Monday, January 9, 2012

GDC 2012 Tech Artist Boot Camp Announcement

I'm organizing and MCing the Tech Artist Boot Camp at GDC 2012 in March. The TABC is an all-day Tutorial-format session on Tuesday, March 6, from 10 AM-6 PM.

Below is the session description and list of speakers & topics. We also plan to do a group panel-style Q&A session at the end of the day.

I spoke at the TABC last year, and it was an excellent way to reach out to and share with other industry TAs.  I hope to see you there!

Technical Art is evolving rapidly. In many studios TAs play key roles in developing efficient tools pipelines and ensuring art content is visually striking and optimized for performance. TAs bridge content and engineering helping make both more successful. However, many studios have still not fully embraced the TA role. Their TAs are smart and eager to make an impact, but are not sure how to best prove their value, and be given key roles in development.

A group of experienced, respected technical artists from across the industry would like to invite you to sit with them for a day and learn how to be a more effective TA. Focus on the tools and skills TAs can use to demonstrate their value, and further integrate technical art into their studios' pipelines and cultures. Find the worst development problems at your studio and show them what a TA can do!

Intended Audience
This all-day tutorial is for technical artists and other developers of any experience level. A light focus will be placed on techniques and skills useful to TAs at studios with little-to-no tech art integration and culture.

At the end of this all-day event, attendees will understand key techniques to help them take technical art to the next level at their studios. Learn how to effectively work within constraints, integrate into your teams, communicate with other disciplines, design better code and pipelines, and master new shader techniques.

Speakers & Topics ---

Welcome, Introduction
Adam Pletcher, Technical Art Director, Volition, Inc.

You Have to Start Somewhere... Defining the Tech Art Role and Building Their Team
Arthur Shek, Technical Art Director, Microsoft Studios (Turn 10)
This session will go over the trials of moving from a job in film/animation to a studio with a minimal Tech Art presence and the ensuing panic of change. The Tech Art role has a soft definition and differs at every studio – our common quality is that we are problem solvers, and to problem solve, you must have experience, wide knowledge and the ability to scramble on your feet. At times, what we may feel pressure to know can be overwhelming. Relax - you have to start somewhere.

Better, Faster Stronger: Teaching Tech Artists to Build Technology
Rob Galanakis, Lead Technical Artist, CCP Games
The success of Tech Art has caused a complexity of projects and tools for which our traditional skill set is under-equipped. Tech Artists are now building technology, not just scripts, and our essential growth must be as a cohesive team, not just trained individuals. In this session, attendees will learn how to apply a few key practices of professional software development, such as code review, support processes, and collaborative coding, to the unique environment of Tech Art.

Build it on Stone: Best Practices for Developing A Tech Art Infrastructure
Seth Gibson, Senior Technical Artist, Crystal Dynamics
In this session we present a set of best practices for building Tech Art tools and pipelines in a stable, maintainable, and scalable fashion through the establishment of a solid tools development infrastructure geared toward the specific needs of Technical Artists.

Joining the Dark Side: How Embedded Tech Artists Can Unite Artists and Programmers
Ben Cloward, Senior Technical Artist, Bioware Austin
Technical Artists can be a powerful force to unify teams and ensure that productions run smoothly. In this case study, I’ll show how the simple act of moving two technical artists into the programmers’ working area helped to improve the relationship between art and programming and resulted in a better-looking, more efficient game.

Lessons in Tool Development
Jason Hayes, Technical Art Director, Volition, Inc.
All too often, the importance of planning the architecture of tools and pipelines in game development is overlooked. In most cases, project pressures often give us the false impression that we don’t have time to plan, or worse, we actually save time by “just getting it done”. Nothing could be further from the truth. This session explains why up front planning is important, when to recognize over-engineering and offers architectural design principles for effective tools development-- such as program organization, data design, scalability and user interface design. Internal tools developed at Volition will be used to demonstrate these topics.

Shady Situations: Real-time Rendering Tips & Techniques
Wes Grandmont III, Senior Technical Art Director, Microsoft Studios (343 Industries)
This tutorial session will cover a variety of techniques that can be used individually or combined to solve a variety of game related real-time shading problems. It will begin with a brief overview of the current generation GPU pipeline, followed by some HLSL basics. The rest of the talk will dive into a range of techniques with a complete overview of how each one is implemented.

Unusual UVs: Illuminating Night Windows in Saints Row The Third
Will Smith, Technical Artist, Volition, Inc.
This session presents a holistic case study involving HLSL shader development. Included is not only the problem and its resolution, but perhaps more importantly, an insight into the Technical Artist’s problem-solving mindset throughout its resolution.

Group Q&A, Conclusion

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