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FX Artist resources?

polycounter lvl 10
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Will Faucher polycounter lvl 10
Hey,

So as of now, I am working as an FX artist. I'm getting the hang of it, but I am finding it excessively difficult to find any resources regarding techniques and advice when it comes to creating effects for games. Nowhere near the amount of information compared to modelling and texturing. I've yet to find anything decent on the internet.

Would you guys know of any good place to find a nice wealth of information regarding FX in games? I've looked through the polycount wiki, but there is nothing worth noting there...

Thanks in advance!

Replies

  • Slum
    There's not a lot of info out there, simply because there aren't a lot of FX artists out there. A typical sized big-game team will have maybe 2 or 3 FX artists, versus the dozen or so other disciplines. Most FX work is very integrated into the engine you're working with, so anyone who uses proprietary tech is not going to be able to provide very valuable tips for other engines.

    Also, since there are so few of us, we're probably at work instead of at home building training material :P There are a few DVD's here and there, that mostly teach specific "how to make a ____ in ___ engine", but not covering a lot of the foundation and nuances of what goes into making real game VFX.

    It's one of the only fields in games left that I've found is almost exclusively learned in a "master/apprentice" type setup. In a lot of instances I've encountered, someone is either brought in as a Jr. and trained up, or pulled in from another department.

    It's a fun and challenging job that takes vastly different skills and discipline than other aspects of game art.
  • Will Faucher
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    Will Faucher polycounter lvl 10
    Yeah it definitely is challenging for sure, I'd agree. However, I don't have the luxury of having a master to look up to. I was basically told, "we need FX, here is a list of the FX we need. We need these done in max 3 weeks".

    It's pretty interesting though!
  • Marine
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    Marine polycounter lvl 14
  • glynnsmith
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    glynnsmith polycounter lvl 13
    You'll probably find that the biggest obstacle is just learning the fundamentals of each part of UDK (or whatever engine you're using) that you need to use to create your effects. Once you have a firm grasp of your tools, you'll be able to figure out how to achieve effects on your own.

    Not just because I'm involved with them, Eat3D really do make great training materials:

    The Eat3D Cascade DVD might help with your FX work, if you need to use particles at all. The Kismet DVD might help if you need to trigger your effects, which you probably will do. The Unreal VFX DVD will probably be the title to note, which deals with various effects and transitions.
  • r13
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    r13 founder
    I'll help yah out here.... i've been working with cascade for several years now. the links these guys have posted is about the most help available you'll find out in the interwebs on Cascade. I was in a similar situation a few years ago when i was sat in front of cascade and said go. there was zero help out there at that time. it took me a week or two before i was comfortable enough to really start making anything proper. epic's help consisted of two videos that showed how to create a single particle and how to apply velocity to it. There was nothing else. There's not much more now, but i would have stabbed a nun for the eat3d vid. It gives you everything you need to start.

    also.. to do your job properly, you've gonna need to be good with shaders and some mesh work too, so make sure you dont ignore that stuff in the videos.
  • SimonT
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    SimonT interpolator
    I would also wish to have a nice place for fx artists because in my old and also in my new company i have to do some effects but couldn't find good tutorials and tipps for example for explosions.
  • r13
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    r13 founder
    I'm willing to answer Cascade questions in here if you guys can field specific questions. I can't promise immediate feedback, and I don't really have the time to write out full tutorials... but I'll do what I can.

    And just to give you a little background... I've been doing fx now for 10 years, across 4 MMO's and 3 different fx pipelines. I've been using Cascade now for 4 years ish... there's very little that i haven't had to make over the years. From storm fronts to fully procedural lighting... water, smile, blood and lava falls... various light sabers including the lava saber [facepalm]... heat and freeze visions, more types of explosions than i can remember, various missiles [my fave is still the "pod car" missle i made for SWG], batarangs, flying axes and joker bombs... death rays, health rays, sun rays.. portals to: heaven, hell, apocolypse, limbo and the halls of doom. I've even done Aquaman's fish whisperer mental fx... i've made lots.

    I offer this cause I know your pain. I've never been given an instruction book or tutorial with any of the pipelines I've dealt with. Each time it was given to me with a smile and a good luck and that's it. I had to learn it and produce work all on the go. It's made me pretty self sufficient when it comes to my work, but damn, a few pointers here and there as i was figuring shit out would have been awesome. I will try to give you small nuggets of awesome.
  • Will Faucher
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    Will Faucher polycounter lvl 10
    I actually wish I were using unreal's cascade. However, because we are using an in-house engine, I'm restricted to using max's superspray system. Yeah.
    So not only is this system incredibly limited, some of the effects I need to make are ridiculously abstract. Thanks for the pointers and advice though guys, it's appreciated. :)
  • SimonT
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    SimonT interpolator
    @ r13

    That's really nice of you!
    Currently i have to use FORK, do you know that?

    My problems are mostly: how to create awesome FX textures (like for explosions). All the explosion Photoshop tutorials are like how i can paint an exploding planet or stuff like that, but such things like "how to paint good fire" is harder to find.
  • haiddasalami
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    haiddasalami polycounter lvl 10
    SimonT wrote: »
    @ r13

    That's really nice of you!
    Currently i have to use FORK, do you know that?

    My problems are mostly: how to create awesome FX textures (like for explosions). All the explosion Photoshop tutorials are like how i can paint an exploding planet or stuff like that, but such things like "how to paint good fire" is harder to find.

