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mountaingoat

VFX to Realtime Transition

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Hello fellow Houdini users,

I've been thinking of changing industries from VFX to real-time (games or VR) and wanted to ask if any of you have had similar transitions and if you could share that experience?

I'm also aware that there are tons of game/Unity tutorials from SideFX and other sources available online, but I've yet to find any that are specific for VFX artists. And also because of the abundance of material, it's pretty overwhelming to figure out a good starting point. If you can share some resources that would be great. 

Thanks!

Edited by mountaingoat

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Hello Mountaingoat,

I can respond a bit more later, but figured I would jump in now. I have made the transition. The biggest issue you will deal with is not your skill transfer, but the people who will doubt you because you worked in another medium. So don't get discouraged from that crap. The budgets are different for processing, but it's more a factor of scale than all of the sudden trying to learning latin. The technology in this field changes so fast that it doesn't really matter what you did a few years ago. You allways need to adapt and move forward.

As for the easiest way to transfer it kind of depends on your background, and if you have any specific interest. These motivating factors will help you push through. The process of building the content from say Houdini is the same in many cases. Instead of kicking it to say mantra you kick it to that game engine's render process. Which are remarkably the same if you dig deep enough. The difference is that with the realtime fx engine some of the components from Houdini will be replaced by the game engine. So a bunch of the particle editor will be done int he game engine, but you will still author the texture arrays in Houdini. Coming from what ever you did before and finding that vernacular to what the new package uses will help you move forward quicker, and then you can add to it. 

I would suggest Unreal if you are going for AAA games and Unity for VR and mobile. That difference is drastically changing every 6 months, but you will find the similarity when you go into production environment between the two ecosystem. 

The first thing I would say do is to create a nice test level for yourself, so you have a stock player than can run around. Then slowly add FX elements to it that enhance the environment depending on where you want to learn first. Maybe do some of the low hanging fruit with all the Houdini GameDev integrations at first. You can even make a procedural level area too. Add in a bit of each type of FX. Get used to how the shader system works on the houdini gamedev stuff, and then you can start to do more specific engine related stuff like modifying the weapons fire. Just like film/commercial VFX there are a lot of specialties in game VFX. Each studio will be looking for something different so don't be discourage when a studio may not like the certain sauce of FX your focused in especially because of your background. it's not like you are going to make the transition over night. I've meet many leads that can't even do half of the work of their team, so no probs. 

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On 2018-09-27 at 11:24 AM, LaidlawFX said:

Hello Mountaingoat,

I can respond a bit more later, but figured I would jump in now. I have made the transition. The biggest issue you will deal with is not your skill transfer, but the people who will doubt you because you worked in another medium. So don't get discouraged from that crap. The budgets are different for processing, but it's more a factor of scale than all of the sudden trying to learning latin. The technology in this field changes so fast that it doesn't really matter what you did a few years ago. You allways need to adapt and move forward.

As for the easiest way to transfer it kind of depends on your background, and if you have any specific interest. These motivating factors will help you push through. The process of building the content from say Houdini is the same in many cases. Instead of kicking it to say mantra you kick it to that game engine's render process. Which are remarkably the same if you dig deep enough. The difference is that with the realtime fx engine some of the components from Houdini will be replaced by the game engine. So a bunch of the particle editor will be done int he game engine, but you will still author the texture arrays in Houdini. Coming from what ever you did before and finding that vernacular to what the new package uses will help you move forward quicker, and then you can add to it. 

I would suggest Unreal if you are going for AAA games and Unity for VR and mobile. That difference is drastically changing every 6 months, but you will find the similarity when you go into production environment between the two ecosystem. 

