What is a "technical artist"?


#1

Occasionally I see job adverts for technical artists…or artists refer themselves as such…but after some research it seems a technical artist is half artist half programmer?

Is this accurate?


#2

It can be. I was a technical director (artist) for a tv series for 2 years back in 2014 and I did some slight script adjustments however the focus was more on directing a team of artists, ensuring optimal render settings, systems/software was on target for our deadlines/pipeline. It also covered introducing new methods into the workflow, ensuring these did not break current workflows such as render improvements, 3D/Comp templates for artists, software upgrades, quality improvements, artist speed increase - for example is if you have 10 artists on your team and each artist’s speed increases 10% over a week you have 100% speed increase for total output for the end of each week - each needs to be measurable and you are responsible for that. In my experience I was also the barrier between the managers and the artists, so I took responsibility for things that didnt work which needed resolution such as broken upgrades to software, managing workload amongst artists, scheduling workload, understanding which artist best fits the task at hand and dealing with heads of departments who have their own teams which need to collaborate with your team. Theres lots of misc things in amongst all that but thats the bulk of it. Also it tends to be slightly different depending on what studio you are at, these days theres quite a lot more to it Im sure.


#3

…and where and how does one train to become one of these, I believe the technical term is… "Unicorn"s? :slight_smile: …I’ve never heard of colleges or universities offering a “half this and half that” course (excepting one)…?


#4

Also note its a more common job description in Games pipelines. And has a fairly standard list of abilities there.
Basically are artist that is technical enough to script, tool build and trouble shoot production pipelines. Especially since many AAA game pipelines tend to be quite proprietary (somebody needs to know how it all works).

I wouldn’t say you would find a school for this. But more years of experience and are motivated to do this.
Scripting and tool building help too. I would suggest that a ‘junior technical artist’ rarely comes along. More a senior role that evolves.

I used to consider myself more of a technically inclined artist. I would say I got that way from working 5 years in technical support for one of the big 3d software developers.


#5

Tech artists are half artist, half programmer.

They know how to create finished animations across the full spectrum of production and know how to program/script. They may not necessarily be an expert at any one thing, but offer tech support to the artists to help them work better/faster. They may not necessarily be the highest caliber artist or compete directly with the best dedicated programmers. However, because they have a broad spectrum of technical knowledge and production experience, they are able to keep productions on track by managing technical issues and ensure a certain level of quality.

Often they utilize procedural workflows and script tools to allow artists to dial in those attributes via sliders and buttons.

They bridge all the artists together regarding technical issues and create workflow standards that the artists use. Otherwise each artist will do their own thing and their methods won’t necessarily work well with other artists at different stages of production. Also things like managing local render farms, deploying tools/scripts/assets to artists, managing network permissions to assets, etc, test and evaluate new software, deploy software to artists and render farm. They automate tasks as much as possible via scripting. They may be relied on to troubleshoot and fix computers as well as spec out new hardware purchases and their config on on different artist needs.

In general, they make sure everything works so the dedicated artists can focus on creating their best work and not waste time having to troubleshooting things. They form the glue or foundation that allows everyone to work together efficiently.