Specializing or not ?

R4DI4NT
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R4DI4NT polycounter lvl 2
Question is ...
Professionally speaking  is it better to specialize in a narrow field such as texture art or character modeling only or keep it more broad like for an assets designer?
And about texturing, is substance designer with its procedural texts really good ( like the guys at allegorithmic say )?
Do you think this is the future of texturing? 
Thanks in advance. 

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  • Burpee
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    Burpee polycounter lvl 4
    Specializing is good for the film industry ( DNEG, MPC, Framestore etc... )
    Being more generalist like Modeling Texturing Shading is better for advertisement industry ( The Mils, Blur etc )
    I think game guys are kinda generalist too

    and yup Substance iz gud
    hf !
  • EarthQuake
    Do both.

    Be good enough at general tasks to not be so specialized that you can only do one thing, but do one thing well enough that you're known for it and stand out. It's really hard to get a job as a jack of all trades if you don't stand out, usually you'll be up against someone who is more specialized and probably better at whatever the job calls for in that case. It's also hard to get a job if you only know how to do one thing, unless you're absolutely without question amazing at that one thing (even then, the people I know who are really really good at something specific are pretty good at a variety of other things too).

    For instance, if you want to be a character artist, you should be really good at sculpting and organic work, but you should also be proficient at lowpoly, uvs, baking, materials, and know a bit of hard surface as well (armor, weapons, etc are common hard surface things a character artist would be expected to do). If you know how to do that, you could do some prop work or even environmental work in a pinch.

    On the other hand, it seems like a lot of kids out of college know how to do a bunch of things poorly. For instance, you might know the basics of rigging, animation, character modeling, hard surface, level design, but not have enough experience at any of those to be good enough to be hired. This is the point where you need to specialize and pick a discipline to focus on.

    Jobs that are very specialized, like only doing highpoly character sculpts, or only doing materials, tend to be reserved for senior artists that have been in the industry for a while. Don't expect to get an entry level position and do only textures, unless it's at a huge factory-type studio.
  • Swizzle
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    Swizzle polycounter lvl 11
    Unless you're absurdly good at what you do and you're only planning on working at super high end AAA studios, you're probably not going to get a job that's as narrow as texture painting or character sculpting without having additional responsibilities. That in mind, it's definitely a good idea to narrow your focus to one general area of game art, such as character art, weapons, environment art, etc. because that will let you have a manageable set of skills you can learn, maintain, and grow.

    To give a real-world example of what I mean, I'll break down what I do at my job as a character artist at Insomniac Games:

    Research:
    I do tons of research to understand what I'm making, both on a technical as well as an artistic level. This usually means lots of Googling and looking through books and magazines. Research is actually a skill set in itself because it relies on you being able to find things with very little previous knowledge of a topic by digging through keyword searches and related fields until you can find what you need.

    High-poly modeling:
    I do lots of sculpting in Zbrush, hard surface modeling in Modo, and clothing creation in Marvelous Designer. These are all skills that I've had to develop over various projects, but they all feed into creating different aspects of characters and I use them almost every day.

    Low-poly modeling and retopology:
    I do most of my retopo in Modo, and this requires knowledge of both how models deform as well as an understanding of how UVs will be laid out. A lot of that knowledge comes from experience, but just as much usually comes from determining the constraints of whatever I'm working on as I'm working on it.

    UV mapping:
    Efficient UV layouts provide you with greater texel density, but they also let you work more easily with various types of shaders that rely on UV layouts being very carefully laid out. If you ever work on a character that has something like stripes on their clothing, you'll understand the importance of a good UV map.

    Texturing:
    I use a bunch of different programs for baking and painting textures, and they change on a case-by-case basis depending upon the needs of the character. If I'm doing a character with extremely clean textures, I might just slap something together in Photoshop. If I'm doing something that requires advanced wear and tear, I'm a lot more likely to use Substance Painter to get good results. I also dabble in Substance Designer when I need things like tiling cloth patterns.

