This is a post mostly looking into Technical Artists in the industry.
Technical Artists are considered the connection between artists and programmers. They help to ensure assets can be imported into games and work correctly within the limitations but not hindering the creative vision.
They are also the researchers and tool designers. This is something we’ve seen an example of in our own coursework, where somewhere along the rigging process we’ll find ourselves in need of a tool to help with that process. Improving pipelines is obviously more efficient to the process but can also help alleviate workloads by automating certain aspects of the process.
This year I’ve been learning 3D animation myself by optionally attending the Advanced Animation module. Through that I discovered the Mery rig which of course I am using the character model to rig myself to learn the process. The Mery rig is very advanced for something you can freely download on the internet and has been credited for being built to a very high professional standard. I mention this because it was only created by two guys and so far is the most robust and advanced free rig I’ve found.
Recently Sony Pictures Animation released a zombie rig from their Hotel Transylvania film. This was the first I’d seen of a major studio releasing something like this for anyone to try out. In the demonstration video one of the animators walks through the features of the rig. This is sort of evidence that the work of a technical artist to create a rig with a large variety of features pays off by making the job easier for the animator.
I’ve also discovered some information on DreamWorks website about technical art, particularly the process of creating character rigs. Artists are actually hired under the title of “Character Technical Director” (TDs) and can spend between three and six months of time on each character.
As their film “The Croods” required about 35-40 unique creatures the Character Technical Directors came up with their own package called the Creature Assembly system to help with this process. By storing information on different limbs and creature parts (wings, tails, etc.) they could mix and match them, analyse how they interact together and connect them up appropriately.
I’d highly recommend giving this article a read as I found it interesting and informative on the topic of character rigging: https://web.archive.org/web/20141214215455/http://www.dreamworksanimation.com/insidedwa/tech/cas
I’ll leave you with a demo reel from Technical Artist Tim Carter who shows off some of the things he’s created. This includes rigs he’s made and their advanced features as well as dynamic cloth, scripts and some problem solving rig features such as no-flip elbows & knees.
Creative Skillset profile on Technical Artists: http://creativeskillset.org/job_roles_and_stories/job_roles/339_technical_artist_games