By Pawel Jaruga, 3D Artist, Poland
Creative technology for the ages
Over the course of my decade-long career as a 3D artist and digital sculptor, there has never been greater opportunity for creative freedom as there is today. With access to powerful software and hardware, professionals in creative industries today are able to put all of their efforts into bringing their vision to life – without being held back by technology.
At the start of my career, I found that my creative vision was often limited to creating and delivering what was easy, achievable and realistic. A decade on, and with several investments in technology along the way, my creative process – from modelling and texturing to shading and rendering – has allowed me to create increasingly detailed models faster and more seamlessly.
In the past, when processors (CPU) and graphic cards (GPU) didn’t have the high-performance capabilities they do today, I found that I was constrained by the number of triangles and faces I could achieve and the textures I could create in a character model.
This lack of processing power made things challenging when I was working from home using a single workstation as everything took so long, especially when creating animations. Even the difference in hardware now compared to three years ago has given my workflow a huge boost.
In my everyday workflow, I now use the 3D sculpting software Zbrush and several GPU renderers including AMD Radeon ProRender, while my hardware includes AMD Radeon Pro WX 9100 Graphics (provided to me by AMD) and an 8-Core 4.0 GHz processor with 64GB RAM. With previous hardware a few years ago, I was creating models where 20-50 million triangles models were considered a lot for a freelancer. But today, my workstation can handle upwards of 200 million triangles. So for high poly models going up to 70-120 million of triangles is nothing special anymore.
Meanwhile, for texturing, I use Substance Painter and 3D Coat and my hardware includes at least 8GB of video memory. This is really the minimum you can have for texturing a standard game character with a 4096-texture set, which means a resolution of 4096 x 4096 pixels. This is a huge jump from the start of my career, back when the texture limit was 1024 x 1024 per character.
Technology advancements such as these have not only allowed us creatives to develop more realistic and vivid characters, but have also enabled real-time rendering, which means I can see any changes as I make them, resulting in a much faster workflow. I also have the ability to produce photorealistic images that help create a highly detailed and believable 3D world.
You can also easily light scenes and models with single HDRI images and include photogrammetry scans in your modelling workflow – real world items and human 3-dimensional scans based on photo sets taken around objects, which can also include high resolution textures.
Overall, this helps make the creative process much more fun, as you’re not having to wrestle with your hardware. There really has never been a better time to be a video game designer.
Best ever performance, best ever value
The affordability of software and hardware tools has continued to improve, to support this technology journey toward creative freedom, and 3D artists and developers can now focus on using superior software and their skills to their full potential.
However, how you balance performance and value depends on your needs. My requirements change depending on whether I’m earning money from rendering work, or whether I’m modelling and texturing high-end video game characters where I need to be able to work in real-time with multiple 4K textures sets. Or whether I’m creating simple models for mobile games or lower-end video games, where I don’t need to display as many textures at once. As I need a lot of video memory, it can be difficult to find the right balance, but I will always buy the best GPU I can afford to help boost my workflow.
How a diverse industry creates diverse thinking
3D artists come into the field from diverse backgrounds, both technical and artistic. To be a 3D artist, you need some creative skill, but creativity is something you can nurture throughout your career. As for technical skills, if you don’t already possess these you can learn (although it’s harder if you don’t have a background in computing). Saying that, today’s software tools are far more accessible and user-friendly, helped by powerful hardware that speeds up the workflow and improves performance. For instance, nowadays you don’t have to start modelling with a base mesh, you can create forms and shapes without using any mathematical or technical approach. So effectively whatever jumps out of your head can materialise as a 3D model.
While technical skills and an artistic background will make your first steps in your career as a 3D artist easier, patience is also a key skill, as you’ll need to work for many hours a day to hone your craft. I recently taught two people from scratch, neither of whom had much experience with specialised computer software, and now they are working as successful professional 3D artists. Both have a high level of patience, persistence and a willingness to learn and develop.
Being Polish, it’s also exciting to see the growth of this industry in my home country. We have great 3D artists and developers here, and with today’s modern technology, we are now afforded the same level of creative freedom as those users in western Europe and America, where the biggest productions are made.
Our home-grown game development industry is evolving, with studios including Flying Wild Hog, The Astronauts, 11 Bit Studios, CI Games, Techland, People Can Fly and CD PROJEKT RED – of course, the much-anticipated Cyberpunk 2077 is on the way next year. Not only are these companies attracting employees from around the world but investors too, drawn by the investment opportunities in our local industry.
AR & VR: The next frontier
While powerful hardware is currently used to provide the best possible experience to users via a screen in front of them – through the use of, for example, AMD FreeSync Technology and 8K screens – the next frontier will be immersive experiences, such as VR and AR.
The professional applications of VR and AR is already advancing, with 3D artists using headsets such as Oculus and HTC Vive to sculpt and draw in VR. This will be the next step on our collective technology journey and an extremely exciting one for creatives here in Europe and beyond.
About Pawel Jaruga
Pawel "Levus3D" Jaruga is a character artist, digital sculptor and instructor based in Poland. He has over 10 years’ experience in games, commercials and cinematics industry. He’s also the owner of Creepytables.com, miniatures and collectibles studio. You can view his work here.
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Pawel Jaruga received a Radeon Pro WX9100 graphics card in exchange for his blog contribution. The blog represents Mr. Jaruga’s own thoughts and opinions as of the date published. AMD and/or the third-party blogger have no obligation to update any forward-looking content in the above blog. AMD is not responsible for the content of any third-party and does not necessarily endorse the comments made therein. Links to third party sites are provided for convenience and unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such linked sites and no endorsement is implied.