At SIGGRAPH 2018, we saw another advance toward real-time ray tracing with Unreal Engine. A joint presentation by Epic Games, NVIDIA, and Porsche resulted in “Speed of Light”, a real-time cinematic showcasing the current state of this developing techno…
When it comes to using animations for marketing and brand engagement, many VR film projects currently on the market focus on providing an immersive one-off experience to captivate viewers in the moment. Rather than a mere afterthought, replayability is an essential ingredient for global VFX and animation studio Redrover, who is exploring fresh ways to engage viewers on a deeper level by combining story, gameplay, and greater interactivity.
Buddy VR – the team’s recent VR film spinoff of its Hollywood animated blockbuster, The Nut Job – recently took home the Best VR Experience Award at the Venice International Film Festival this fall. The project is part of Redrover’s vision to create a new genre of interactive animation, and what makes Buddy VR especially unique is the way it bridges the gap between animated short films and video game experiences.
A virtual interactive friendship
Starring “Buddy,” the loveable blue rat from The Nut Job, this vibrant interactive animation short has you meeting and befriending the little critter in a whimsical story that balances plot and gameplay elements. “We wanted to lead the story through intimacy between the player and character,” explains Chuck Chae, Director for Buddy VR.
Players get to know Buddy through a series of non-verbal interactions like exchanging names, petting, playing musical instruments, and more. It’s a humorous, heartwarming 16-minute interactive experience, and the response from those who have played it is overwhelmingly positive, he adds.
“Simply experiencing VR offers the player an extraordinary experience, and provides deep immersion while wearing VR equipment. However, many VR titles on the market are difficult to enjoy again once they have been played through the first time,” says Chae. “Our goal is to break away from this approach and produce titles that can maintain their replayability throughout lengthy and multiple playthroughs by combining Redrover’s IP and VR technology with interactive elements.”
Optimizing creative potential with Unreal Engine
For this project, overcoming the challenge of creating cohesive story interaction through speechless communication required that the team weave in extra layers of detail and nuance to Buddy’s facial expressions, physical actions, and eye movements. Using Unreal Engine gave the team the tools and additional programming flexibility to craft a level of real-time interactivity and realism that could foster a believable relationship-building experience between players and the furry protagonist, says Chae.
“High-quality graphics and animations are essential for creating speechless interaction, which is the highlight of our product. It was amazing enough that Unreal Engine easily fulfilled our graphical standards, but it also had unbelievable real-time functionalities, allowing us to apply desired animations, edit unnatural or incorrect aspects, and then reapply to view the results all in one sitting,” says Chae, adding that the team was able to minimize production time using real-time rendering.
Optimizing their production workflows using real-time rendering also helped free up more of the team’s time and energy for creativity. “The greatest strengths of Unreal Engine are the ability to quickly make a prototype using codeless Blueprints and the ability to create high-quality graphic productions through real-time rendering,” he says. “By minimizing the workflow of realizing the designs and animations in your head to an actual render, there can be more time to concentrate on the creative aspects.”
Ready to get started with Unreal Engine and Unreal Studio to enhance your creativity today? Download them for free right here.
Vox Populi Productions, the team behind award-winning political satire show ICI Laflaque, is no stranger to breakneck speeds in production. The half-hour animated show, much of it newly produced each week based on recent news, has had a 7-day turnaroun…
The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences has awarded Epic Games with the first Technology and Engineering Emmy for Unreal Engine in the 2017-2018 category, “3D Engine Software for the Production of Animation.” We couldn’t be more thrilled w…
Today’s architectural designers are turning to bold new approaches for crafting compelling design visualizations. With clients wanting more interactivity and flexible options for design review, it makes sense that real-time solutions are becoming the f…
VIVE X, HTC VIVE’s global AR/VR accelerator, today announced the next group of companies selected to join the prominent program. Eighteen new start-ups from across the world will join Vive X programs in the San Francisco, London, Taipei, Shenzhen, Beijing, and Tel Aviv offices. Vive X has proven to be one of the most consistent and active investors in
The post HTC VIVE Announces Fourth Batch of Companies Selected for Vive X Accelerator Program appeared first on VIVE Blog.
