Virtual Production Real-time 3D Artist - Games

The role, salary, software, and skills of a video game Real-time 3D Artist

Student work by Alexios Vasilakis

What does a real-time 3D artist for games do?

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.

Real-time 3D artists are often generalists who collaborate with other game artists, game designers, and programmers to realize a broader vision.


Screenshot showcasing CGS student Vincent Velarde’s project: built in Unreal Engine 4 and assets from Unreal Engine Marketplace.

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 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.

Game retrospective for Vincent’s project, Proteus, made in real-time using Unreal Engine. 

Skills required to become a real-time artist for games

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.

Video game studios 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
  • 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 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
  • Unity
  • Motionbuilder
  • World Creator
  • QuadSpinner Gaea
  • Substance Painter
  • Blender
  • Maya
  • Houdini

How much does a game real-time artist make? 

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


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