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Expert Environment Artist David Schultz from Red Storm

I am really pleased this week to share a very inspiring interview with talented artist David Schultz from Red Storm ( Ubisoft).

Who or what inspired you to get into 3D art?

In 2001, I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a B.A. in French and Philosophy. At that point, I realized I didn’t want to go to graduate school in those areas, and I wanted to get back into art, which had always been at the core of my interests. 

I tried a lot of things (various fine art endeavours, local indie films, art museums and antiques), but I had a hard time figuring out how I would make a career out of my interests. In 2004, I met a guy named David Miller through a friend’s dad who was looking for a story boarder. I was not a story boarder, but I tried my best (which wasn’t great) and went in for the interview. He let me work for him as an intern and pretty soon he agreed to teach me Lightwave 3d. 

I had never even thought about 3d art before that, and I loved it immediately. I did some more motion graphics work with him for a while, but I had a hard time making ends meet. I really wanted to work in films, because I wanted to do something where I could work at a higher level of detail and required a higher level of skill than what I was doing. 

At some point, I saw what Epic was doing with Unreal Tournament and how normal maps were being used in video games, and I decided I wanted to get into video games, which after some time led me to my first job.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am working on an unannounced project at Red Storm Entertainment (Ubisoft). I can’t say anything about it, but it has been a lot of fun, and I’m really excited for people to see it when it comes out.

What are the best and worst parts of your job?

There are many things I love about video games, and while I really enjoy modelling and sculpting, the best part for me is that last bit, where you get a baked model into the game and start to work on texturing and you get to see it come to life in game. It’s so satisfying to me.

The worst part is optimizing and other trash jobs that need to be done by someone to finish a game. As a world/prop artist, that generally involves a lot of repetitive tasks that are genuinely not fun. They are necessary to make the game run, but outside of trying to figure out better ways to minimize the repetition and possibly get tools made to help, there is very little fun to be had during that process. Really, the only satisfaction is that it makes your team happy and makes for a better product.

What does your typical workflow look like and, what tools and software do you prefer??

So, it really depends on the task. Lately, I have been doing a lot more hard surface work, and I’ve been using Blender and ZBrush for modeling (possibly some Fusion360- I use less of this now). I love Blender and how much they have been working to make it an industry standard that everyone can afford. It has so many great tools built in, and I love all the amazing addons and the community. I am also a huge fan of ZBrush and how flexible and powerful it is.

I use Toolbag for baking. The new version is lightning quick, and I love the automatic cages and skew fixing. I use Substance Painter and Designer for texturing. At this point, they just can’t be beat for texturing. If there’s any cloth I’ve been using Marvelous and ZBrush for detailing.

What key piece of advice would you offer to a 3D artist aspiring to work in the games industry?

The most important things starting out are to work hard, listen to critiques, and don’t make excuses. It takes a lot of work to get to a level where you are competitive with other people in the industry, and the fastest way to get better is to put your work out there for critiques.

A lot of people end up making excuses for their flaws. Excuses are a bad habit and they are self-destructive and just pointless. Being honest with yourself about your failures is the best and quickest way to move forward. I spent too much time when I was younger being hard headed, and it took me a while to realize that usually feedback wasn’t personal. When I finally really took someone’s feedback to heart and reworked everything I had, I got a job not long after.

Also, you should look at other people’s work as a quality bar (especially, early on), but don’t beat yourself up if your work doesn’t look like theirs right now or if you haven’t achieved the same things someone else has by a certain point (this is hard). Everyone has a different path.

Learn from other people, and try and figure out who you are supposed to be, what you are supposed to do.

What’s your favourite game and why?

It would be really hard to pick out a favourite game. If I had to pick two I’ve played a lot this past year or so, I would say Prey and Hades. Both of them have really deep stories and worlds with personalities that felt unique to me. I really enjoyed both of them. Between Preys Mooncrash DLC and Hades endgame, I kept coming back for more.

Finally, what do you like to do in your spare time (if you have any)?

I like to work out. I’ve really got into spin classes the last couple of years, and I realized several years ago that working out is a great way to deal with stress and help me calm down. Outside of that, I mostly hang out with my family and my dogs. When I get time to myself at night, I either play games or do personal work. I love sketching in ZBrush and playing around with designs. I don’t know if I’ll ever take them anywhere beyond that, but it’s fun to do my own thing and
stretch out in ways I don’t get to at work.

Thank you David for this great talk as well Red Storm!

More artwork from David:

ArtStation – David Schultz

More about Red Storm:

Games — Red Storm Entertainment

Unreal Authorized Instructor, Programme Leader for MA Games Art at Escape Studios & Tutor for Games Art Short / Part Time Courses. I have been teaching new creative talent for the past 15+ years, at institutions such as Alpha Channel and the University of Hertfordshire. I've also wrote numerous published books about Unreal Engine including; UDK Basics, Level Design and Documentation and UDK Games scenarios integration as well creating game assets for the next generation consoles such as the racing game ‘Pacer’. Currently working on my own game!

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