Imagine a film set where completely photorealistic digital human avatars mirror the precise actions and expressions of the live actors playing their roles—all in a virtual space and in real time, at up to 90 fps. For directors, producers, and actors al…
Understanding the Role of a Tech Artist
Real-time technology is powering the world of interactive entertainment and transforming industries such as TV/film, architectural visualization, industrial design, and visual FX. It is now standard for game developers to create high quality games that render vast open worlds and for enterprise leaders to quickly deliver high-fidelity interactive experiences in real time. With the evolution and the complexity of real-time rendering across so many industries, it has never been so critical to bridge the gap between art and code to deliver exceptional results. This is where the technical artist comes in.
What is a technical artist?
A technical artist is a relatively new term in 3D development and real-time technology, but the demand for this particular role is growing quickly with a 48% increase in job postings in the last 12 months (Burning Glass, 2018). In game development, a technical artist, or tech artist for short, is the bridge between level designers and programmers working on a game. They are essentially the link between code and art. They ensure performance, consistency, and workflow. A proficient tech artist will allow a project to ship faster and at a higher level of quality.
Tech artists tend to be generalists while also having a strong focus in at least one area such as:
- Procedural creation
- Scripts/Pipeline work
- Visual Effects (FX)
They often look at performance and profiling data with programmers, then brainstorm and implement content optimizations. Tech artists must be tools and technology experts, knowing the best routes to take and how to harness the tools being used most effectively. Tech artists fill in the gaps that studios may not even know exist, which is why every game studio needs a tech artist to ensure efficiency on all ends.
Why are they needed?
With more procedural content creation methods like Blueprints, Houdini and noise/shader based creation, tech artists are needed to test and prototype new graphics or content creation methods. They also aid with tool development when writing scripts in 3D rendering software such as 3ds Max, Maya, and Python. Prototyping can help other artists process assets for game use.
Tech artists work closely with engine/rendering programmers to share feedback on tools as well as prototype results. A tech artist can often make a fully functioning feature prototype in just days using Blueprints/shaders alone and demonstrate it to the team . The same feature may then take weeks to ‘officially’ rewrite in C++ into the engine in a general purpose way.
A tech artist’s optimization goal is to hit the target frame rate while having a net neutral (zero impact) or even positive impact on the graphical quality of a game. They help to ship games on various platforms, and work closely with artists when necessary to implement changes. A mix of art and technical skill combine to facilitate better engine and game development.
Typical tech artist optimization tasks include:
- Developing content guidelines and workflows to ensure best practices
- Reducing scene complexity
- Analyzing content using profiling tools and/or spreadsheets to find ways to optimize memory/perf
- Adjusting project graphics settings
- Negotiating between art/code to find best compromises
Where are they needed?
Advanced technology for games increases the demand for technical roles at game studios. Not only do gaming companies need more experienced level designers and programmers, they need someone to bridge the gap between art and code.
Tech artists ensure that programmers are programming, designers are designing, and artists are creating amazing art. This means everyone on the team is being utilized to their best potential. Real-time rendering also entails quick turnaround and a tech artist’s job is to prioritize and optimize game production. They can help quickly implement needed changes and prepare games to ship.
Media and entertainment studios are increasingly turning to real-time technology to reinvent their pipelines. Real-time engines, like UE4, allow TV/film production teams to develop new workflows that drastically speed up processes, reduce hardware requirements, and promote creativity.
UE4 allows films to be shot, edited, and shipped, virtually eliminating post-production. A tech artist can keep these processes streamlined and running seamlessly. In addition to optimizing art and tech in the engine, TV/film studios also have a demand for technical specialist roles for positions such as shading technical director, lighting technical director, and pipelines technical director.
When it comes to architectural visualization, it’s the tech artist’s job to develop data pipelines and adapt existing pipelines to integrate new technologies or tools. In this vertical, tech artists often act as the primary programmer or developer for smaller teams that rely mostly on off-the-shelf features of the tools being used. They are usually tasked with learning new software, then training the team how to best use it for the studio’s particular needs.
What types of skills do they require?