    - - -

    As you can see from the above, the job of a character artist is somewhat multi-disciplinary despite being exclusively focused on what is usually a small part of games. That's a common theme through most of the art jobs you'll see in the game industry, and for good reason; if you are good at a single part of the process but don't know anything about the rest, you're eventually going to create something that isn't a viable end product. This applies to most game art disciplines, especially things as complex as vehicles, weapons, or environments.

    By narrowing your focus enough that you are making specific types of things, but keeping broad enough that you can create a complete asset from start to finish, you're putting yourself in a much more desirable position as a potential hire. In addition, you're ensuring that you understand all parts of the process and the best way to approach multiple types of problems.
  • Kwramm
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    Kwramm greentooth
    Be a generalist with 1 or 2 specializations - e.g. modeling & texturing.
    Specialization meaning you're not just good at it, but you also have deeper knowledge and experience when compared to your other skills.

    In regards to Substance: I imagine most artists will not be very specialized in Designer - even though some knowledge is required. But they will work primarily in painter. Deep Designer knowledge will be required mostly by TAs, and artists will modify and use read-made materials from a studio's Substance library, to enable re-use and consistent looks.
  • Biomag
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    Biomag interpolator
    I would strongly suggest to look at job positions and read the descriptions or at least polycount's wiki. Yeah, sounds like a cheap advice, but there you see what type of company looks for what type of skill set for specific jobs. In the end it's most of the times like Valve puts it in their employee handbook - T-shaped personalities - meaning broad skill set with a clear specialization. Wherever you end up it is going to be like that, it is just going to vary how your skill distribution has to be (either more specialized or broader).

    Regarding the OP:
    The different things you are mentioning are very specialized sound a lot like VFX/CG jobs and less gaming related, though the big studios seem to embrace this approach more and more. But it stays the same for you too - find the job you want to do and see what they require. Film needs specialists, because they have completely different quality standards for each asset than games, especially mobile games. If you want to get a job in games narrowing it down to just texturing might be dangerous because it requires a very big team to have such limited roles. Just see what is expected from people doing your job - look at the description and find artists' portfolios that are working in that field and you will have a clear picture what you need and what expectations come with the position. With Artstation, LinkedIn and all the other stuff it is quite easy.


    Generally speaking:
    I was working in a small team with 4 artists and they had a lot of trouble before embracing the fact that generalists don't have all the answers. Since I joined I was pushing to look for specific skills when looking for new employees. Yes, we were a small team and we need to be able to do a lot of different stuff (from 2d merchandise to 3d games), but they were just lucky that when they hired me they got somebody who can rig because no one in this team (each 10+ years of experience) could do a IK-FK switch and they were not even aware of that. I on the other hand couldn't do a proper looking animation if my life depended on it and so on. So the smaller the team gets the more you have to be able to do, but someone in that team should have the answers for the problem at hands or at least recognize the problem, which often requires specializations.

    The other argument against generalists would be in bigger teams you won't be doing it all. I know too many people who think they have fun doing everything, but actually as a beginner you barely have the time to master the things necessary for a single job. Looking at the job as Swizzle wrote, you will have a hard time convincing me that you as a graduate are able to do all that on a great level as well as also animate, rig or being a great environment artist. You won't even have the time at work to do all that stuff anyhow, at least if it has to reach a certain quality level.

    That's why I say find the job description that you want to do for a living and practice those skills. In your spare time look up the other jobs and try to at least understand the basics of those so that when your teammates come to you and speak about what they are doing and what they need from you, you can understand them.





  • R4DI4NT
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    R4DI4NT polycounter lvl 2
    Guys this is great , I didn't think I would get such a prompt reply and such detail. Thanks.
    Awesome community!
  • Tidal Blast
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    Tidal Blast polycounter lvl 5
    I really don't think that 3D artists have a choice. You really have to multi-specialize with a focus on concept art or environment art or character art or tech art. And be a little bit of a generalist. (3DS Max, Maya, Knald, Substance, Quixel, Topogun, 3D Coat, Modo, Zbrush, etc.)

    Generic skills
    • 3D design/Concept art
    • Hard surface modeling
    • 3D sculpting
    • UVing
    • Baking
    • Photoshop
    • PBR Texturing - Substance Designer 5
    • PBR Texturing - Quixel suite / Substance Painter / Mari
    • NDo2
    • Shaders
    • Lighting
    • Basic use of MaxScript/MEL/Python to modify or create new modeling tools
    • Unreal Engine 4 & Unity

    Specializations
    • Concept artist
    • Environment artist
    • Character artist
    • Technical artist (programming, rigging, etc.)

