Branching Out - Environment Art jobs in Production?

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Old 01 January 2013   #1
Branching Out - Environment Art jobs in Production?

Hey guys,

I'm currently working as an arch-viz artist, and have been for the past 5 years or so.

Work is picking up again after the industry took a nosedive with the economy, but the last couple years really made me think about the future of my CG career and I've been thinking about other areas to branch out into.

Now, I appreciate that I was probably foolish to not have done this already, but I suppose I've just always 'gone with the flow' of doing 100% arch-viz and it's easy to slip into a comfortable routine.

My question is, are there environment art positions in production for things like film, animation, or maybe illustration/advertising? If so, what kind of thing would an employer or client like to see in a folio?

Ideally, are freelance/contract positions available in these fields? I don't necessarily mind relocating but I know staff turnaround can be based project cycles and I don't want to relocate especially to another country as I'm in the UK) if I'm gonna be moving back 9 months later.

I should point out that I'm not talking about the games industry. I've explored realtime art a fair bit in my spare time, and honestly, doing game-spec stuff is not something I find particularly interesting.

It seems like an obvious question since films and TV shows clearly have environments, but I don't recall ever seeing such a position advertised and wondered if it's the work of VFX generalists or similar.

Thanks!
 
Old 01 January 2013   #2
Here in the U.S. I've seen a few ads here and there for "environment artists" for animation and print. Mainly someone who can build a nice environment, just like in architectural work, where things can be animated into, such as cars. I've seen mostly agencies that do animation for tv (such as programs for the Discovery or History Channel, etc.) or smaller multi-media companies that do all sorts of work for corporations or pharma/educational training apps and videos.
 
Old 01 January 2013   #3
Do you have a specialism within environment work? You tend to find that people specialise into either modelling, texturing or lighting and rendering (which tend to be done together). There is of course room for generalists, and i've always found it's encouraged to branch out a bit and at least have a basic proficiency in related areas, but most people do have a specialism.
What do you enjoy doing the most?
 
Old 01 January 2013   #4
Environments are a valid specialization just like characters and creatures are, and there is plenty of demand for that kind of work (both staff and freelance). Some great artists to check out:

http://oli.vernay.free.fr/images.htm
http://www.fabiostabel.com/
http://www.interstation3d.com/
http://janmajor.com/
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Old 01 January 2013   #5
Great stuff, thanks for the info/links guys.

I hadn't thought about the fact the workflow is split in production into more specific roles. I guess another byproduct of me being so used to architecture where most of the time I'm doing the whole lot. I'd say I enjoy modeling most, although lighting and rendering is certainly a favourable part too. I do like texturing but that's probably the weakest part of my skillset and I can't see me being a texture artist.

I always assumed lighting/rendering guys and girls had their hands in a lot of the tech side too which isn't really something I've got a lot of experience with. So with that in mind I guess a modeling or generalist role may be a better fit.

I'll try a few personal projects and see how it goes. I must admit, it's very appealing. One thing I do enjoy is the prospect of breaking outside of reality, I guess since that is something I'm paid to aim for in my current line of work.
 
Old 01 January 2013   #6
As said, environment creation combines many specializations, but to cut it down you have the 2d department (matte painting) and then the 3d department (full cg). Nowadays the line between both depts is getting narrower, and its really a shot per shot decision either to use one technique or the other, or also mix of both.

full cg environment animations require full blown render farms to calculate the frames... that might be an obstacle as a freelancer. Not to mention the time and knowledge it takes to build them. On the other side matte painting is an amazing technique which can be enhanced with cg elements along the way. That is something I really like personally. You can render your cg assets and build your main environment using matte painting techniques and get a nice balance between. I suggest you look into concepts like photogrammetry for vfx that will give you a good idea of how the sets are build.

good luck with that
 
Old 01 January 2013   #7
Originally Posted by manuqc: As said, environment creation combines many specializations, but to cut it down you have the 2d department (matte painting) and then the 3d department (full cg). Nowadays the line between both depts is getting narrower, and its really a shot per shot decision either to use one technique or the other, or also mix of both.


Quoted for agreement. Definitely worth getting yourself familiar with the whole pipeline for vfx, but bear in mind that it will differ slightly from one facility to another.
And to clarify my last post, its not always necessary to specialise, i work with some really talented environment generalists and the generalists can be just as valuable ( sometimes more valuable) as the more specialist TD's.

Cheers,
N
 
Old 01 January 2013   #8
I am curious to know if someone has outsourced cg assets for film/advertising (not print) as a one man band freelancer, and by that I mean not only modeling but textured and shaded assets. I am guessing this is pretty tough because vfx houses use their own shading pipeline, etc... but still I am curious if this happens sometimes... cheers.
 
Old 01 January 2013   #9
On the topic of VFX, how closely linked are the generalist tasks. What I mean by that is; would the guy/girl modeling environments also be doing a bit of roto cleanup or similar?

I know it's likely to differ from studio to studio, project to project, but when the term 'generalist' is used, does that refer to generalists in each area, so the modeling/texturing/lighting guys and the FX, compositing guys etc or does that mean they literally wear all hats.

I suppose a more blunt way to put it is if I signed up to model and texture castles, would I ever be stuck sharpening masks in After Effects for 15 hours a day?
 
Old 01 January 2013   #10
Originally Posted by TeeJayEllis: On the topic of VFX, how closely linked are the generalist tasks. What I mean by that is; would the guy/girl modeling environments also be doing a bit of roto cleanup or similar?

I know it's likely to differ from studio to studio, project to project, but when the term 'generalist' is used, does that refer to generalists in each area, so the modeling/texturing/lighting guys and the FX, compositing guys etc or does that mean they literally wear all hats.

I suppose a more blunt way to put it is if I signed up to model and texture castles, would I ever be stuck sharpening masks in After Effects for 15 hours a day?


Incredibly unlikely in my experience, and i suspect that would be the same at all the major vfx houses. You might end up modelling, texturing and lighting, but jumping from 3d to 2d and doing your own roto, prep and comp is probably never going to happen. Purely from a production standpoint, you often cannot wait for your lighter to completely finish before you start comping. These things have to run simultaneously for shows to complete on time. Also i would imagine you run the risk of all the shots in a sequence looking disjointed if each was handled start to finish by a different person.

Cheers
 
Old 01 January 2013   #11
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