In order to be successful with tasks like optimization and profiling, here are some of the skills a technical artist needs:
- A solid understanding of trigonometry and vector math
- A foundation in at least one ‘traditional’ category such as level design, environment art, animation or coding
- Experience writing in various scripting languages is hugely helpful: MAXScript, Python, MATLAB
- For UE4: Blueprints, materials, level streaming
- Understanding how computers work from a hardware to software level
- They should understand how the various parts of a computer work together to render a scene, from loading the data from the hard drive to presenting it as an image to the player.
What does the career path look like?
The best route to becoming a tech artist is to come from either an art or programming background. Most technical artists come from an art background and have specialized in a particular area such as architectural visualization, animation, lighting/shading, texturing, special FX, or character rigging. A technical artist can work in multiple industries including gaming, architecture, TV/film, industrial design, or the automotive industry.
“Usually tech artists have something tangible and ‘techy’ to show if they are hired directly into that role, or they slowly shift into the role after starting out in another content creator role, such as a level designer or environment artist. I personally started as a level designer and transitioned into tech art over the period of a few years, and a few others have followed a similar path.” – Ryan Brucks, principal tech artist, Epic Games.
How can they excel?
A good tech artist loves to learn new things. It’s important for them to attend talks and events and network with professionals in their area of expertise. They should always make an effort to stay up to date with the latest technology as this makes them a valuable source of information within a company.
“You’ll never be bored being a tech artist. One day you might be writing a tool, the next you’re experimenting with new hardware, the next you’re developing the art guidelines for the studio’s next big project, the next you’re leading a training session for your peers. You’ll also have your pick of fields to work in and studios to work for, from automotive and aerospace to games, film, and TV; they all need great tech artists.” – Tom Shannon, technical artist, Education, Epic Games
Communication is key as a tech artist as it’s important to get in the habit of sharing lots of information. They potentially have to work with many different people on a variety of projects. It’s the tech artist’s job to ensure open communication channels by asking questions and providing feedback.
“Being able to communicate with different groups that may not often communicate, i.e., being a link between engineering and content teams is critical. This means staying engaged with what people are doing around you locally and in the industry as a whole. Even if you have a specific focus, it helps to be somewhat of a generalist so you can still be nimble as projects and opportunities shift.” – Ryan Brucks, principal tech artist, Epic Games
Would I be a good tech artist?
✔ I like tinkering with all the settings and checkboxes in my art software.
✔ I have thought about or have written scripts or tools to help automate boring or repetitive tasks (zero joy tasks).
✔ I enjoy problem-solving.
✔ I can talk to programmers, artists, producers, and designers alike and kind of want to do all their jobs!
✔ I enjoy learning how my favorite applications work from a technical perspective.
✔ I am the person on my team that is the “scripting”, “rigging” or “materials” person.
✔ Whenever there’s a technical issue on a project, I’m eager to help.
Interested in a career as tech artist or another role in real-time technology? Get started on your career today by using our Unreal Engine Online Learning Portal here. These guided videos are free and on-demand so you can learn UE4 anywhere at any time!
McLaren Design, known for its sleek, fast cars, is naturally at the forefront of technology. Recently, the design team collaborated with Epic Games to develop a design tool in Unreal Engine, an application to aid its designers in visualizing configurat…
Today Epic Games announced the latest recipients of Unreal Dev Grants, a $5 million fund supporting developers working with Unreal Engine 4 (UE4). This new round awards $800,000 to more than 30 individuals and teams, with no restrictions or obligations to Epic Games. As with previous rounds, these recipients illustrate the wide variety of use cases for UE4, including independent games, interactive visualizations, virtual reality surgical simulators and online learning resources.
“The Unreal Dev Grants program has a simple goal: to help talented developers succeed by letting them focus more on their project and less on their bills,” said Chance Ivey, Partnership Manager at Epic Games. “We’re continually amazed by the range of applications built with UE4 and the potential of so many of these projects; this round includes standouts such as Sojourn by Tierceron, Crab Rave by Noisestorm, and VR Cataract Training Solution by Surgical Mind. Congrats to all of these folks for their vision and persistence!”
The latest round of Unreal Dev Grants recipients includes:
FILM / CINEMA: 100 Flowers of God (working title) by 3rd World Studios – Website
3rd World Studios is the Pakistan-based creator of the first animated feature-length film rendered entirely in UE4, Allahyar and the Legend of Markhor, which was released in February to critical acclaim. This Unreal Dev Grant is meant to accelerate 3rd World’s future film projects.