    And if you can make a living as a weapon artist, well that's fantastic.
  • R4DI4NT
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    R4DI4NT polycounter lvl 2
    ;Tidal Blast
    Waw that's not really encouraging, are you saying that I basically have to know everything about every single piece of software that does anything about 3d models or  textures? 
    What's the point of being professionally competent in substance painter and quixel at the same time ? they basically do exacly the same thing , wouldn't be better to  dedicate 100% to one software for each different discipline? 
  • Kwramm
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    Kwramm greentooth
    Quixel vs Substance? Depends what the studio uses that you're aiming for. Generally projects use one or the other. In the long run however, my money is on Substance. I would skip Mari unless you aim for film - not because it's a bad program, but because I don't see it having a strong foothold in game dev.

    Having said that - focus on understanding principles and workflows rather than where to find which button - workflows are transferable, the rest you can learn from a help file. Substance Designer = node based, non destructive workflow. You find this in Unreal's material system, in the Hypergraph, in ShaderFX and other packages. Painter is your beefed up 3D painting app, which shares concepts found in Mari, Bodypaint, etc.
  • Tidal Blast
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    Tidal Blast polycounter lvl 5
    R4DI4NT said:
    ;Tidal Blast
    Waw that's not really encouraging, are you saying that I basically have to know everything about every single piece of software that does anything about 3d models or  textures? 
    What's the point of being professionally competent in substance painter and quixel at the same time ? they basically do exacly the same thing , wouldn't be better to  dedicate 100% to one software for each different discipline? 
    Here is a list of the most essential softwares that 3D artists would need to learn.

    Softwares
    • Maya or 3DS Max or Modo or Blender (if you want to play smart, learn either Maya or 3DS Max first)
    • Zbrush
    • Photoshop
    • Substance Designer 5
    • Substance Painter
    • Unreal Engine 4 (including how to add lightmaps, lighting and how to use Material Editor)
  • crowejohn20
    R4DI4NT said:
    ;Tidal Blast
    Waw that's not really encouraging, are you saying that I basically have to know everything about every single piece of software that does anything about 3d models or  textures? 
    What's the point of being professionally competent in substance painter and quixel at the same time ? they basically do exacly the same thing , wouldn't be better to  dedicate 100% to one software for each different discipline? 
    Here is a list of the most essential softwares that 3D artists would need to learn.

    Softwares
    • Maya or 3DS Max or Modo or Blender (if you want to play smart, learn either Maya or 3DS Max first)
    • Zbrush
    • Photoshop
    • Substance Designer 5
    • Substance Painter
    • Unreal Engine 4 (including how to add lightmaps, lighting and how to use Material Editor)
    I'd agree with that list, if it's film I would put Nuke in there as well as Mari, picking up a little bit of scripting will help you out too, something broad like Python.   

    It's important to focus on the texturing side while knowing and continuing to learn the basics of the other programs. Things like UV'ing, SubD and file formats such as exr, tiff, FBX are very important for a texture artist to know  :) 

    Hope that helps. 
  • R3D
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    R3D polycounter lvl 8
    Pick a domain to specialise in, then slowly branch out. Knowing how a character model needs to be rigged, or how lighting affects a model, how materials affect the final look of the textures, are all great skill to hone.

    For software, the guys above have compiled a good list of what is currently industry standard. My advice would be to look at the studios you admire the most and see what technology they're using or what skills can be easily transferred over from one program to the next.
  • Arkaria
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    Arkaria polycounter lvl 2
    Biomag said:

    no one in this team (each 10+ years of experience) could do a IK-FK switch and they were not even aware of that.
    What?!
  • Biomag
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    Biomag interpolator
    Arkaria said:
    Biomag said:

