We have a Technical Art Director (TAD) who manages and leads a team of technical artists. The TAD is considered (in our team structure) at the same level of the Art Director, Design Director, etc.
Each of our projects have two art leads, the Technical Art Director and Product Art Director. The TAs on the project report to the TAD, who reports to the Producer.
Very enlightening to hear how each studio defines this very nebulous role…
At Ensemble, the role entailed a lot of what has already been posted, but because we were only a medium sized studio (110ish folks), I was the only real TA. That required wearing a LOT of hats.
It sounds like I did much less actual art then a lot of you early on in the project. I sort of let the leads tell me how they want to create assets, and I figured out how to make those desires mesh with what the engine can support, etc… In addition to the standard scripting/pipeline/efficiency stuff, I spent a lot of time managing our issue tracking software as well as our Perforce server. Once a project would hit its stride, I sort of transitioned from pipeline tools and scripts to writing C# tools that could tabulate Perforce statistics for productivity trends as well as a lot of memory analysis tools and spreadsheets. Of course, there is always some unexpected new tech or problem mid-project that needs a script or C# app, etc…
The end of the project sounded a lot like everyone else. When someone cant immediately figure out what’s causing a given bug they usually hand it to me; if I can’t fix it I generally know which programmer’s plate it should go onto.
edit: Oh, I’ve always been managed by the Art Producer. (we don’t really have an art director in the traditional sense. The AP handles all the scheduling, etc. so the leads can focus on maintaining the art look & feel.)
My company doesn’t define the role of Tech artist and doesn’t describe me as one…but someone has to do it.
I spend a lot of time defining the authoring pipeline, requesting engine features and tools, making effects and what passes for shaders on the Wii. I’m also expected to be a full-time artist for environments and creatures and come up with various lighting solutions.
We have an art manager who handles the scheduling and a Lead artist who deals with quality and style. Depending on what I’m doing at the time I answer to either of them or sometimes I organize myself.
So could we safely say that a Tech Artist is the equivalent of a Ninja Master to whom people go to when they have a problem they are not able to solve or figure out by themselves…
I’ll need to get some new business cards with a fancier title than Lead Technical Artist… I kind of like the sound of “Supreme Ninja Master”
Some of our more learned artists refer to me as “Corpus Callosum”.
Maybe we should put that on our business cards. Besides, it sounds cool. :laugh:
I’d love to post something here…but I’ll probably get fired. Let’s just say it’s not what I’d like it to be. It’s more of a glorified producer position.
The devs are gunna be pissed when I start checking in code…but it’s gunna happen so they better get their panties ready for knotting.
Yep, similar feeling here.
I find sometimes difficult to be accepted by some coders.
But some of them are really nice and they actually see through you that you’re able to be the handy man when they don’t have time to play “tools programer”.
Because of his endless appetite of knowledge and attempts to find what’s best out there to fulfill his needs a technical artist is the guy who probably opened and experimented with more softwares in his life than any other dude in the studio (from Pov-ray to Maya as well as VisualStudio or even Blender / Gimp on Linux…)
The TA also usually has no obstacle in his mind between offline rendering and realtime 3D (good crossroad example of this is cut-scene work) : if you’re touching things like animation : it potentially gets you a job on a game as well as in movie industry.
The only thing left the TA has to learn is business and finance to conquer the world by starting his own company.
Like others, my role has never really been specifically defined, it’s just evolved over time. Many years I was just an artist who started doing a few scripts, then more scripts, and tools, and plugins, and it has never stopped.
My definition of a technical artist is ‘All the crap no one else wants to do’
Since artists just want to make art, Programmers just want to code engine/game content code. And designers just want to well…design. The tech artists job (mine anway) is absolutely everything else in between to get art and design ideas in game working with our tech within the limitations of the hardware.
On the management side of things, I have a close working relationship with all the senior programmers/art leads/designers and producers and try to juggle my time as I see fit to keep them all happy (with me and each other).
Interesting reading. I’m trying to move from a pure programming position into a TA/TD kind of position. I’ve been in game development from the programming end, and have dabbled in 2D and 3D art for a few years and would love to combine both areas in a single job!
Thanks to all for posting.
i have been doing mostly 3d art and texturing,
but have interest in technical side of things as well,
how would i make the transition of getting there,
im more intrested in the shader side of it all,
like maybe in the unreal engine or something in in 3dmax,
would maybe like to learn some Scripting as well in max or maya,
i just got the HLSL Shader Creation 01 dvd by ben cloward,
if i get thru it i will buy the 2nd dvd as well,
would that be a good start,
could i use what i learn on the dvd in unreal engine,
My job discription seems to be: Give it all to Pete… he’ll do it.