TOOL / PLUGIN: Anomotion Motion Composer and Anomotion BIK – Website
Anomotion maintains two animation solutions for UE4: Motion Composer, a task-based motion planner which automatically generates precise motion sequences from unstructured animation data; and BIK, an inverse-kinematics system that can model various joint types and define custom constraints for VR avatars, virtual humans and creatures. Anomotion’s solutions have practical applications, from film previs to architectural visualizations. For industrial simulation and shared virtual environments, for example, Anomotion’s technology can be used to populate interactive, adaptive training environments with task-directed virtual characters.
FILM / CINEMA / VR: Awake: Episode One by Start VR – Trailer
Created by Start VR, Awake: Episode One is an interactive cinematic virtual reality experience for HTC Vive and Vive Pro. Awake: Episode One, which uses the latest volumetric capture techniques to bring real-life human performances into VR, officially premiered at SXSW and has been touring the festival circuit ever since. It’s coming soon to Steam.
INDEPENDENT GAME: Black Iris by Hexa Game Studio – Website
From Brazilian indie team Hexa Game Studio, Black Iris is an action RPG that takes inspiration from the Dark Souls series of games and Bloodborne. Black Iris in development for PC and console.
INDEPENDENT GAME / AR: BOT-NET by Calvin Labs – Website
BOT-NET is a game that turns physical space into a first-person battlefield using a mobile device’s AR features. Massive robots fight while the player engages in ground combat with smaller robots. BOT-NET is available in the App Store.
FILM / CINEMA: Cine Tracer by Matt Workman – Steam
Developed by Matt Workman of Cinematography Database, Cine Tracer is a realistic cinematography simulator in which the player operates real world-based cameras, sets up lights, and directs talent within UE4 environments. Matt frequently livestreams Cine Tracer development at https://www.twitch.tv/cinegamedev. Creatives can use Cine Tracer to communicate lighting, cameras and storyboarding, and it’s available in Early Access on Steam.
INDEPENDENT GAME: Close to the Sun by Storm in a Teacup – Website
Developed by Rome-based Storm in a Teacup, Close to the Sun is a first-person horror game that takes place in an alternate version of history in the 1890s aboard a mysterious ship complex created by Nikola Tesla where things are not as they seem. With numerous indie game accolades already under its belt, Close to the Sun is coming to PC and console in 2019.
TOOL / PLUGIN: coreDS Unreal by ds.tools – Website
coreDS Unreal facilitates integration of both High-Level Architecture (HLA) and Distributed Interactive Simulation (DIS) in UE4 games and applications. Users can integrate once and support HLA and DIS without any other modifications to their UE4 application. coreDS Unreal provides an extensive feature set that eases the integration process, allowing for reduced implementation time, flexibility and highly customizable simulation behavior.
INDEPENDENT GAME: Farm Folks by Overgrown – Trailer
Farm Folks is a successfully crowdfunded farming simulator game with a nod to the classic Harvest Moon series. Players can explore Softshoal Island, grow crops, raise livestock, build relationships and more – all the while uncovering the island’s mysteries. Farm Folks, coming to PC, is available for pre-order on Crytivo.
INDEPENDENT GAME / VR: Jupiter & Mars by Tigertron – Website
Jupiter & Mars is an underwater adventure game for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation VR with a powerful message around climate change set in a shocking, future world inspired by ecological events happening now. The player controls Jupiter, a dolphin with enhanced echolocation powers, traveling around the world with AI companion Mars to disable the man-made machinery disrupting marine life, while solving puzzles and encountering magnificent creatures along the way.
INDEPENDENT GAME / VR: Kaisuo by USC Games – Trailer
Kaisuo is a VR puzzle game in which players use fine motor dexterity to solve enigmatic Chinese puzzle boxes and unlock surreal, extraordinary spaces. Originally founded as an undergraduate student project named Lantern (now the name of the development team) at the University of Southern California, Kaisuo has been showcased at events such as the USC Games Expo and Indiecade @ E3, and is in development through the USC Bridge incubator program for full release on the Oculus and Steam stores.