    no one in this team (each 10+ years of experience) could do a IK-FK switch and they were not even aware of that.
    What?!
    You don't wanna know... a very long story and most people wouldn't believe it anyhow...
  • JoshuaG
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    JoshuaG polycounter lvl 4
    To be fair, who likes making IK-FK switches. Honestly?
  • MrHobo
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    MrHobo polycounter lvl 8
    Biomag said:
    Arkaria said:
    Biomag said:

    no one in this team (each 10+ years of experience) could do a IK-FK switch and they were not even aware of that.
    What?!
    You don't wanna know... a very long story and most people wouldn't believe it anyhow...
    Im curious were they predominately animators, or character artists?
    To be honest I always though it was weird for character artists to take rigging knowledge that far instead or having the animators handle it.
  • Justin Meisse
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    Justin Meisse polycounter lvl 14
    I've done generalist gigs, here's the deal, the employer expects you to be specialist level at all areas of art.  When I got bogged down doing graphic design for a project, I told my boss "I'm not really that much of a graphic artist, can the concept artist help me out?" I ended up getting a written warning about how I was a generalist and they expected to be able to handle any art task sent my way.
  • Biomag
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    Biomag interpolator
    MrHobo said:
    Biomag said:
    Arkaria said:
    Biomag said:

    no one in this team (each 10+ years of experience) could do a IK-FK switch and they were not even aware of that.
    What?!
    You don't wanna know... a very long story and most people wouldn't believe it anyhow...
    Im curious were they predominately animators, or character artists?
    To be honest I always though it was weird for character artists to take rigging knowledge that far instead or having the animators handle it.
    Self declared 'generalists', one called herself the 'closest thing to a technical artist we had'. One of them did a couple of animation gigs as a freelancer before and said that he could rig - technically it was true, he could make a rig with IK handles or FK, but when a freshly gradute without specialization in rigging delivers a rig that you can't build (or understand) yourself you should be more careful what you are saying... on the other hand in our company they all got away with it although I know first year students that were far better... at least I also had 2 other artists there through the 2 years that knew their stuff and were motivated and helped me improve, but both left because of frustration and now finally me too.

    I guess most expect rather animators to do the rigging around here. I just started doing the rigs because of workload disposition and actually I like it now, though I would never call myself a rigger.



    Regarding what is expected of generalists:
    I would say it differs and depends on a lot of things. If I hire a veteran that claims to be a generalist I expect him to have above average skills in all areas, but any sane lead will expect you to have strenghts and weaknesses. Still these are things I would try to clearify during the hiring process - both sides should know what to expect.
  • xvampire
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    xvampire polycounter lvl 11
    I sell myself as Environment Artist,  ( because that is my long time experience and I enjoy it ) 

    but I never hold myself on doing other area of discipline that has nothing to do with my specialty , and actually showing to public  what I have done with that
    (unreal character AI and crowd NPC would be my next goal :3)

    it is not a sin to be jack of all the trade, but you need to be aware that it takes extra years to be expert on each. 
    as long as you enjoy that process then feel free do do it. 
    write down to yourself , why you want to do more than 1 thing? is it for money? to make elaborated art ? or to be independent game developer?
    despite doing many things you still can slim down what specific technique you want to learn, based on your goal

  • Tidal Blast
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    Tidal Blast polycounter lvl 5
    I've done generalist gigs, here's the deal, the employer expects you to be specialist level at all areas of art.  When I got bogged down doing graphic design for a project, I told my boss "I'm not really that much of a graphic artist, can the concept artist help me out?" I ended up getting a written warning about how I was a generalist and they expected to be able to handle any art task sent my way.
    Well, the fault is primarily ours. Most people in the industry use terms such as Specialist andGeneralist, forgetting that there are also polymaths (multi-specialists), but a generalist is NOT a multi-specialist. So if they expect you to be a multi-specialist, then they should update the requirements in their job offerings.

