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 creates and renders 3D graphics in real-time, using a game engine like Unreal Engine. This may involve modeling, texturing, animation, and lighting for in-game characters and environments. They also often perform tasks assisting with cinematics and various aspects of gameplay, which 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

A real-time 3D artist in games harnesses the skills found in one or more areas of the traditional game development pipeline. They often focus on content or asset creation in a real-time environment. 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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