If your dream job is to create beautiful 3D art, but you're not entirely sure where your skills fit in a CG pipeline, never fear. Here Jon Neill, Bruce Sutherland and Ewan Wright of AXIS Animation explain the main job roles – what they involve and what skills they require – so you can find the one that suits you.
Character artists are responsible for creating the main focus of any piece: the characters. You should have a thorough understanding of anatomy, and the appropriate technical skill and knowledge of relevant software. An ideal character artist is someone who can take a model from concept to fully realised CG character with realistic shading and grooming.
This role requires a skilled artist with a broad background creating different types of assets using both hard surface and sculpted techniques. A thorough knowledge of modelling, sculpting, texturing and shading, as well as the ability to troubleshoot technical problems, is a must. There are more opportunities to begin your career with an entry-level position as an environment artist.
Riggers create the joints of a puppet, and animators control the strings that move them. Rigging relates most directly to the skeleton and musculature of a model, which animators can then use to bend, contort and direct movements. Riggers need a solid understanding of maths, while success as an animator depends more on achieving a sense of rhythm, flow and movement.
Lighting artists do what you might expect – they light – but that means far more than simply adding fluorescent strip lights to a scene. It means working with highly complex render engines to give a sense of physicality and space to digital environments, replicating the real-world lighting that surrounds us every day. If you can grasp the complex physics of lightning, then a number of technical CG jobs will open up to you later down the line.
Compositors are the artistic maestros at the end of the process that take the work of all the departments before them and layer them into one final beautiful shot. The challenge is in blending various stratums of work – such as FX and matte paintings onto plate photography – without the seams ever being visible to the audience. Compositors should have a robust understanding of colour, real-world photography and image composition.