Monday, January 26, 2015

Race to the bottom?

I'm notorious for issuing gloomy pronouncements at GDC and elsewhere about the long term decline in artist pay.  I often point out that my starting salary in 1995 was about what an 6-year veteran makes today.  Maybe I'm just trying to scare the fainthearted out of the business and drive prices back up.

Still, my complaints are nothing compared to what's been going in the VFX industry.  The latest victim is PDI, which will be laying off 500 people.  While games has had it's ups and downs the last few years, VFX has had a brutal time with lots of closures and disruptions.

In that connection I came across VFXSoldier , a site which has been fighting for more unionization in the VFX world.  While I'm deeply ambivalent about unionizing in CG -- I don't know if it's really possible, much less a good idea -- but it's certainly not something to dismiss without thinking about and it is hard to see how it could make life worse for the poor VFX folks.  It's a worthwhile read just to see how the other half lives. I'm curious to hear what others think.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Trust Fund

A recent discussion on TAO reminded me of this old GDMag column from 2010. Tech artists always have to fight to stay focused on the relationship at the heart of our business: no amount of technical wizardry matters if your artists aren't actually benefitting from what you do.

While much has changed in the last five years, a lot of this still seems like good advice (to me, anyway, but I'm biased).  I might add a couple of sentences about 'more unit tests' and 'continuous integration' and similar buzzwords but that's just fluff: taking care of your users is all that really counts.

Saturday, January 10, 2015


You know the old saying, "you learn something new every day?" Well it's true. Usually, it's something like "I don't know where I left my keys," but sometimes you run into something that you realized you should have known all along and yet somehow it takes you by surprise.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

To Scale!

In our last visit to 3-d math land, we moved from the 2x2 and 3x3 matrices we used to learn how matrices function to the full 4x4 matrix that we all know and love to hate from 3d applications. This time I’d like to add support for scaling to our matrices so we can round out the ways matrices work.

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Conquest of Space

One of the hardest thing about working in our business is that the technology evolves faster than our means of talking about it. There are a lot of things which we learn in the course of our work that we have a hard time passing on, because the field is so small and so few of us have leisure to try to find ways to sum up all of the practical knowledge we pick up along the way.
I originally wrote this for Game Developer in 2006, and it was always one of my favorite columns.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Comments requested

I'm working a talk for GDC , tentatively entitled "Technical Art Director? What the heck does that mean?"

I'd love to hear thoughts from all you industry types on what the role means. That could be what you think it means for your company, or what you think it means when other people hear it, or what you think it ought to mean. 

 Good anecdotes are particularly appreciated and may be shamelessly stolen :)

So please comment below and let me know what you think while I'm trying to figure out what I think...

PS for future readers coming here via Google or whatnot, this link goes to my perennial how to write  a GDC talk post. Physician, heal thyself!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Adventures in the 4th dimension

In our last discussion of 3d math, we started to plumb the mysteries of the matrix. Along the way we discovered two important facts: First, that it’s possible to write an article about matrices with only the merest smidge of a Keanu Reeves mention and second (almost as important), that matrices are just a convention for applying dot products in series. We walked through the derivation of matrices for a series of dot products and shows how hat simple operation allows you to do rotations in two and three dimensions.

Naturally, any TA reading this will be knows there's more. We all know that the matrices we’re most familiar with — the transform matrices that drive animation and modeling — do more than rotate. So this this time out we’re going talk about how translation — spatial offsets — can be packed into matrices.  And we're going to do it in a truly brain bending way.  Sort of.
If none of this sounds familiar, you may want to return to the previous post in the series before continuing.