INDEPENDENT GAME: Koral by Pantumaca Barcelona – Steam
Developed by Carlos Coronado, one of Barcelona’s leading UE4 experts, this beautiful PC game takes players on a dive through the underwater world where they play as the current on a mission to revive coral reefs. Solving puzzles heals the reefs and replenishes the ocean’s magic. In addition, Carlos’ new training materials on going from zero to expert in UE4 have marked Udemy’s most successful launch of a Spanish game development course in the site’s history.
FINE ARTS / VR: Lemieux Pilon 4D Art – Website
The renowned duo of Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon (4D Art) are creating an immersive museum art piece for virtual reality using UE4.
INDEPENDENT GAME / VR: Mini World VR by Scaena Studios – Website
From Korea’s award-winning Chung Ang University 3D VR Lab, Scaena Studios’ Mini World VR is an immersive storytelling experience featuring elaborate hand-animated characters, game-based elements and intuitive interactivity. A cross between a game and a film, Mini World VR can be experienced from the perspective of both player and audience.
INDEPENDENT GAME: Mowin’ & Throwin’ by House Pixel Games – Steam
Available via Steam Early Access, Mowin’ & Throwin’ is a local multiplayer mashup of Bomberman meets Splatoon with a dash of Overcooked. Players control lawn gnomes in a race to wreck their opponent’s yard while keeping their own pristine. Victory goes to the best looking lawn! Mowin’ & Throwin’ is coming to party game collections for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in 2019.
FILM / CINEMA: Music Videos by Noisestorm – SoundCloud
Irish music producer and artist Noisestorm uses UE4 to create incredibly striking videos to accompany his musical tracks, which are often associated with trap, drum and bass, electro and dubstep. Now with nearly 10 million views, Crab Rave features thousands of CG crabs gathering after a tropical storm to dance it out. Noisestorm’s latest release, Breakout (feat. Foreign Beggars), depicts a tactical prison break with intense firefights, massive explosions, a high-energy helicopter chase and an amazing sniper shot.
TOOL / PLUGIN: Optim by Theia Interactive – Website
Currently in alpha, the Optim plugin applies an accelerated workflow methodology to Unreal Engine’s Datasmith suite of tools and services for enterprise markets. Leveraging the efficiency of Datasmith and the power of Python, artists and designers can use Optim to visualize and customize their Datasmith import process for further optimization.
INDEPENDENT GAME / VR: Planetrism VR by Planetrism Team – Gameplay
The future of humankind leads to the distant stars in this VR and PC adventure developed by Finnish duo Kimmo Kaunela and Mike Laaksonen. In Planetrism, players follow the opportunity of a lifetime to lead colonization on an uncharted planet, encountering untold mysteries while building a future for generations to come.
ARCHITECTURE / VR: Real Estate in Virtual Reality by REinVR – Website
The real estate technology team at REinVR is focused on using UE4 to build advanced immersive consumer buying experiences using digital humans, AI and VR.
INDEPENDENT GAME: Risk One’s Neck by Royce Games – Website
Developed by Korean indie team Royce Games for PC and consoles, Risk One’s Neck is a vintage arcade-style beat ’em up game set in a brutal, realistic urban environment. An homage to the Capcom arcade fighters of the 1980s, Risk One’s Neck channels thrilling gameplay for players of all skill levels.
FILM / CINEMA: Robots’ Design Academy by Eric Liu – Blog
A student film by Eric Liu, this 12-minute cinematic highlights the art of the possible when a single person sets out to do something wonderful. Powered by the drive and passion to create something spectacular, Eric created a wordless tale about creativity and daring to be different. It follows a robot student learning to design after most of humanity has become extinct from some unknown apocalypse. Dismayed by the institution’s insistence on strictly copying human creations perfectly, the droid protagonist sets out to design something bold and unique with the help of a newfound human pal.
LEARNING RESOURCE: Russian UE4 Lessons and Community – Website – YouTube
This incredible volunteer-driven resource for the Russian development community has been in operation since the public launch of UE4 in 2014. Featuring translations of exhaustive release notes for dozens of major engine updates, along with hundreds of localized tutorials — all created independently, and freely shared online — the group has well over 50,000 members across their networks, which also include popular Unreal Engine Discord and VK channels.
