Why do you end up doing TA? What did you do before? What other career path did you considered? What are the things you dont like about being a TA? Do you consider to be valued on your work environment?
For me it has always boiled down to one thing: I get annoyed by seeing people waste time on stupid stuff when they are supposed to be making art, so I feel motivated to fix it. The details vary but the motivation has been very constant.
It might however be cool to see if you could turn this into a google survey or poll or something – it’d be fun to share actual data with future readers as well as anecdotes.
For me, it’s mostly about the puzzle. How the heck can I take all these requirements, and boil them down into one tool that does what you need? Now how can I do it fast and efficient? What is the minimum group of simple inputs that will allow you to accomplish all your tasks? What knobs and switches can I give you that you didn’t know you wanted? How can I make the tool efficient and straightforward for the juniors, but also allow for one-offs and customization for power users? How can I minimize the number of clicks to accomplish a simple task, but still allow for user input?
I get caught up in “but is that the best way to handle this?” a lot.
Also, I’m not gonna lie, I like the praise when I figure out how to get rid of minor artist annoyances.
My favorite is when they don’t know I overheard their complaints. It’s like giving presents!
“You don’t have to manually select vertices when doing a topo match” all wrapped up in a bow
Not an actual TA myself.
WARNING: much pain inside
Today im enjoying small victories by solving tech problems, but drifting towards TA discipline wasn’t really a vouluntary choice at first. As lead i’m responsible for efficiency of whole team. And if you end up with strict headcount only way to increase efficiency - upgrade your pipeline and boost your toolchains to reduce production time. An if no one on your team can’t do it - do it yourself.
Things i hate: most employers within my reach consider TA not as a toolmaker or pipeline engenier, but as upgraded Level Designer who will fix specular value before importing 3D model.
My TA labor values among my teamates: hours of their time saved - more time for art iterations. But i have to try hard waving all those graphs and stats convincing my employe what im not “just having fun playing with my little scripts”.
I like solving problems, and artists seem to be adept at finding them .
I’ve thought about this a lot and I think it’s two things for me. Both of them are deeply tied to my psychological and neurological composition as a human.
The first is that I have always found myself in service roles in my life. Someone once told me I have a high threshhold for personal discomfort. Which means it is always easier and less painful for me to take on a task and help someone out than it is for me to watch them suffering. It’s meant a lot of really crazy situations in my personal life, but it actually translates really nicely to the TA world.
The second is that I need to understand how everything works. I have tourette syndrome and one of the things I’ve noticed is that my tics and discomfort are greatly increased when I don’t know how something works. I just can’t leave a problem alone until I have the answer.
So despite the fact that I have a theater degree and studied music engineering and play music in bands, I wound up as a technical artist because of deeply psychological and neurological reasons that probably would have killed me if technical art weren’t a valid career path in the modern age. I think if I would have been born before this time, I probably would have been one of those crazy tinkerers inventing stuff in their shed and eventually winning a Darwin Award by one of my own inventions.
I think for me it was general problem solving. I started out as a model artist and then I was an animator and then because I wanted better rigs I started rigging. Then on one of the first projects I was on I was the guy that could just kinda figure stuff out and get pipelines working. Like I was on the modeling team there for a bit, then animation, then I was doing the rigging for the longest time till I trained up a small team that could sustain itself. Then they threw me onto some shader and lighting stuff. Not that I had really done much of that but the director of the project saw I could figure this stuff out where other people didn’t really. And then from there they threw rendering and compositing and VFX stuff at me too. I just kept going from department to department putting out fires basically.
That’s kinda what it is now too. It’s building tools to help with stuff that would otherwise take a lot of time, or is repetitive, or in general just reduced production time. And then when it comes to rigging stuff it’s having a background where the art stuff, I know enough about anatomy and motion to rig stuff that moves well. But a lot of things I don’t always know how to do them. But I’m pretty good at looking up and figuring out solutions. Which apparently is more of a learned skill than you might think. That or my mindset was already really geared towards this type of work.
The joke I basically tell is I’m not actually good at any of this stuff and I really don’t know what I’m doing. But my secret power is I’m good at looking stuff up on Google and finding the answer (I’m apparently really good at finding reference material other people couldn’t find also.) But like right now, it’s almost 10 at night and I haven’t signed off for the day because I’m trying to get a script working. It’s not like beating my head on it. It’s like solving a puzzle you know you’ve almost got solved and you just want a few more minutes on it.
And value in my work is usually time/money back to the company. Like I was showing off some stuff I build that turned a week long process into a day, and a few hour process into a button click. It’s making things efficient. Which in business speak means you save the company more money than you cost.
Hah. I never thought of that, but I grew up in my Family Restaurant and one of my first jobs outside of that was working at a 4 star restaurant. So yeah, just high thresh hold for dealing with people more stressed with you, or maybe just realizing it’s not a thing to get that worked up over? I wonder if you poled people how many TAs would have some background there?
Because I suck both in art and programming, but I discovered that somehow this works, and it’s fine
Jokes apart, my story is that I was the only artist at the company for many years… Doing everything and always in a rush allowed me to taste a lot of different aspect of game art, but at the same time didn’t allowed me to really become a specialist.
When we started hiring other artists, they became quickly better than me in modeling for example, but at the same time they need guidance and someone who supervises the pipeline, and give them the chance to concentrate on art only.
I already moved to shaders and stuff, and I found amazing the fact that with some logic it was possible to do good things from a visual point of view.
I discovered at last that my diverse knowledge in art married my degree in inf.tech. (that means I had a base knowledge in coding too) producing a field where I feel comfortable.
Plus, I don’t like to stick too much on the same stuff: I’m that kind of person that want to learn different things, and while doing it I tend to focus a lot, until I grasped it a little above average. Then I need something new.
TA works is perfect: you always have different problems to solve, something new to produce, some new tool that could help artists.
I only had to cope with one thing: even when it’s done well,our work is hidden in the final product, but we know it’s there