The real time Revolution is under-way - are you going to lead? or follow?
Unless you've been living in a cave this last year, you might have noticed we are living through a revolution in Computer Graphics : the convergence of Interactive realtime and raytracing technologies.
Real-time means there is no delay between the actual production of the video that you're watching, and the time that you’re watching it. It's instantaneous, it runs at 60 frames per seconds, like in the game Fortnite.
Ray-tracing is the software algorithm used to render photo-realistic images we see in Hollywood blockbusters. As computer chips get ever faster, this is now coming onto the video games hardware. Already, we are beginning to see video game content matching the quality and photorealism that is achieved in movie theatres.
So, we are a a time when we can consider creating photo-realistic animations and high resolution images like these without the big production costs, without the large render farms, and without the expensive hardware.
New formats like VR, AR, Touchscreen, Pixel Streaming, 4K, 8K, are also quickly becoming the norm, and some are now expected by millennial customers coming onto the markets.
This used to be very expensive to produce, but no longer. The Unreal Engine software is free, so the cost of producing this kind of content is becoming drastically cheaper. This is great news for us content producers because this revolution is combined with a huge rise in demand for content due to the internet.
Web services like Netflix, instagram, Youtube, require vast amounts of content every day, and your clients will continuously need content to thrive on these platforms in order to stay relevant in the digital world of today and tomorrow.
This is a tremendous opportunity for you as a 3D Visualiser
If your work involves desining things in 3D, if you work involves 3dsmax, Revit, Sketchup, or create animated graphics, previz or design events or shows, this technology is going to greatly affect you in one way or another in the next few years. It not only is going to change the way you represent your and your clients’ visions but also the way you create them.
Today, you can output high resolution images in milliseconds, HD films in minutes, ship VR experiences, mobile apps and even games comparable to Fortnite, from a laptop, for free, or very little upfront cost.
Armed with these skills, you can quickly find a job, because demand is high - and rising - for the best experts in the field. I have people asking me if I know ‘someone good in Unreal’ nearly every week!
… but you’ll need more than technical skills to succeed
So maybe you’re thinking: “Great, how do I start?”
There is great training out there - there are plenty of courses on the Unreal Engine website (including some of my own). And the Epic documentation is now very comprehensive. There is also lots of good stuff on YouTube, Lynda, Udemy, PluralSight, and so on.
So what's the problem?
I’ve been teaching Unreal for nearly three years now, and in my classes I regularly see people overwhelmed, confused or frustrated.
I hear things like “All this information is very good but I don’t know anything about 3D”. Or “We don't really know where to start”. Or beginners take on big projects and get discouraged before long.
The main thing that I hear is: “I just can't get results like that!” - i.e. the stunning videos they see produced by the top artists and studios.
And what’s the solution?
It’s not more instructions on which button to press and what setting to put what value in. It's not more technical videos about how to use Unreal Engine.
Yes, things need to be set up correctly and I can teach you that, but after that, your progress doesn’t come down to learning more technical details of how the software works.
… because the key to creating mind-blowing virtual worlds is artistry
The solution isn’t better technical chops, but in using artistry to make your designs more convincing, more atmospheric, more evocative and more awe-inspiring than your competitors.
In fact one of the most respected positions at Epic Games is that of technical artist - somebody who is able to not only master the left brain, mathematical, technical side of the work, but who also has the ability to make things look awesome in Unreal.
It's when you bring the technical tools and the artistic skills together that the magic happens.
It’s all very well having the technical capacity to produce more realistic scenes than ever before. But more and more people are learning to use UE4 every day, so technical knowledge will not be a competitive advantage for long.
However, if you have the ability to use UE4 like an artist, ‘painting’ breathtaking scenes and creating uniquely captivating virtual worlds, then you will be in high demand.
Just like a traditional artist, the more you develop your own signature style, the more instantly recognisable your work becomes - and the more firmly you establish yourself in the market.
Your aim should be for potential clients to approach you saying: “I want you, because of your fast skills and your artistic eye”
Fortunately, UE4 helps you excel at this. In realtime this is more true than ever - all the time you save by not rendering images is available for you to reinvest in trying different options, tweaking, adjusting and making the fine artistic decisions that make all the difference.
But where can you learn the artistry that will separate you from the competition?
You need to learn a very rare combination of skills
We’ve seen that you need to combine your technical knowledge of UE4 with artistic skills. So should you look for your local art class?
Maybe. It could be a good option for you, but when you talk to most art teachers about CGI, raytracing or Unreal Engine, their eyes will glaze over. It’s another world to them. They can teach you about perspective, light and shade, anatomy, brushwork and so on, but they won’t be able to tell you how to translate these skills and concepts into your work with UE4.
Ideally, you want a teacher who can not only teach you to paint and draw, but who also knows UE4 inside-and-out. Who can show you how to bridge the gap between tech and art, and create your own unique visions using UE4.
This is where I can help you
My name is Fabrice Bourrelly and I teach Unreal. I trained as an architect and have been a 3D visualiser since 1996. I have created images and films for amazing people and brands, and I’m very proud of that - but it wasn’t always quite like this.
You see, I wasn’t even that great at art at school. I think my art teacher thought so too. I didn’t think I had talent. Talent is when a child effortlessly is amazing at something. I remember this friend of mine, he could draw! I used to jealously watch him, thinking how awesome that was.
Just around that time, in my early teens, personal computers arrived, and I was good at those! The ones with the green screens and the tape recorders to load the game. I became fascinated. I started programming. I remember being amazed at how I could make the computer count from 1 to 100. But I couldn’t draw.
Fast-forward to the middle of my career, when I had made a bit of a name for myself in London as a 3D visualiser. I was working with the fantastic Thomas Heatherwick studio. One day, we were in the middle of a tricky design review, and Thomas turned to me and said “You're the artist! What do you think?”
My heart stopped. I did not know what to say. It was at that moment that I realised I had no method, or system. I felt I was relying too much on the computer to make decisions for me. I felt like an operator: I was painfully aware that had hit a ceiling artistically.
Shortly after that, a friend who had worked on the Matrix, and is now a VFX supervisor, said to me: “If you want to improve your work, you should learn to draw. Because to learn to draw, you need to learn how to look. And it’s all about how you see”.
So I Googled “How to draw”, and I found Leonardo da Vinci, who said: “Go to life drawing”. Six years and thousands of hours of practice later, I had finally learnt to draw. Along the way, I learnt about composition, perspective, colour, chiaroscuro, anatomy. I travelled to Italy, Florence, Venice, studied Michelangelo, discovered Canaletto, Sargeant, Degas, and Craig Mullins.
Leonardo said: “Find a mentor!”. So I did: I found Henry Yan, professor of Fine Art at the San Francisco Art Academy. Henry is Chinese and teaches western fine art. His father was a Chinese calligraphy teacher and this perhaps gives Henry his unique style. Being half-French and half-Chinese myself, this mix of cultures appealed to me as well as his strong, expressive, gestural art. I met him personally several times, attending his workshops at a London atelier and learning his technique in the way of the old masters.
So now, as well as 20 years of experience creating virtual worlds using computers, I also have eight years under my belt as an artist.
This has given me a unique blend of technical and artistic skills - and means I can help you take advantage of the unparalleled artistic and professional opportunity that is UE4.
I say to my students: ”I won’t teach you how to use the software, I will teach you how to do the thing that you want to do. To create the vision that only you can create.”
Here’s how I will help you master UE4.