3D art is becoming more and more prevalent in our every day lives: For example, most of Ikea’s advertisements are 3D renders, not real objects. Opening a dialogue and increasing 3D literacy with “the uninitiated” will lead to understanding, appreciation, and interest in the art. Creating accessible and easy to follow documents or videos can only benefit the 3D industry.
Using imagine manipulation software, such as Photoshop, a 3D artist can import a UV template, and create a texture for the 3D model. The 3D model already has shape, but no color, and there is no information about the material it is made from. Adding texture to the model will help to give it character, inform the viewer of it’s materials and will give it a more pleasing and complete look, but a texture alone does not make for a complete material.
6) Creating Normal, Specular, and other maps.
At this point, our low poly model has been created, UVed, and textured, but color alone does not sell the illusion of reality. All surfaces have micro details that are all but impossible to capture in a low poly model on their own, as well as different levels of reflectiveness, also known as specularity.
Normal Maps, which allow micro-amounts of detail and smoothing from the high poly model to be projected on to the low poly model via UV space, are a common way to “fake” detail on to a model. Since every part of the model is represented both in 2D UV space, and 3D XYZ space, these details can be “projected” on to the low poly model to give the illusion of detail.
Similarly, specular maps, as well as maps that can control emissiveness, displacement, and other details can be created to add more realism and detail to the model.
1) Gather Reference
3D artists rarely create any art from scratch. Normally, reference material is either gathered, created by a concept artist, or both. At the very least, a 3D artist will have a “visual guide” to work with in order to create an appropriately styled piece of art. Reference is important to plan out what is to be created, since many elements of the model may be important to the player, signifying hidden items, the path forward, or explosive or hazardous materials.
2) Low Poly Model
A low poly model is a model created using a relatively low number of polygons (Though standards change each generation of consoles) made to be rendered in real time in the game engine. Since rendering becomes more and more difficult for each polygon added to the model, extraneous details are excluded from the low poly model.
One of the big mysteries of 3D Art is who makes it. It’s not all computer wizardry, there’s got to be SOMEBODY pushing pixels around in some dark room somewhere. While this may not be the primary focus of my project, I wanted to take a moment to highlight some major jobs or roles that 3D artists can take in the video game industry.
While there are many, many specialized jobs that exist in the Game Industry that focus on a single discipline of 3D art (Lighting Artist, Texture Artist, Animation Rigger, etc.), I will only focus on a few of the main disciplines for now. There may be major topics that I do not discuss or go in to detail over that will be covered in later posts.
Character Artist: Possibly the most prolific of the jobs in the minds of gamers and budding game developers, the Character Artist is responsible for modeling a character or creature. A common misconception is that the Character Artist is the one who CREATES, or imagines the character. The visual aspect of character creation is normally done by a concept artist, as is the case in most 3D art. The Character artist takes the 2D conceptual art given to them, and uses that information to create a full 3D model, as well as texture/material information for that character.
Environment Artist: Environment artists are akin to set builders in the movie industry: their responsibility is to give life to the game world to make it feel like a real, breathing place. Again, Environment Artists rarely design their levels, both aesthetically, as well as in terms of game play, but give three dimensional life to the concepts given to them. Rather than create a single, incredibly detailed model like a character artist may be tasked to do, the environment artist will create and place many props in the game world, ranging from large statues, to inconspicuous rocks, grass, and signposts. A single environment artist may be responsible for a single area, or several areas of a game, rather than a just a few models.
Animator: Animators are aptly named, as their primary responsibility is to animate 3D models. While many modern studios use motion capture to capture real performance and translate it in to animations, animators are still needed to tweak or modify these performances, or to animate things that are usually impossible for the human body to do.