    I think a lot of people bake fluid simulations for good fire. I've seen in a lot of FX jobs they want you to be good at dynamics and particles.
  • r13
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    r13 founder
    I encourage you to just try painting it. Fx move at a fast rate in games usually and they dont stick around long. This means that even the best perfect photographic texture will not be seen clearly. This also means your own textures don't have to be the best to get the job done. Some of my own textures are literally some squiggles on a black background. But what i do with those squiggles is the key.

    Try finding some pictures of explosions and paint over one and try using that.

    as far as rendering up flame simulations and all that... umm no. I'm sure some folks do it, but thats an incredible waste of time. You'll get a pretty reasonable job by hand painting it, or doing paint overs from pics you find. I do a lil of both to get mine done. In the future, we probably will be doing dynamic particle simulations in real time, but thats a few tech cycles off still.

    I've even done some hand painted animated flames... this is easier than you might think. I start off with a picture of a flame i like, in the general tone and look i want. Then I'll dupe and mirror the texture. then dupe each a few more times and then i use the liquify feature in pshop to push the flames toward each other for the tweening. No worry if its a little rough... fire moves fast. it jerks around a lot. your texture can lean on that.

    Again, dont stress over the perfectness of a texture. No one ever sees it like you do. Remember your context and don't put too much work into something that doesn't need it.
  • haiddasalami
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    haiddasalami polycounter lvl 10
    @r13: O I just assumed that's why they put "must be good with particles in this package etc etc". Gonna check out that Eat 3d tutorial. Thanks for the tidbits of awesomness r13 :)
  • SimonT
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    SimonT interpolator
    @r13

    Thanks for the large answer! I'll have a try. What i was wondering about: there is e.g. the super emitter feature, but even the new Medal of Honor game seems to just use single particles even for streaks, maybe because of performance problems. It's just interesting to see, that the techniques of particles in new games is really basic.

    Also in the new CoD i see texture animated explosion but with a framerate of 8 or 16 fps u guess. You can see really good each frame and that's also really crazy - i mean it's one of the biggest games of the year - but OK, the consoles doesn't have that much memory.

    Do you have a demoreel or something to show where we can see some Fx from you and maybe also the textures you used for?
  • Will Faucher
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    Will Faucher polycounter lvl 10
    I wouldn't say it's because of the consoles memory that some FX have lower framerates/less density. I would assume it is because of the alpha overdraw. The Xbox 360 for example, does alot of things very well, but sorting multiple layers of alpha isn't one of those things. And FX are one of the worst offenders when it comes to that. It's easy to simply put a super dense cloud of smoke, but it will kill your performance.
  • urgaffel
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    urgaffel polycounter lvl 12
    SimonT wrote: »
    <snip>...Also in the new CoD i see texture animated explosion but with a framerate of 8 or 16 fps u guess. You can see really good each frame and that's also really crazy - i mean it's one of the biggest games of the year - but OK, the consoles doesn't have that much memory.

    Thread resurrection!

    Me and a the other vfx artists here were looking at CoD:Blops a while ago and you can see that they actually turn off entire explosions, mid sequence, when a new one starts (usually when you have 3-4 big explosions at the same time, one gets turned off when a new one starts). You don't notice it when you are playing because there's so much stuff going on but if you look at a captured movie frame by frame you can see it happening. It's quite amazing really... The textures themselves aren't amazing either but they work with everything else to create a great illusion.

    I came from an environment art background and was asked if I wanted to try my hand at vfx and ended up doing most of the effects for Dirt 3. It was sink or swim although I was lucky and had experienced vfx guys who could give advice when needed.

    More resources on vfx would be nice though, there's very little info out there about the actual creation of sprites etc. I know some people use things like Action Essentials and create effects from the elements there but I have no idea how I'd go about actually painting an explosion or a nice animated rolling/swirling smoke for example.
  • BojanStankovski
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    BojanStankovski polycounter lvl 6
    Isn't most houses using Houdini for FX?
  • Justin Meisse
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    Justin Meisse polycounter lvl 15
    I met a VFX artist who used FumeFX to render out complex particles that he then used as animation frames in UDK. It made some simple particle systems look alot more complex then they really were.
  • urgaffel
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    urgaffel polycounter lvl 12
    A lot of VFX houses use Houdini. In games... Not so many I'd guess. Most places have their own particle tools or use what comes with the licensed engine.
  • parag
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    parag polycounter lvl 4
    Really nice info ..
  • Bunnirobotcat
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    Bunnirobotcat polycounter lvl 6
    since this thread seems old...are there still so little resources/tutorials/etc... for FX artist? I'm going through Unitys videos about it but Id be curious to see other FX artist' techniques and how they optimize for mobile or various platforms.
  • haiddasalami
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    haiddasalami polycounter lvl 10
    Bills stuff is awesome. https://www.youtube.com/user/imbuefx/videos.
    Jason Keyser has some good breakdowns for 2d effects also learn a bit about animation timing etc.  https://www.youtube.com/user/jasonkeyser
    Eat3d has some good ones too. Not sure about unity specific but I'm sure most of those video core concepts can be replicated. 
  • Bunnirobotcat
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    Bunnirobotcat polycounter lvl 6
    Bills stuff is awesome. https://www.youtube.com/user/imbuefx/videos.
    Jason Keyser has some good breakdowns for 2d effects also learn a bit about animation timing etc.  https://www.youtube.com/user/jasonkeyser
    Eat3d has some good ones too. Not sure about unity specific but I'm sure most of those video core concepts can be replicated. 
    Awesome! thanks :pleased:
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