The first thing I would say do is to create a nice test level for yourself, so you have a stock player than can run around. Then slowly add FX elements to it that enhance the environment depending on where you want to learn first. Maybe do some of the low hanging fruit with all the Houdini GameDev integrations at first. You can even make a procedural level area too. Add in a bit of each type of FX. Get used to how the shader system works on the houdini gamedev stuff, and then you can start to do more specific engine related stuff like modifying the weapons fire. Just like film/commercial VFX there are a lot of specialties in game VFX. Each studio will be looking for something different so don't be discourage when a studio may not like the certain sauce of FX your focused in especially because of your background. it's not like you are going to make the transition over night. I've meet many leads that can't even do half of the work of their team, so no probs. 

Hi Ben,

Thanks for that, it's super encouraging to hear all this! 

I'm more interested in the VR field, and I guess my initial mistake was thinking that the two (games and VR) were very similar, if not the same. The problem is that I very much enjoy doing FX (I'm currently an FX TD), and I feel like there aren't too many VR establishments who need a real-time FX artist at the moment. I'm not sure if I'd enjoy stitching comps or pushing out low-poly assets and don't want to regret leaving the VFX industry for that. As I'm writing this, I'm guessing that everyone starts off on one way or another by doing aforementioned tasks, and moving up to doing FX for example?

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If you are specifically wanting to go into FX for VR the field is quite small at the moment. A few notable companies are pushing projects where they might have one or two full time traditional FX positions specific to AR/VR/MR, for instance, Facebook. However, it's a very small market outside of indy. Game into the AR/VR/MR market would certainly help, especially, if you are coming from Unity as opposed to Unreal. Hololens publicly works with Unity for instance. It may help you to get a good understand of the different type of tech and the capabilities before you make the dive. The hardware capabilities drives a lot of what you can do, and unless you wear headsets that are connected to a PC, versus one capable of mobile computing, your ability to do a lot of graphics is limited. It's a fun challenge to be sure, but if you are not a fan of trying to do your magic and make it efficient as possible, it may not be worthwhile. I've actually only heard of a very few times where someone goes through a traditional path of going to school and going intern, to junior, up the ranks, so it's IMO allways a sideway happenstance. If you have the desire than learn up and go. The market is still pretty young for VR/AR/MR, where people need to rediscover old school tricks, and leverage modern tech to  get a great experience. Just browsing through all the games available on Steam is a great opening course, of what is possible.

You could also find that AAA games is more up your alley to. Games and VR/AR/MR are close enough to be lumped together, but the different type of games is a very vast medium compared to say film and commercials. Games, Films, and Commercials all lives under the same umbrella of 3-D for content creation, but games has a wider technology base that handle the processing of FXs. FXs in games are more dependent on the hardware as user input is provided causing multiple options, than Film and Commercial where the device only needs to play a 2D image. The content of the image may be the same pretty explosion, but depending on the company and the pipeline in games you will be doing different tricks. Films you may widdle your renders from 30hrs to 30min, in games you widdle your renders from 10 milliseconds to 1 micro second. Your compositing goes from Nuke to hlsl shaders. Same basic math and functions, but different set of overhead, algorithms and hardware to process it.

IMO, if you are not interested in the aforementioned ideas, of building a test level and the peripheral, getting the general feel of what it is like working in the game engine, then it's not really a good choice for you at this time. I'm not saying you need to be a Level Designer, programmer, or any of the other specialties of games not really in Film commercials, but these are some basic components of FXs in games and VR/AR/MR that you need to do on a regular basis. For instance, in film you make an FX one off and you may a tool if you do that FX often for a sequence or film. In games and VR you'll set up a test level where you have all your FXs playing on loop or set to run via commands for guns, so you check on their quality constantly. This process I don't think is that much different than an image morgue for lighting artist for reference, but if you don't find the concept at least non-nonchalant or enjoyable then that's a good flag to know for yourself. On the real fun side, in this test environment you are the one who has made all these repeatable methods of destruction and chaos. I've seen FXs artist just love to shoot and blow up stuff with their own concoctions. Personally I like most media, but I still prefer to read a book, and my fun with work is solving the problems associated with it. Maybe it's the team, studio, or project you like more than the medium. So I guess the soul searching question is what part of FXs do you like and why? 

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