Marc: Hello Charlotte! Could you please tell us what your current profession is?
What will a technical artist tell me? It is difficult to define. The positions and mandates of technical artists vary greatly from one studio to another (see between two productions from the same studio). I would define us as hybrids between programmers and artists. Most of the time, they are facilitators: they are used to develop tools for artists. They can do research and development on aspects of the game such as weather, plants, materials, destruction, create shaders, exotic objects (doors or interactive objects)… and many other things.
We are also a part of the guardians of the health of the projects, we check that the artists work in good conditions and correctly. We know the limits and constraints related to the project and the machine we are working on.
We are often in discussion with many other professions: VFXs, SFX (Sounds), animators, modelers, level artists, creature/character artists, programmers, cutscenes…
It is rare to start in the industry as a technical artist. Most of the time, they are artists (modelers or level artists) who stand out for a curiosity to learn new software and / or programming and find effective methods.
The technical artist also has a supporting role. We help communication between teams that are diametrically opposed: Artists and Programmers.
Marc: And is this your first job in the video game?
Charlotte: No! I had several mandates before becoming a technical artist. In my first company (Voxler Games in Paris), I was a generalist, I did all the visuals, special effects and animations. Then I worked at Eidos Montreal as a modeling/texture/level artist on Shadow Of the Tomb Raider. Then as “interactive-objects” (post specific to Eidos) on Guardians of the Galaxy.
Marc: What studies did you do?
Charlotte: I took two training courses in two different schools:
The first from 2007 to 2010, was Pole 3D in France: a general 2D/3D school in 3 or 5 years. We learned techniques for cinema, architecture and video games.
The next one, Le Campus ADN au Québec, changed my career: a short curriculum 100% oriented towards video games. It was intense because, in just a few months, we went through all the 3D techniques and software to finish the curriculum by creating a team game. A simulation of your future life as a professional! It’s an amazing and family school in which I taught Shader/Textures afterwards.
What was your background to working in the video game industry?
Charlotte: I would say “stormy”.
I have always wanted to make video games, I have been a gamer since my childhood and at 13 years old I had already expressed to my parents my desire to work in this industry.
My first school and the situation in France (many people on the market for few companies) did not allow me to get enough knowledge to find a job that suited me.
Voxler was a very good first experience but I had bigger aspirations: I wanted to work on headlines, create incredible worlds.
After a year of wondering if video games were really for me, I flew to Montreal to resume my studies at the Campus. And the, it was the revelation: “Yes video games are my passion, yes I want to be part of this industry, yes I will give myself thoroughly and maybe one day I will join large companies such as Eidos, Warner Bros., EA, Valve, Riot, Blizzard, Santa Monica Studio or Naughty Dog, etc…”
In short, I was happy and, at the end of my studies, I was pleasantly surprised to be contacted by Warner and Eidos to work on their projects. Eidos offering me a permanent contract (very important for immigrants) to work on a mythical license: Tomb Raider,I chose this studio.
From there, everything was simpler. Surrounded by extremely competent and benevolent professionals, it was easier to evolve and find little by little my true path: technical artist.
At Eidos I went from modeling/texture artist to level artist on Tomb Raider,then “interactive objects” on Guardians of the Galaxy (creator of interactive objects, they do animation, modeling, textures, logic and destruction of objects).
Then Warner Bros Games Montreal approached me for my destruction skills. I was uncertain to want to become a technical artist because this profession is less artistic oriented. But the call of technique and the idea of understanding even more how things work was stronger.
In September, I would join Phoenix Lab as a Technical Artist for new adventures!
Marc: What does a typical day as a technical artist look like?
Charlotte: I start with a big cup of coffee and then I try to make a mental list of things to do on the topic I’m working on.
This differs depending on the state of production
- Research and development on a subject (shaders, tools)
- Creating tools.
- Level tests and health reports (memory used, FPS, etc.).
Some weeks I can work completely independently on a tool and others are filled with meetings with different departments.