallery online, then invite companies to come and see it. To get to the key people, use a mailer [URL=http://www.eastcoastgames.com/resources/resumemailer.html]like the one here[/URL]. Note that this mailer is somewhat out of date. Use the directory of game companies to create your own list.

Remember that you only get ONE visit from a company, so make sure your work is going to drop their jaw when you get them there.

[B]How do I become a video game artist?[/B]

There are several different types of artists. These are the major types below. Note that these are not in any particular order, and the list is very generalized -- different companies may use different terms. But these are the most common.

[B]Art Director[/B]

Should really be the guru that knows all tools, technologies and with the most creative ideas and best artistic ability. They can inspire by example and can physically step in to fix problems as they come up. They also need to work closely with the producer & designer to manage the throughput of the art team. Good time management skills are essential.

This is often the highest paid art position, but it's also got a lot of responsibility with it. It's also a frustrating job, because it ends up restricting the time you actually get to draw and add to the game as you spend a lot of time in meetings and managing people. Expect future video game Art Directors to spend very little time physically making the game.

[B]Special Effects Artist[/B]

This is a new kind of position that is going to become more and more important in the video game business as the hardware curve keeps on climbing. In machines like the Playstation 2, there is a lot of power to be harnessed by programming the special effects using mathematical procedures inside the video graphics chip. That said, don't rely on the programmer to make this a beautiful thing, as usually the creativity and tweaking comes from this artist, someone with an eye for really cool and organic special effects.

The Special Effects Artist has to blend that artistic ability with an amazing technical prowess. This is now probably the most technical art job going in a studio. It's all about explosions, reflections, object destruction, particles, smoke, clouds, flapping cloth, hair, etc. This artist must be SUPER flexible to move from task to task and tool to tool. They would benefit greatly from having previous programming experience. The good news is that you don't have to be an amazing pencil artist for this position, but some cinematic and video processing experience is important.
3D Background Artist[/B]

These people build the worlds (both indoor and outdoor). Some are very technical and create very lifelike photorealistic worlds, while some create amazing new fantasy worlds with little reference. Some combine the two, using real world art and tweaking it to look more stylized (like a convincing alien green sky.)

The best background artists are pretty technical individuals and are able to push a programmer to generate new innovative looks, lighting and moods in their levels. To do spectacular work, they usually push programmers pretty hard and are flexible to change and modify their work, if it will result in a new feature improving the overall ambiance of the worlds. They do a LOT of work in 3D art packages, custom level layout tools and in texture artwork packages like Photoshop.

The background artist has a BIG responsibility to the game, as it's usually his art that gets the initial "WOW" when a gamer first sees the game.

[B]3D Model Builder (Objects)[/B]

This person builds physical objects, pickups, vehicles, furniture, etc. A 3D model builder should be very organized and be able to build models quicker and quicker over time as they generate a good library of basic objects. The biggest mistake they make is when they get a model 95% there, then take forever just tweaking it -- adding detail you can see in a high-end artist package, but can never see in the game. I have seen some model builders just not able to break this habit.

It's not a terribly technical job, but I find that the best guys are the one that you could say, "Build me a Mars Exploration Vehicle," and they would run off and draw something cool and original that LOOKS LIKE IT WOULD WORK! That's that trick -- understanding machinery, balance, gearing, etc. They tend to use 3D art packages and texture tools all day long. It's a nice, rewarding, focused job with a major impact on the game.

[B]3D Model Builder (Characters)[/B]

This person builds the characters in your game. This is a really cool position. The old days of building characters in 250 polygons is long over (models at Shiny come close to 500,000 polygons now). That said, some teams still use the older style of engine and some are working on more simple 3D interfaces (like online games).

So you need to decide -- are you a HIGH-DETAIL Character artist, or a LOW-DETAIL Character artist? The high-detail guys are the ones at Hollywood quality levels that can easily make a movie-quality 3D character. The low-detail guys have a knack of making a character look cool, even when they have VERY little detail to work with. The high-detail guys usually work on Silicon Graphics or killer PC workstations, whie the low-detail guys tend to work on decent PCs.

Both jobs are very important, but expect to see a gentle drift towards the high-end as hardware gets better and better over time.
[B]3D Cyberscanning Artist (Actors)[/B]

This is a relatively new type of game artist that uses a laser-scanning machine or complex video capture software to generate a very high detail 3D model. He then hand-repairs and enhances this 3D character to look absolutely photorealistic. This artist is responsible for getting the future synthetic actors into video games. It's not as creative as many artists would like, but it's an amazing challenge to deliver the best actors. It's also complex, when you start considering clothing, hair, teeth, eyes, muscle movement, etc. So this artist is probably best being a top 3D character builder that now wants to try his hand at something fresh and new.

[B][/B]3D FMV (Full motion video) Artist

Working with the conceptual artist and as part of a team, these artists need to be able to follow a storyboard and generate a high quality cinematic movie sequence. This requires cameras, lighting, animation, seamless integration of characters and worlds, ambiance, music, etc. The reality is that this job is huge, and so it is common for entire teams of artists to work together while concentrating on their own speciality (lighting or special effects or camera moves or environment, etc.)

My personal concern is that quite often the best artists on the team end up wanting to do this, and then the game itself suffers. These guys usually can do great characters and backgrounds and can make up a really compelling movie sequence. They generally belong in Hollywood, but you will find video game teams fighting for them in the coming years.


Thomas Valentino

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