Week 12 up to 9th January – Final blog entry

So as graduation draws nearer it’s time to sort out a plan for how to get a job, for getting my showreel and portfolio noticed. This is what I came up with after looking around a bit:

  • Website – search engine optimisation
  • Portfolio – on website plus DeviantART
  • Forums – join loads and post work
  • Social Media – Twitter and Facebook page
  • Tutorial – videos and written
  • Business cards
  • Networking

I figured these steps out by looking at other peoples websites and by reading this:



I have spent some time thinking about my showreel. It is really important to me that I get it right. I am aiming on a career as an environment artist and I need my showreel to reflect this. As it is I only have one completed environment I am satisfied with and one that is heading towards completion. During the coming term I will focus on completing the levels I have and one other. This will mean I will have three levels for my showreel. As it is I’m not sure which to focus on most during the showreel as only one is complete so far. I hope to create a varied showreel which reflects my skills as an environment artist. The level I have which is already complete is based on Total Recall and is therefore a bit of a grungy sci-fi scene, the one I am currently working on is a gothic church and therefore focuses more on intricate and old architecture and my final level is going to be an underground industrial plant in a steampunk style. Whilst I think this will show great variation I believe I may have to work out a way in which to showcase some organic modelling. I don’t have anything planned in this area yet and thus I’m not including it in my current showreel plan.

My current showreel plan is very basic but outlines the outlines the general feel I want my showreel to have. I am not focusing on any particular assets but on the environments as a whole. This means I am currently not including any wireframe passes which may be a negative aspect, but my favourite environment showreels don’t include wireframes and therefore I think it may not necessarily be a bad thing. If in my actual showreel I decide focus on any specific prop I will include wireframe renders, but I find wireframe environments a bit confusing.

Currently I am happy with my introduction and end screens, but I intend to work further on them to reflect me more, perhaps a silhouette environment can be included.  I have not included music since it can easily be distracting.

Here is my showreel plan:

After having a look at various environment and prop artists portfolio I designed a simple and easy to read design for my presentation sheets. I have two versions in the same style; one for environments and one for props.

Week 10 – thinking about my showreel

Week 10– Planning my showreel

Over the last few weeks I have been focusing on making progress with my Total Recall project and my gothic church level. I am currently at a level where I can get together a UDK flythrough for each level, with the Total Recall level already having been made, some improvements to be made to the level. I have yet to plan to make mu church level flythrough, but I have a good idea how it will look. These two levels will be two parts of my showreel. I am also making another level in UDK next term which I plan to include.  This level would be an underground industrial plant. I am thinking it may be a good idea if I do a small and sunny outdoors scene to add some contrast to all my dark scenes, perhaps a small diorama. My worry with this is that the showreel may end up too long. I suppose that’s what the showreel plan is for, making sure the timing and the atmosphere is right.

Having had a lecture on some of the possibilities of After Effects and how to use it I have decided that it will be the program I use to make my showreel. I doubt I will remember all that was said during the lecture, but having this link: http://www.videocopilot.net/tutorials/ will be helpful when I sit down to put my showreel plan together.

I have had a look at various environment art showreels and I am still a bit unsure how best to lay my showreel out. I know I need to start it with something visually interesting, something that will grab people’s attention. At the moment I believe my Total Recall level will be most appropriate for this, but that may change. Before my first clip I need an introduction screen. I would like this screen to look something like this, but a bit more developed:

I’ll start on my showreel plan properly at some point next week.

Week 6 – Status Report

I am currently stuck in the loop of attempting to improve on one of my environments (the ART one) and I feel a bit behind on my Advanced Modelling and Animation one. I have finished my ethical approval form for ARP and can therefore put my dissertation out of mind for about a week while I focus on other work. While I feel like I’m a bit behind with AMA I want to focus on ART at least until the alpha presentation.

For ART I am rebuilding the mutant bar “The Last Resort” from Total Recall. I have so far managed to build all models and applied textures to all but a couple (2 different glass bottle meshes and the fluid to go in them). I have been working for many, many hours to get my textures and materials to an acceptable standard since there are a fair few meshes in my scene. I have also spent a lot of time on setting up my lighting and on my flythrough sequence. So far I have this: (low quality video)

Problems I have faced so far include various UDK failures and file problems etc. I have also spent many hours on a fog plane material just to realise I could achieve a better effect by using a fog volume. I have used the fog volume to create a more smokey and dirty atmosphere in the bar without affecting the outside area. I have also had various issues with seams which I have solved by having separate UV channels for lightmaps, hard edges and texturing. I have also added some mobility to the scene by including moving fans, a moving screen and doors that swing open for the camera in the cinematic. I am also planning on including a bit of cloth physics to draperies and some sparks from a couple of lights. I also intend to create some broken glass to replace one of the windows. I also intend to go a bit into post-processing before the alpha presentation.

