Virtual Production Real-time 3D Artist - Commercial

The role, salary, software, and skills of a Real-time 3D Artist for commercial industries

Image: AEC Magazine

What does a commercial real-time 3D artist do?

Similar to virtual production in film, a commercial real-time 3D artist harnesses the skills found in one or more areas of the traditional production pipeline but executed in a real-time environment such as a game engine. The basic skill sets are the same, but the medium is different (real-time vs. non-real-time). They are often referred to as content creators.

Commercial virtual production covers many industries and is used for various purposes, including:

  • Installations and projections for events for exhibitions and concerts for more interactive and immersive experiences
  • Marketing and commercial purposes such as fashion shows (see CGS Mentor Deepak’s virtual fashion show for GCDS as part of Milan Fashion Week)
  • Broadcasting
  • Engineering
  • Architectural visualization & building design
  • Product design
  • Environment and theater design

These creators often collaborate with other artists, designers, and programmers to realize a broader vision, known as virtual production.


The Weather Channel uses virtual production to display information about the weather, which the reporter can interact with. 

What is virtual production?

Virtual production is analogous to traditional production. The main difference is that renders occur in real-time. Real-time is paving new, improved workflows for the film industry and bridging some gaps in the traditional production pipeline, allowing real-world and digital platforms to converge. It’s been adopted as a tool by filmmakers and content creators to visualize what they’d usually only be able to view in post-production at the pre-production and production stages.

Virtual Production Mentor, Deepak’s virtual fashion show for GCDS as part of Milan Fashion Week.

Commercial real-time artist  job description

Real-time artists focus on content or asset creation in a real-time environment such as a game engine, often working on a project from concept to completion. They are also responsible for maintaining visuals in both quality and optimization — from entire environments down to small 3D props, known as assets.

Role & responsibilities of a real-time artist in virtual production for commercial industries:

  • Mockup concepts and adjust as directed
  • Work with the client and real-time team to design interactive experiences using a game engine
  • World building (create and layout assets in a real-time engine)
  • Light scenes for a better cinematic experience
  • Optimize content through profiling and enhancing performance with the help of diagnostic tools 
  • Collaborate with programmers to develop and test new features, prototype shader code, and provide useful feedback during R&D phases.

Skills required to become a commercial real-time artist

When starting in this competitive field, you’ll need to focus on learning technical tools and be proficient in a game engine such as Unreal or Unity, which often also involves some coding.

Employers may look for the following skills in a commercial real-time 3D artist:

  • Experience in a real-time engine
  • Real-time ready asset creation (props, characters, etc.)
  • Texture/Shader knowledge 
  • An understanding of animation, animation rigs, and anatomy
  • Scripting languages like MEL, Python, C#, and Javascript are useful
  • A general understanding of cameras and how changing their values will contribute to how you might block, light, and shoot a scene.
  • Basic knowledge of industry processes (depending on which industry you are working in)

What software and tools do real-time 3D artists use?

When starting in this competitive field, you’ll need to focus on learning a real-time game engine, but the importance of art fundamentals cannot be underestimated. However, because Real-time Artists often take on a more generalist role, plenty of other software is worth learning too.

Real-time artists may need knowledge of a combination of the following software:

  • Unreal Engine
  • Unity
  • Motionbuilder
  • World Creator
  • QuadSpinner Gaea
  • Substance Painter
  • Blender
  • Maya
  • Houdini

How much does a commercial real-time artist make? 

The national average salary of a Real-time 3D Artist is $62,053 annually in the United States. (Source: Glassdoor)


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