Hello, I’m aiming to become a tech animator, someone who works in engine and makes animation systems. I’ve already started learning blueprints and have beginner animation experience, but I was hoping to get some further guidance, because there’s no clear-cut course to take for this, from what I’ve seen. What are some resources or maybe Youtube tutorials you think will help? Are there any discord communities you’d recommend? Just looking for any sort of direction atm.
Take this with healthy dose of salt
I too am treading down this path, as someone who had mild-ish success (mostly freelance) in the games industry as an animator. I want to transition to a tech animator role because I enjoy the rigging and tool development stuff too. From keeping plugged in to the industry trends, my goal is to get really good at 1) Unreal and blueprint setup. They’ve come a long way in the animation department. Knowing the basics for the “typical” way of implementing animations (basically just fancy programmatic blending) is a crucial foundation to build upon. 2) Control Rig. This plugin is incredible from what I’ve seen. Having struggled with BS workflows in Maya for years, I can tell you without hesitation that Control Rig is the future. Having those features - just the features in its current state - built in, is incredibly useful, dynamic, modular, and robust to work with, to edit animations on the fly without having to transfer it back and forth to the DCC (and all the pipeline bloat that entails). They essentially solved the issue of creating cycles like with how Maya handles its DG. Constraints no longer require workaround workflows just to implement a space switch, for example. Look particularly into the differences between Forward Solve and Backward Solve, because that’s where the true power is imo. 3) Meta-human. Incredible, high-quality next-gen tool they release for free as part of the engine. Rip it apart, study it, learn best practices for working with it. 4). The RBF solver. Holy cow yet another incredible thing, just, free as part of the engine. Learn how to create and implement high quality pose/skin changes with the RBF solver and you’re golden (it’s built in to Meta-human)
Then of course there are the other typical things like understanding the workflow for retargeting and adding physics and ragdolls and such. Then put that all together in a portfolio. The tricky part for you, as someone starting out, is you could spend your whole time just getting decent at animation, nevermind the other stuff. It’s hard to figure out what you want to focus on until you’ve done it enough. The other tricky part is you’re going to struggle to find a specifically “tech animator” role that isn’t more mid or senior level. So between those things, find out what you enjoy, get really good at it, and be decent at the others. And keep in mind this is all just for a character focused tech anim role. You could find you really enjoy setting up mechanical stuff like robots and vehicles and such. Or perhaps you find a niche just doing first person animations. Experimentation is crucial.
Again, healthy portion of salt. I’m not even in the industry at the moment but my goal is to work my way back in with those as my focus.
Thank you so much for the reply!
specialize or generalist
choose if you want to specialise, or learn lots of things.
If you don’t have a strong preference.
I recommend to go generalist in a few field. E.g. 3d & shaders & vfx , or scripting, tools, animation.
Most important is, make projects. Join a studio, and show you add value.
If you can’t do this yet because you are to junior, make projects that convinces people you can. e.g. a video from a shader tool, or VFX collection, or a set of animation tools.
when you finish your project, don’t move to the next ones. instead spend a lot of time polishing your project, make a video, get user feedback. I would rather hire someone with 1 nice tool, than 3 okay tools on their portfolio.
compare this video with this one
One is long, and confusing. The other is short, polished and marketable.
This doesn’t mean that the tool in the second one is better. Only that it comes across as someone with more experience finishing a product. Which is what studios want. Communication (and therefor marketing) are 2 sides of the same coin, and vital in team work.
Now as a beginner, you might be tempted to fall down a rabbit hole, and learn a lot about a specific thing. E.g. make your own reference tool. When there already are great reference tools out there. This can be a good learning project, but it has little practical value. Working with others, e.g. a group of animators can help with this. to make tools that add actual value to their workflow.
Your post did not mention python, which is almost mandatory for a Tech Art these days.
So, My advice is to Learn Python to manipulate Maya, or Your DCC tool of choice.
This Question “What do I study to be a TA?” comes up here pretty regularly, I’ll link to one of my earlier responses:
Oh yeah, for what it’s worth I have been studying python for the last couple of months now and I find it very valuable, it’s my bad for not mentioning it, but I’ll be sure to take a look at the post you linked to. Thank you very much!