For AMA I am still at the modelling stage since I have been focusing more on ART, but I have most models done, the lighting set up and a couple of textures finished. I have also looked into various effects to use in the level. The level in question is a gothic revival style church interior. This is what I have so far:

I am planning on making several more meshes, finish materials and add some interactivity and effects. I plan on creating flames for the candles, doors that can be opened, an organ and coloured glass for some windows etc. I have a lot left to do. Once I get the alpha presentation done with.

Week 5 –Skills for the environment artist

For this week I’ve had a look at what is actually required of an environment artist. While I have previously had my idea of what I need to know I took the chance to look into what employers want. After much reading of old and current job adverts for environment artists (ignoring senior environment artist jobs) I have come up with a general list of what employers want, but there are slight variations between jobs.  Here’s my list:

  • Strong traditional artistic skills
  • Expert level Max and/or Maya skills
  • Strong Photoshop skills
  • A knowledge of Z-brush and/or Mudbox
  • Knowledge of game engines an advantage (Unreal is widely used)
  • High and low polygon modelling
  • Texturing and surface shading skills
  • Lighting (understanding and application)
  • Understanding of composition
  • Ability to work in a team
  • Ability to follow art direction
  • Ability to work in different art styles
  • Ability to adapt
  • Excellent communication and organizational skills

Companies can be specific about software skills, but some accept knowledge of an equivalent package. It is a good idea to have a look at any program I can be expected to know. Right now I believe I have the skills, but so does many others. The problem isn’t difficult requirements (unless you count all the jobs which require previous experience), but all the competition. A simple glance at what other Derby students are doing and have done is enough to make me slightly nervous about my own abilities. Comparing myself to others always makes me feel a bit self-conscious. I need to work hard this year to build up my skills for a chance to enter the industry. I’ll be keeping an eye on the following job sites:




Week 4 – From rubbish to slightly less rubbish

Everyone has to start somewhere. My 3D work start point was in 2009 when I started my 1st year at the University of Derby. My first 2 3D projects were Maya based only and quite disappointing.

This was my first character, long before I should have attempted character modelling. The anatomy is wrong, the edgeflow is rubbish and the feet and hands are absolutely atrocious. The weapon and the horns are boring. There are no textures, just colours assigned in Maya shaders. The only thing I actually like about this model is the original design idea. To make this model even worth considering for any portfolio it would need to be remade from scratch and even then I wouldn’t use it since I want to focus on environments.

This next project was done simultaneously as the one above and in my mind almost as disappointing. The models are okay I suppose, if a bit dull, and the general layout is useable. The texturing on the other hand leaves much to be wanted. The only textures used are diffuse ones, leaving the room look very flat and dull. Some of the diffuse textures are okay, but needs a bit of work which others need to be redone completely. It may be worth looking into redoing the scene and putting it in UDK to set up some decent lighting and effects, but a lot of work would go to making the scene more interesting.

This next one is the first of my projects which is almost in a state to put in a portfolio. I’d need to do some work with materials and perhaps redo the tree. I’d also need to make the snow more convincing and tweak the lighting a  bit, but it would probably only be a few days worth of work since the modelling is ok and the basic textures only needs a bit of tweaking. Most of the work would be in UDKs material editor.

Now this was a side project in Maya only, but thanks to pure luck in the lighting set-up I chanced upon a very interesting look. I’m quite fond of this little one, but it’s far too simple to go into my portfolio as is. I’d need to some work on details and perhaps importing it into UDK to play with materials.

Starting the 2nd year I went back to attempting characters, this time with much more luck and guidance. For both of these characters the anatomy makes sense, the edgeflow decent and the texturing much better than during my 1st year. The two are rendered in different programs, one being a Maya only project and one a UDK project. I personally prefer the one rendered in UDK (the female). The materials have been much better set up and though both have some issues with their skin (normal maps a bit shaky) the on in UDK has better materials for the rest of her. Both characters have a weakness in their hair. The male character’s hair is made using planes, but there are som isues with the way the planes glow in certain spots and also the specularity’s rubbish. The femal character’s hair was made in lumps, which I don’t think looks good with the rest of her design. Also the specularity and normal maps are really bad. To get these two to an acceptable state I’d need to redo the hair and the normal maps for the skin. I’d also need to remake the hand and polish up some of the textures.  I’d still not use them in my portfolio though since they’re characters and not environments.

Now here we have assets I will actually put in my portfolio, but I’ll have to redo some of the textures and the foundations they’re standing on since they were not made by me. I will need to add some details to the buildings as well I think. I’m happy about all the emissives though, they pull the attention away from the lack of details.

This is the environment that made me want to focus on environments. I love the lighting set-up I used, had lots of fun with textures and the one particle effect I used. I think my textures are much better in this than previous, and the materials work nicely. I do think some of the modelling’s too dull though. I need to add more detail to the locomotives, add some variation between trains and add a few different objects to make the level look less monotonous. I also need to redo the background buildings, they’re just blocks with really bad textures. I also need to redo some textures and meshes since a few used are UDKs standard ones. I’d also like to add some gravel underneath the tracks. I recon it’ll take me a while to get this level to a usable stage, but hey, what’s Christmas for?