INDEPENDENT GAME: S.O.N by RedG Studios – Website
S.O.N is a modern-day psychological survival horror game in which a father searches for his son who has gone missing deep in the Pennsylvania forest, better known as South Of Nowhere. In a world where fear takes control and the past is never erased, questions linger around what demons will be faced to get back a loved ones. S.O.N is coming to PlayStation 4.
INDEPENDENT GAME: Spellbreak by Proletariat Inc. – Website
With talent from game studios such as Harmonix, Turbine and Insomniac, Proletariat is bringing a magical twist to battle royale. Currently in pre-alpha on PC, Spellbreak puts a new spin on the genre with its fantasy art style and powerful magic spells that can be explosive when used in combat.
FILM / CINEMA: The Abyss by Kemal Günel – Video
This real-time short film depicts an ominous scenario aboard a desolate spaceship. Built using Kemal’s assets that are available on the Unreal Engine Marketplace, the project is also the basis for his popular UE4 Lighting tutorial series, which has 35 videos and counting.
INDEPENDENT GAME: The Cycle by YAGER – Website
Currently in Closed Alpha, The Cycle is the latest FPS game from Berlin-based YAGER. Up to 20 players go head to head to fulfill contracts during matches about 20 minutes in length. The Cycle is planned for PC release in early 2019 with support for consoles to follow.
AR / VR: The Hydrous presents: Immerse – Website
Jason McGuigan and his team at Horizon Productions have been on the bleeding edge of XR for several years, with a library of AR and VR projects built with UE4 under their belt. A pre-release version of Immerse took the stage at the recent Trojan Horse Was a Unicorn gathering in Malta presented by Dr. Erika Woolsey, CEO of the Hydrous. The Hydrous’ mission is to create open access oceans by bringing conservation education to the masses. Horizon also presented a high-fidelity VR art gallery created in Unreal Engine that featured almost 100 paintings by some of the world’s leading digital artists.
FINE ARTS / VR: The Kremer Collection Virtual Museum – Website
Designed by architect Johan van Lierop, Founder of Architales and Principal at Studio Libeskind, the Kremer Museum features 17th Century Dutch and Flemish Old Master paintings from the Kremer Collection and is accessible through Viveport, Steam and Oculus.
TOOL / PLUGIN: Tools and Plugins by VR Professionals – Video – Website
Russia-based VR Professionals are on a mission to create more affordable and accessible “out of the box” solutions for VR training and education using UE4. Having identified a desire for UE4 apps to be more deeply integrated into enterprise ecosystems, e.g., SQL databases, analytics, reports, LMS and CRM systems, VR Professionals are developing UE4 tools and plugins to help organizations streamline their use of B2B apps faster and with lower costs.
FILM / CINEMA: Unannounced project by Kite & Lightning – Website
The recipient of the 2018 SIGGRAPH Best Real-Time Graphics and Interactivity Award at the recent Real-Time Live! showcase, Kite & Lightning wowed audiences with the presentation “Democratizing Mocap: Real-Time Full Performance Motion Capture with an iPhone X, Xsens, IKINEMA and Unreal Engine.” This Unreal Dev Grant is given in support of new breakthroughs in live performance-driven entertainment.
INDEPENDENT GAME: Unbound: Worlds Apart by Alien Pixel Studios – Steam
Unbound: Worlds Apart is an atmospheric 2D puzzle platformer in which the player can conjure magic portals to travel between different realities and learn more about a catastrophe that has ravaged his world. Inside certain portals, the physical properties of the character or world elements can change, offering new gameplay possibilities. A dark fairy tale with a cartoonish style, Unbound: Worlds Apart is planned for release on PC and consoles in 2020.
TOOL / PLUGIN: VR Cataract Training Solution by Surgical Mind – Video
Surgical Mind, a branch of Korea-based Mania Mind, is developing a cutting-edge VR simulator for cataract surgery to enable medical residents to better hone their skills before getting near an eye. Their team maintains that VR simulation training improves performance, minimizes risk and provides greater detail around potential scenarios more efficiently than expensive physical simulators.
To learn more about Unreal Dev Grants and to apply, visit: http://unrealengine.com/unrealdevgrants