Profile: Heather Savage - 3D Artist


Life as an NVIZ 3D Artist

What do you do?

I am a 3D Asset Artist/Environment Artist for the asset side of the Previs pipeline, creating props and environments for our lovely animators to use to visualise our client’s storyboards and scripts. As a 3D Asset Artist, we are required to work with Unreal Engine for realtime workflows and rendering, and for the highest quality Visualisation we can give.

What did you study?

I studied Game Art at University, with the intention of learning 3D software and how to create games or 3D worlds. Though it was a degree intended for a completely different industry, working in realtime in the Previs department relies on a lot of the same methodologies and skills. The 3D elements are identical, and I continue to use PBR (physically based rendering) workflows, high to low poly modelling and many other Game Art skills in my day to day. Other than the technical skills however, communication and organisation are key in making sure everything runs smoothly. A good example is when a show starts, we need to keep what is required noted down otherwise things can be forgotten. When I started out, I made a spreadsheet for organising assets on the shows (boring - I know!) but it is now used in all the new ones coming in and makes our lives much easier!

What was your path into the industry?

My path into the industry was by putting my Environment Art portfolio out on social media, in this case Twitter, and being approached by my lovely boss Filipe who offered me the opportunity to work in VFX instead of Games. I had been working on my own 3D skills between other, non-industry jobs and networking with others. It certainly paid off; I have now been in the industry for just over 8 months!

What’s a typical day for you?

The day to day can vary greatly (which makes it all the more exciting!). Usually at the start of a show it consists of organising and creating assets; rigging and then publishing them through the pipeline for the animators to pick up and use, and letting them break them and then fixing any issues. As well as creating the realtime environments for the renders later on (and making sure they look top notch and pretty!). Later on in a show's duration, a day can consist of rendering finished animations in the Unreal Engine so that they can be passed on to the client.

Who’s your favourite filmmaker/visual artist? Why?

I think for one of my favourite filmmakers, I would have to go with Ridley Scott. I absolutely love the visuals of the Blade Runner series, they inspired me greatly when getting into my 3D environment art.

Is there a show you are working on right now that you can talk about.

I am currently working as Asset point on a Netflix show, though I am not sure if I am allowed to name it!

Are you exploring any new workflows, production, personally and company-wide?

Currently, I have been taking an interest in the procedural workflows with Houdini, looking into if it can be useful to create new tools that could make our environments easier to build. It would be incredibly useful to have certain tools that allow you to plug shapes into them and then it generates certain things such as buildings easily and quickly. Building cities takes a long time!

What do you think is the most important development in visualisation recently?

I haven't been in the industry too long, but I definitely believe the virtual camera/on set VCAM (like NVIZ’s ARENA) is an incredibly useful tool. I can definitely see how it would benefit filmmakers to be able to see a projection of what they could film to make sure their ideas work, before jumping head first into anything.

What do you think the future of visualisation will look like?

It would not surprise me at all if VR/AR becomes a larger player in Visualising film. I believe that a lot more of the realtime development will impact how Previs is used.

What’s your work highpoint/achievement/proudest moment?

As odd as it sounds, my first week was definitely a high point for me. I came in completely out of my depth and unknowing of most of the pipeline, scared out of my wits I was going to be too slow for the fast-paced atmosphere of Previsualisation... and proceeded to complete my weeks worth of tasks in 3 days. It was a huge confidence boost and definitely set me up to do as well as I have so far!

What’s special about NVIZ?

The sense of community that we have is amazing. Though I don't get to work in an office with all of my lovely co-workers, I don't miss it because we are such a tight-knit group. We have a daily hang-out where everyone in the asset department can hop in and out (which tends to be quite full), we all have very similar interests because we're a like-minded group, and everyone is absolutely lovely. I couldn't ask for a better work environment!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received, or would like to give to aspiring visual artists?

I think the best thing that was said to me was to not be afraid to make mistakes, and to own them. I am still new to the company and new to the world of VFX and making mistakes is inevitable. If you are scared to mess up and then don't approach anyone to get assistance and help, you will struggle immensely. Asking for assistance and getting an answer should be easy, and everyone needs a hand once in a while!