This asset was rendered in Maya in an attempt at proper realism; I do think I succeeded nicely. It needs some work on its displacement because it’s causing some corner issues from some angles, but is otherwise fine if perhaps a bit dull.

So I don’t have much to put in my portfolio? Guess I’ll just have to work really hard this year. No Christmas break for me …

Week 3

This week we presented last week’s findings concerning showreels, I worked with Chris for my presentation. The two of us agreed on the same points regarding the showreels. I also agree with most of the other students findings. It was interesting to see what people came up with. One pair had found an awfully bad showreel which was using a lot of static shots, badly made turntable, bad fade to black effects in strange places, the building brush visible in a few renders and showing of the wrong things in the wrong order. It was an extremely disjointed video, unfortunately I don’t have the URL to this extremely bad showreel, but it has given me a very clear view of thing I will not do for my own showreel; I will not use a lot of fade to black in the middle of a turntable, I will not set my turntables to a high speed, I will not use static shots and I will make sure to render my scenes out properly.

I am still working on improving my environment art and to produce works to go into my showreel. I have delved deep into lighting theory for ARP purposes and I believe I can use this to my advantage in all other modules. I am getting to a stage in all my modules where I have a concrete idea for what I’m doing. I have worked out a few things I need to research which will aid me as an artist. I need to look deeper at camera techniques in UDK, interactive assets, decals and particle effects.

Week 2 – A look on showreels

After having reached a conclusion on where I want to be and how to get there I now need to look closer at the details. After being given the task of looking closer at some of the show reels that are out there and compare a good and a bad example I set out to see what I could find.

After watching a lot of show reels, most of them average, I found on that to me stood out as really bad. It was not bad because of the artwork, but because of the actual show reel. This was exactly what I’d been looking for. While perhaps not hitting all of the marks for a bad show reel it does hit a few.

Karim Rehimi has made some big mistakes in this. To start off with you may notice the font he’s used for his own name in the beginning. It’s very flashy, and a bit difficult to read. It’s a mistake a lot of people make with websites. Flashy fonts and animated introductions may seem like a good idea, but there’s no actual point with them if you are an environment artist and to be frank it seems a bit like what someone who just discovered flash and is overexcited about it would do. Sometimes it’s best just to keep it simple.  Rehimi continues along the same road, putting too much effort in what’s between the artwork instead of on the artwork. When it comes to the actual artwork he makes a fundamental mistake: he appears to be only using static shots. There is no camera moving, no actual closer look of the scenes displayed. While I do think some of the artwork is good it would definitely benefit from being shown in flythrough. As it is it seems a bit jumbled together. Also I’m not entirely sure what he wanted with the last two bits, they seemed to be more about the animation than the environment. It would have been a better idea to not have them there at all. That would also have cut down on the length of the showreel, which was far too long. It was 3 minutes long. I was bored out of my mind after one minute.

One I really liked was this one:

Chris Zurowski does everything right that Rehimi did wrong. He has a simple opening screen which is easy to read and does not go on for too long. There are no flashy switchovers between clips. The camera movements are smooth and show off the best parts of the environments neatly. It also helps that the showreel is 1 minute 21 seconds long. It’s long enough to show off the work nicely, but not long enough to get boring. There seems to be no unnecessary effect or editing. While some artists seem to like showing a wireframe version I don’t thing Zurowski’s reel suffered from not having done so.  I like the fact that Zurowski doesn’t clutter his showreel with unnecessary shots; it’s kept smooth and flowing which shows a lot of thought has gone into it. When I make my own showreel it’ll probably be fairly similar to Zurowski’s style.

For the same reasons I like this one:


After having looked at the showreels I found this online article: http://www.computerarts.co.uk/features/showreels-dummys-guide

It’s an article which states a few dos and don’ts of showreels that seems to match my observations. They do say that wireframes should be included, but it seems to me that this is simply to check the process you went through and could therefore be put in the portfolio instead of the reel.

Week 1

It’s my final year and nervousness is building up. I can’t help but wonder what will happen once I finish university. To answer that question I first need to ask myself where I want to be. I have had many ideas about what I want to do, but my most realistic and most current one is to work as an environment artist. During last my first and second year I had the opportunity to attempt various 2D and 3D aspects, and I have toyed with various ideas, but what seems to suit me best is environment art.

To actually become a good enough environment artist, and get the job I want I’ll need various things. Expanding skills is always necessary and for that reason I’m attempting to focus all my coursework this academic year on environments. This will also help me build up my portfolio and my show reel. As lecturers often mention a good portfolio and a good show reel comes before a good CV.

Projects I have already decided on include one for Advanced Modelling and Animation which will be a mixture of industrialism and Victorian architecture, and my research project which will concern lighting (this will allow me to make a couple of small environments). My Advanced Rendering Techniques project is based on a bar from Total Recall.

Other than a decent level of work in a show reel and a portfolio I also need to set up a website to showcase my work on and perhaps make a business card. There’s a lot to be done.