What does a Real-time 3D Artist for games do?
Similar to virtual production in film, a real-time 3D artist in games harnesses the skills found in one or more areas of the traditional game development pipeline. Tasks assisting with cinematics and various aspects of gameplay are executed in a game engine, also known as a real-time environment. Real-time 3D Artists are often generalists who collaborate with other artists, designers, and programmers to realize a broader vision, commonly known as virtual production.
Screenshot showcasing CGS student Vincent Velarde’s project: built in Unreal Engine 4 and assets from Unreal Engine Marketplace.
What is Virtual Production?
Virtual production is analogous to traditional production with the main difference being that renders occur in real-time. Real-time has been a staple in the game industry for a while. More recently, it has also 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.
Game retrospective for Vincent’s project, Proteus, made in real-time using Unreal Engine 4.
Video Game 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 both the quality and optimization of visuals — from entire environments down to small 3D props, known as assets for cinematics and the game itself.
Role & responsibilities of a Real-time Artist in virtual production for video games:
- Mockup concepts and adjust as directed
- Work with the Game Designer 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 Game Programmers to develop and test new features, prototype shader code, and provide useful feedback during R&D phases.
Skills required to become a 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 Real-time Artist for video games:
- 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
- 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 the game development pipeline
What software and tools are used in virtual production?
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
- World Creator
- QuadSpinner Gaea
- Substance Painter
How much does a Game Real-time Artist make?
The national average salary of a Real-time 3D Artist is $62,053 annually in the United States. (Source: Glassdoor)