Gaming vs Commercial

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  04 April 2018
Gaming vs Commercial

So I'll be attending Washington State University in August for my bachelor's in 3D. However, I'm unsure what I want to focus in animation, rigging, modeling, texturing ect. Even more I don't know if I want to go into gaming or commercial work. So I have two questions.

If say I want to be an environmental artist can I do both gaming and commercial work, or do I have to choose between the two?

My other question is how do I begin to narrow down what I want to focus in? It seems like with every new skill I learn there is an aspect I find that I love about it.
Aside from concept work, pre-production, or writing. As much as I respect those three paths they are my weakest skills and the parts I struggle with the most.

  04 April 2018
The fundamentals of 3D CG graphics (modeling, texturing, lighting, animation and so on...), once learned, apply everywhere - games, VR/AR, Film and TV VFX, broadcast graphics, motion graphics, architectural visualization and so on.

Its exactly the same 3D technology, techniques and same 3D software being used except:

1) In games, VR and realtime 3D in general, polygon counts (low poly modeling) matter a lot. Also, a lot more maps - lighting, normal maps, displacement maps - are baked right into 3D game models, as opposed to offline rendered 3D.

2) In architectural visualization and product visualization and TV commercials involving manufactured products, knowledge of CAD software/modeling/formats is very useful. Software like ArchiCAD and SolidWorks for example.

Other than that, 3D CG is 3D CG. Almost everything you learn will apply in some way in different uses of 3D CG.

Its not as if there is one Maya/Max/C4D for games, and another Maya/Max/C4D for say Movie VFX or architectural visualization.

Same software, same functions, same techniques apply.

Only in realtime and interactive 3D, because stuff has to render at 30+ Frames Per Second on a gaming GPU, the polygon counts are lower, more stuff is pre-baked into 3D models, and the shading/lighting side of things is simpler than in rendered 3D.

In other words, learning Maya or Max for say game work doesn't mean that you wouldn't be able to use those 3D CG techniques for Film VFX or TV commercials as well.
  04 April 2018
Oh okay that is a relief!
I understand that the fundamentals are the same. I just began to assume that you are either a game artist or a production/ architecture artist based upon the artist that I follow on Twitter, it seems like there is a division.

Thank you!
  04 April 2018
The polycount for games is constantly increasing. For games, you have to be able to create hi-poly modeling and bake it into low-poly with normal maps. It is usually a set of Quixel suite\Substance tools, plus Xnormal for baking. Textures for games are derived based on normal maps.
For viz, they don't use game engines, but renderers. Those are offline programs, creating sequences of images. Compositing is more used for viz, for adding volumetric effects and other render-intensive stuff.
As with anything, the best thing is to be awesome at concept design. It's the main similarity. But it's not a necessity, as often you work under a supervision.
The line blurs between game engines and renderers. I'd say it's best to invest either in math or in arts in the long run. If you want to land a job fast, just start from small studios, getting your foot in the door, and learn on site.
  04 April 2018
Originally Posted by AJBenson: Oh okay that is a relief!
I understand that the fundamentals are the same. I just began to assume that you are either a game artist or a production/ architecture artist based upon the artist that I follow on Twitter, it seems like there is a division.

Game artists tend to know more about 3D software AND the game engine (Cryengine, UnrealEngine, Unity) being used TOGETHER to create stuff for a game context.

So a game artists can typically create something 3D in Maya, prepare and optimize the 3D something specifically for game use (e.g. keep the polygon count low, bake some maps into the model), and knows how to put that 3D something into UnrealEngine, and test whether it renders well there inside a game level, and so on.

Whereas a CAD-rendering/Architectural rendering type artist might know how to get CAD stuff in and out of CAD software like Rhino/SolidWorks/ArchiCAD/AutoCAD/Inventor cleanly into Maya/Max/C4D, clean up the 3D models nicely, apply good materials and lighting and animation, and render them efficiently as a photoreal image or animation within a set deadline.

Its pretty much all done using the same 3D softwares and techniques. Its just that some artists only want to work in games/Movies/TV - i.e. entertainment - and some want to visualize industrial stuff like Architecture/Buildings, Cars, Sports Shoes, Electronic products.

These areas are also SET TO BLUR AND OVERLAP a lot in the near future, because 3D games and Virtual Reality in the next years will start using realtime raytracing techniques that, before, were only used for photoreal Film/TV Visual Effects, Architectural rendering, CAD/Product visualization.

So in 3 to 5 years from now, Game/VR work may work and look A LOT like other types of rendered CG 3D work.

The advantage someone who has been - say - doing only games for 6 - 7 years has, is that that artist typically has a good understanding of WHAT you can put into a game engine, and still get both a high FPS frame rate and a good looking graphical look.

For example, something like PlayStation 4 is not upgradeable hardware like a PC. So if a PS4 game needs to run at a solid 45 FPS, and never fall below that, the game artist has to master a few tricks to create 3D models for that game that do not ruin that minimum framerate.

Similarly, going back and forth between a CAD software like Rhino or SolidWorks and a 3D CG software like Maya/Max/C4D creates all sorts of challenges and problems with today's technology.

Someone who has been doing CAD and Architectural rendering for 6 - 7 years likely knows how to solve those problems.

The whole thing is a bit like the difference between a car mechanic for normal cars, and a car mechanic for Rally or Formula One cars.

You deal with similar stuff - engines, gear boxes, tires, suspensions - regardless of which you do. But the Formula One car is a bit different from a BMW four-door sedan being driven on a city street.

Same principles, similar tools, many problems that do overlap, but in each scenario, you get to make slightly different experiences and deal with different challenges and solve things in slightly different ways.
  04 April 2018
I'll just add that I agree the software are pretty much the same.
The distinction is more the pipelines. The asset priorities and workflows required for each differ quite a bit beyond the 'fundamentals'.

Having worked in both types of studios myself switching from one industry to the other does happen.
But most artists tend to pick one and stay in that area for awhile (a few years/contracts).
Not hop back and forth contract-to-contract. If they switch at all its because they really want a change in there career direction.

So you'd likely want to pick one area or the other and focus your reel accordingly -if finding a job is the priority- to avoid looking too 'jack-of-all-trades' .
If you decide to do both over your career you probably even want a games reel separate from a VFX reel...
  04 April 2018
Also, sometimes the word "commercial" needs to be clearly defined. Are you talking about "broadcast graphics" and commercials or do you mean "commercial art". Many will recommend specializing and that is a way to get really good. However, having many skill sets and being a generalist has served me very well and had allowed me to make money quickly and without being stuck in one area.

However, I do not work in games or entertainment. I work in the science, engineering and training industries.

My main work is 3d modeling and animation. I also find work in compositing, illustration and several other areas, but again, it is in niche industries. I love variety and can get bored quickly if I'm doing the same stuff day in and day out....and nights and weekends. Variety has kept me in the game for nearly 30 years.

Other than building your skills to a specific area you want to work, also develop skills that can earn you fast cash when you need it quickly.

Don't forget to develop client facing soft skills either. Always work on mastering business development, finding work and closing clients. Without those soft skills, you will always be at the mercy of other people, building their dreams and wealth. Also, the better those skills, the more likely you are to become a higher value employee if you go that route. You essentially become an asset rather than a commodity or expendable tool.

Assets are always worth more than commodities.
  04 April 2018
Strong background in games, now working in a completely different industry doing all kinds of 3d. From my experience, typically games focused 3d artist pickup better the other industry workflows, whereas it doesn't work so smoothly the other way around. Make no mistake though, its a tough transition no matter where you start from.
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