    So it's a big problem in the industry right now, because multi-specialists are not recognized, because most people assume that they are generalists, masters of none.
  • MrHobo
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    MrHobo polycounter lvl 8
    Thanks for the info @Biomag seems like a touch situation and you rose to the challenge.
  • Biomag
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    Biomag interpolator
    [edit] double/triple post...wtf... sorry, something went wrong here

  • Biomag
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    Biomag interpolator
    [edit] ...and again... sorry, something went wrong here
  • Biomag
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    Biomag interpolator
    MrHobo said:
    Biomag said:
    Arkaria said:
    Biomag said:

    no one in this team (each 10+ years of experience) could do a IK-FK switch and they were not even aware of that.
    What?!
    You don't wanna know... a very long story and most people wouldn't believe it anyhow...
    Im curious were they predominately animators, or character artists?
    To be honest I always though it was weird for character artists to take rigging knowledge that far instead or having the animators handle it.
    Self declared 'generalists', one called herself the 'closest thing to a technical artist we had'. One of them did a couple of animation gigs as a freelancer before and said that he could rig - technically it was true, he could make a rig with IK handles or FK, but when a freshly gradute without specialization in rigging delivers a rig that you can't build (or understand) yourself you should be more careful what you are saying... on the other hand in our company they all got away with it although I know first year students that were far better... at least I also had 2 other artists there through the 2 years that knew their stuff and were motivated and helped me improve, but both left because of frustration and now finally me too.

    I guess most expect rather animators to do the rigging around here. I just started doing the rigs because of workload disposition and actually I like it now, though I would never call myself a rigger.



    Regarding what is expected of generalists:
    I would say it differs and depends on a lot of things. If I hire a veteran that claims to be a generalist I expect him to have above average skills in all areas, but any sane lead will expect you to have strenghts and weaknesses. Still these are things I would try to clearify during the hiring process - both sides should know what to expect.
  • JacqueChoi
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    JacqueChoi interpolator
    Should make note here:

    The Visual Works guys that work on the Square Enix trailers are largely what we could call Character Generalists.
    They do modelling, rigging, animation, hair,+ cloth. Very likely even many of their own FX.


    I believe the concepting is still largely split up, and the shading/rendering is handled by another dept. I believe Blizzard Cinematics used to work this way as well, up until WarCraft 3.


  • Arkaria
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    Arkaria polycounter lvl 2
    We actually spend a whole semester on just rigging when I was in school and it carried through into our other courses. Maybe that's fairly new in schools, and the other guys got into the industry before rigging was really taught? Idk
  • Biomag
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    Biomag interpolator
    15 years ago there were no schools for this. People forget that this industry is still very young and there will be a lot of growing pains that we will face (see VFX and their issues). You will have a hard time finding a lot of people who retired after a full career in video games at the moment ;)
  • Tidal Blast
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    Tidal Blast polycounter lvl 5
    Biomag said:
    15 years ago there were no schools for this. People forget that this industry is still very young and there will be a lot of growing pains that we will face (see VFX and their issues). You will have a hard time finding a lot of people who retired after a full career in video games at the moment ;)
    It's common enough around here in Montreal. Some people after spending many years in their field, sometimes just even a few years, start to feel that it just wasn't for them for all kind of reasons. For some people, it's an opportunity to do more stuff on the side. And some of them really really love to teach this stuff. And some of them possibly like Jacques are still actively working in the industry as seniors or leads. 90% of the teachers I had were really really good, I'm very happy for our area to have such a passionate and active crowd.
  • Biomag
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    Biomag interpolator
    Biomag said:
    15 years ago there were no schools for this. People forget that this industry is still very young and there will be a lot of growing pains that we will face (see VFX and their issues). You will have a hard time finding a lot of people who retired after a full career in video games at the moment ;)
    It's common enough around here in Montreal. Some people after spending many years in their field, sometimes just even a few years, start to feel that it just wasn't for them for all kind of reasons. For some people, it's an opportunity to do more stuff on the side. And some of them really really love to teach this stuff. And some of them possibly like Jacques are still actively working in the industry as seniors or leads. 90% of the teachers I had were really really good, I'm very happy for our area to have such a passionate and active crowd.
    I actually meant the whole professional life - 40 years. In other industries it isn't that uncommon for people to spend those pretty much in the same field of work, at least around here. I guess back in the 80s the games industry wasn't that big ;)

    But still schools for CG weren't wide spread back then. We are lucky to have such opportunities to learn all the skills. It is far easier to get the information than back then, so I didn't blame my collegues for not knowing things, but for claiming they do or not caring about keeping up to date.
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