Transition from Animation to tech Art / Anim?

Hey guys,

I’ve worked as an animator for over a decade, but for a long time done tech on the side. ( Building tools in maya / motionbuilder with python, rigging, and helping out with state tree stuff etc ).

I’ve now been offered the opportunity to switch over to tech Art, and I was wondering how many of you guys have similar experience doing the switch?

I feel a bit torn for a number of reasons:

  • I do enjoy the tech side and the role will allow me to learn lots of new things.
  • I’m concerned I will miss doing animation.
  • Will switching over mean starting over with experience, when I’ve got so much animation experience.
  • Being used to having a quota of anim work, switching to a role where it more self managed will take some getting used to.

I’m guessing many of you have been through similar journeys and wondered how it went for you?

Or is there a role that would allow me to do both tech & animation that I should look to moving into instead?

Thanks for any advice. :slight_smile:

That’s kind of how I started, ish… I did 8yrs in Post Production as a CG generalist, compositor and animator before becoming Lead Animator in the Games industry. I did a number of games as lead, had a fantastic animation team under me but was continually frustrated at the poor rigs, poor tools and total lack of any tech backup. We’re going back here mind you, this is around 2000 when there wasn’t really such a thing as a TD, just animators who knew a little more MEL.

We landed the Athens Olympics game and with that came Equestrian show jumping and Gymnastics and there was no way in hell our rigs at the time would stand any chance on such complex MoCap data, so I decided I needed to learn. Over the 2 years of dev I pretty much engrossed myself in rigging and tooling the pipeline up so my animators had more chance of achieving the games needs. After that game I actually went to the studio heads and forced them to setup the R&D department. At the time each project would be started by a new team and one of the animators on that team would pipe up and say “I can build rigs”, and thats how it was. Fast forward 10yrs and we had a full rigging, facial and R&D department with fully unified pipelines supporting 5 concurrent games teams.

Now would I do it again, would I switch, hell yes. I’m a problem solver at heart but having a long animation background also means I can think like an animator and I think those make the best TD’s.
If you like a challenge go for it. If you want to do both then it all depends on the studio you’re at. If you’re in a big AAA then you tend to get slotted into a dedicated role. If however you’re at a smaller studio then absolutely do both, we have lots of clients who are just that, lead animators but also very technical and get stuck into the pipeline codebase.

Not sure that helps but there you go

cheers

Mark

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Thanks Mark, it’s a great insight to know your journey. I believe if I had gone a similar route to that I wouldn’t even be thinking about it. eg. Taking on a lot of tech responsibilities on the game and then moving. Right now I feel it more of a down tools on anim and figure out the tech role which is making me more stressed about it then I should be with my background.
It’s also a smaller studio, so its less of being in a tech team with others and more of on my own. But maybe that is something I can try and change, the idea of a centralized dept sounds like a great way to be setup.

Well if you needed backup there’s plenty of info out there and people on here with experience to call on. Company plug, we also offer full services to studios in need of more tech support, as well as our ProPack pipeline which is pretty much a full game anim pipeline out of a box. We have plenty of smaller studios who lean on us for tech support, leaving their lead animators and tech guys to focus on the bigger picture rather than re-inventing the wheel.

I actually missed the Red9 pic on your name. I’ve worked at a studio that used the red9 before, great rigs.
Thanks again for your advice.

Thanks, where was that? Rigs are only part of the service, we spend at least 50% of our time supporting external pipelines and doing bespoke upgrades to ProPack for clients, keeps us on our toes :wink:

Hey Mobo :slight_smile:

This is pretty much what happened to me too. I was a mocap artist/ animator for a few years, but increasingly found myself automating certain things, sharing the odd script here and there until the management picked up on it and started formally requesting tools.

If you’re naturally already just doing tech stuff and building tools, then it may be that your gut is telling you the same thing. I’d definitely take the opportunity and if it’s not for you, you can switch back to an animation role again. Personally, I’ve never looked back and can’t see myself animating again.

From my experience, it’s pretty uncommon for tech artists/ tech animators to still do animation work, but it may depend on the studio. Whether you end up liking this or not is hard to know without trying though.

Trust your gut and do what makes you happy :slight_smile:

Yeah, thanks for letting me know your journey. I think that’s the gradual path that would work more for me, what I’ve been offered right now is more of a complete switch over with the tech art focus being more on asset management and problem solving areas which I don’t yet have experience in and no rigging.
What I’m thinking might work better for me is looking for a role or company that would be willing to give me time to take on more tech gradually without giving up a position completely, or perhaps just a job that is more like tech animator. I have experience in animation and rigging, so tech animator might be a more comfortable transition if i chose to go that route. Thanks for all your advice guys!

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Yep - That’s exactly how I started. Except things were a little different way back in the early days. I loved keyframe animation - and still do. However, as a keyframe animator, I really wasn’t that good and frankly was getting bored with the keyframing process. I fell in love with procedural animation and VFX. In those early days, (early 90’s), an artist need to be very tech saavy to make it in the industry. Back then, one artist was responsible for everything from optical scans to film prints. To make a long story short, I never looked back.

You may want to try this transition with a smaller company who is not hung up on swim lanes. They like folks who can do a bit of everything and often ask that from their employees.

The fact that you are already helping with pipeline, rigging and MOCAP means you already have the heart of a Tech Artist. I think the only thing you’ll notice is the change in title, (And maybe an increase in pay …) You’ll do just fine!

Thank you for the replies here, folks. I’m reading with interest as I’m working on character animation and currently following tutorials to improve my Python and rigging in my spare time. I love problem solving – but I also love keyframe animation, too! So it’s really great to read about other ppls’ experiences and how things worked out, and useful ideas like smaller companies being less about your “swim lane” with more opportunities for team members who can be flexible.