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Success Story: Juriaan van Váli

Once again we have an amazing interview with a former MA student, Juriaan, who is currently working at Framestore as a Technical Artist.

What course did you study?

I joined Escape studios to do the Game Art Masters. It gave me an incredible foundation on appropriate Game Art workflows and techniques.

What are you working on at the moment?

I Wish I could tell you! That is unfortunately all under NDA 😉 What I can say is that I work as a Technical Artist at Framestore on a wide range of projects. This spans from high quality final image work inside of Unreal Engine to heavily optimised mobile Unity work.

As a technical artist the tasks are very broad, anything from guiding and advising on creating/ ingesting content
into a real-time engine to building shaders, tools, optimisation, vfx and creating art.

Essentially if you need something in-engine done and make it look good talk to your friendly neighbourhood TA. 

What work are you most proud of working on and was/is your most notable achievement?

It is difficult to pick which part I am most proud of as my work spans over a wide range of disciplines.

I am incredibly proud of the in house VR Toolkit that I developed for Escape studios to allow the students to build their VR Experiences without having to get nitty gritty with programming/ visual scripting.

From an Art perspective I love each of my portfolio pieces I developed but the Cavern is probably my favourite, shameless plug and check it out here.
Another honourable mention would be my Neon Day of the Dead as it was my Master Degree final piece. I would love to revisit it with all the new techniques and knowledge I have now to make the idea shine the way it deserves to!

If you had to sum up your time at Escape Studios in one word, what would it be and why?

Metamorphic. This is truly because what I have learned in the one year of the Master’s degree, and the time I worked as a studio assistant and Tutor, have completely changed my career.

Without having such a strong foundation in art and “Traditional” Game art techniques and workflows I wouldn’t be where I am now.

Also the strong focus on collaboration on a group project I believe is vital experience when you go into industry, soft skills are often overlooked when focusing on a career in the games industry.

What lessons have you learnt during your time studying and your time working in Games?

I could write an essay about this and it hasn’t even been that long. First thing is that technology is ever changing, adapting and shifting. So don’t be afraid to learn new things and go out of your comfort zone, if you get
comfortable you don’t progress.
The Second major point would be that the Games/Real-time industry is much larger than you could imagine. It doesn’t stop at Games, it’s used in film (Think Mandolorian and virtual production) and even feature films (FUSE Framestore), Arch viz, Scientific training, Safety Training, Research, Simulations, News segments, Live shows such as festivals and music gigs, the list could go on and on.
Lastly is to get comfortable with feedback and don’t take it personally. You need to be able to openly and comfortably receive critical feedback, it is a vital step in creating incredible art. It is simply impossible to do alone, it might look incredible already but it can only improve through good feedback.

What is your advice for those considering entering the industry?

Become software agnostic. It is great to be an expert in a particular piece of software, but it is vital to remember that the norm can shift incredibly quickly. Just look at how quickly the Substance Suite has grown in the real-time industry and how Quixel Megascans is smashing barriers. Look at job adverts of the field you are interested in as an environment artist, technical artist or whatever it may be and look into the software outlined. If possible grab a free trial and have a quick look around so that you become familiar with their UI/ approach. The more different software you have seen/ played around with the quicker you will pick up a new one as they often have similarities.

Other than that, become a T-shaped person, not a literal T-posed character because I am not sure how long your arms could hold that position. Find an area of interest such as environment work and learn the role really in-depth, but make sure to branch out a little bit. Look
into lighting, a bit of VFX, animated materials and even simple programming (Unreal Engine Blueprints are a very good starting point, did I mention I developed an Online course for Escape studios? 😉 ). Having a basic understanding of all the roles around you immensely helps during conversations with other team members and even improves your own workflows and results.

And finally, don’t be a ****. Soft skills are incredibly important and you will spend a lot of time with your colleagues so be kind, patient and considered. The way you behave will leave a lasting impression, more so than your work.

What’s your favourite game and why?

I have an unfortunate hate-love relationship with League of Legends, honestly just don’t install it and your future self will be thankful. It itches my competitive spirit which stops me from playing other games. From an
RPG perspective I absolutely love Horizon Zero Dawn, that game completely drew me in and wish I could forget it to play it all over again. Dinosaur robots might not be for everyone but that game also has some fantastic
tech behind its creation. I can’t stop without mentioning Outer Wilds (which would be tied in first place), The Last of Us, Dying Light, Limbo, INSIDE, Little Nightmares and Bastion. There are more but I think I need to stop now :).

I would like to thank Juriaan as well Framestore for another great talk.

More about Juriaan:

https://www.artstation.com/juriaan

More about Framestore:

https://www.framestore.com/?language=en

Games Art Tutor for the MA at Escape Studios. I have been teaching new creative talent for the past 10+ years, working worldwide at places including 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’.

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