Nah, only kidding. The first post seemed to cover it rather well. I also have to keep up to date with 3rd Party software and basically evaluate new packages before the artist use them. I then provide support for that package if we then decide to use it.
Basically, a FireFighter or ‘Jack of all Trades’
I just got a signoff from my former employer to post this.
Technical Artist Guidelines
It lists what we expected from our Technical Artists, what TAs did for the studio at large, etc. There’s also a bunch of links at the end for more info on the subject.
Many thanks to the posters in this thread, some valuable insights in here!
Excellent Post Eric!
man, my 9 years in the industry didn’t prepare me for most of that. Guess I better start learning.
Heheh, yeah I think it’s a bit of an ideal. But the duties were split by different TAs and programmers, so we actually had most of those things covered.
I was the only TA in my company for most of my career. Downside to the whole thing was that our programmers all worked remotely, so it was difficult to really interact with them in a productive way. I find it much easier solving problems in person, than on the phone, especially when they weren’t willing to admit problems in the source code as opposed to “artist error”.
At any rate, thanks for the post. I’m out of work currently, so it’s definitely giving me some food for thought as to how to make myself more marketable than 9 years experience.
Saw this recently on EA’s job site, thought it was worded rather succinctly:
The Technical Artist (TA) acts as a bridge between the artists and programmers working on a game. They ensure art assets can be easily integrated into a game without sacrificing the overall artistic vision or exceeding the technical limits of the chosen platform. The role is a relatively new one for the games industry, but it is becoming increasingly important as game systems become more complex. The Technical Artist works part of the art team, and coordinates closely with the lead artists and the art director, as well as with the lead programmers.
The main areas of responsibility for Technical Artists include setting up and maintaining the art production workflow and making decisions about which art packages and tools a studio should use. Technical Artists are also charged with investigating new techniques and implementing them within the team. The job often includes an instructional element, with the Technical Artist sharing their knowledge with other artists via training and mentoring sessions.
The Technical Artist typically works one step removed from the direct creation of game art assets. Instead, they act in more of an advisory position, setting up the systems of production as well as solving problems as they arise. It’s crucial for the Technical Artist to keep up-to-date in changes in technology, both in terms of console hardware, art packages, and new techniques. The Technical Artist is expected to be able to create custom tools to improve the efficiency of their team. This is usually carried out using the scripting languages included in the main modeling and animation packages.
Technical Artists will play a key role in providing feedback or debugging complex assets such as character skeleton rigs and skinning systems. They will also research and oversee the implementation of rendering techniques such as normal and specular maps, particle systems, and pixel shaders as well.
Specific Technical Artist Roles
TA – Shader Writer
They are responsible for the creation of efficient real-time (HLSL) and multi-level shaders. They must have strong technical skills, including experience in software design and implementation and knowledge of math and physics theories. They must also have strong artistic skills with a proven ability to create cinematic color and lighting in digital media.
TA – Animation
They are responsible for character setup and technical support for character animation throughout production. They work with the game team to determine animation setup and support solutions.
TA – Effects
They are responsible for the design and implementation of the technical aspects in-game effects. They create and maintain tools, systems, and setups used to create particle effects, cloth, hair, procedural effects, lighting, and compositing.
TA – Pipeline
They are responsible for development of software tools in all areas of the production pipeline. They coordinate with the game team on tool and process integration and optimization.
What skills does EA look for??
Technical Artists are generally required to have between two to five years experience. Involving both art and programming experience, a Technical Artist can come from either background, though most tend to have been artists who have specialized in a particular area of art production.
They should have a detailed knowledge of at least one industry-standard art package. The use of scripting languages is required, as is an understanding of the limitations of console hardware. Some Technical Artists come to games after holding a similar position in the film or special effects industries, where experience of high-end rendering techniques or complex animation are useful skills.
The role of Technical Artist is a specialized one. Candidates must be able to show technical proficiency in areas such as lighting and rendering, texturing, and graphics-related programming languages such as shaders. They should also have extensive knowledge of art packages ranging from modeling to texturing and special effects, and be able to customize them to be as streamlined as possible for specific projects.
Most Technical Artists will have a degree in a relevant visual art or technical subject; however, the most important prerequisite for the role is experience working with art tools and game hardware on wide range of projects.
Great catch-all list there, Eric.
We’re seeking juniors ourselves and it just doesn’t cut it to have Film/FX students coming out of univesity thinking they can jump into a game-dev orientated support role. Certainly some of the skills can be taught though at the end of the day you want to feel you’re not teaching them everything before they’re ready to advise and troubleshoot game X on team Y.
Tech artist job is kinda hard to do, its just like preparing the ground before planting the seed or sapling to grow.