This week I am back with an extensive interview with Charlotte Baglioni from 31st Union / 2K.
Who or what inspired you to get into 3D art?
It’s difficult to pinpoint a single event or person that got me inspired to choose 3D as a career. As a lot of people around my age (ie over thirty), 3D is a second career path. It’s probably because 15 years ago, we didn’t have access to the same education and knowledge as we have today and choosing 3D as a career wasn’t something I even considered as an option after high school.
I started my career as an optician but I quickly got dissatisfied with my job. At the same time,I started playing with 3D as a hobby and got quickly hooked on it. As I was looking for another career path, I naturally turned myself to 3D.
At first, being passionate about 3D Art, I just wanted to make a living working as a 3D artist, no matter the industry, but after a while I slowly started to get an interest in game development and never looked back!
So for me it was more a series of events that led me to discover that industry.
What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment I’m working on an announced title as a senior environment artist at 31st Union (a 2K studio) in Valencia.
In my free time, I’m also working at improving my skill with Substance designer as well as finishing a small diorama scene. I spent a lot of time learning photogrammetry last year and this year, I would like to focus on Substance Designer in order to become a well rounded material artist.
What are the best and worst parts of your job?
The best and worst part of my job are actually both faces of the same coin. I like the diversity that the job offers as well as the fact that technologies and new tools are always evolving. It makes the job super interesting but it also makes it a bit overwhelming sometimes as it requires a lot of investment to be able to be up to date. As it’s not possible to be good at everything, in the end it’s a matter of choosing our own battle! In my case, I choose material creation as a speciality.
Another thing I particularly like about my job is not so much in the job itself but the fact that it helps me to hold a particular relationship with my surroundings. Since I became an environment artist I started to observe the world in a particular way. Every detail becomes interesting, every scratch tells a story, every surface becomes a case study. And this is especially true since I learned photogrammetry!
What does your typical workflow look like and what tools and software do you prefer?
Having worked in an outsourcing studio for two years, I did learn a lot of workflows and techniques.
Overall, the workflow I’m using the most is the classique high poly / low poly workflow with custom baked, in addition to trims and tileable materials. Though I had to use both custom normals and mid poly workflow for some projects at work and I really like the flexibility those techniques offer. So for my next project, I would like to mix a bit of all of that. It’s not much different from what some productions are doing nowadays.
In addition to that, I’m also using photogrammetry, as I really like to scan both objects and surfaces.
As for the tool, I’m mostly using 3DS Max, Zbrush, Substance Painter and Designer, Marmoset toolbag 3 (though, I’m starting to have an interest in Toolbag 4 for the new texturing tools), Reality capture (photogrammetry) as well as Unreal Engine 4/5.
Overall this is a pretty standard package for an environment artist. I did consider switching to Blender a few times, but in the end, my free time and energy are limited and I prefer to invest that time into new skills and software. In the end, I decided I will make the switch once the sculpting tools will improve. As an environment artist, I don’t necessarily need all the tools Zbrush can offer, and having the possibility to do modeling and sculpting in the same software is an attractive idea. And if I could avoid Zbrush and its terrible UI, I would do so gladly!
What key piece of advice would you offer to a 3D artist aspiring to work in the games industry?
It would be to stay curious as a student, be open to all the types of jobs the industry can offer. Get your hands dirty and try to learn animation, VFX, hard surface modeling, UI, and all sorts of specialties even if it’s just for a few days. And once you find what you really like, focus on it and become really good at it.
There are tons of resources out there to become good, so much that it is sometimes overwhelming. It can be both a blessing and a curse if students are undecided on what they want to do.
The biggest issue I’m seeing in students’ portfolios is too much variety. Because of that, the overall quality is generally not optimal and is often, unfortunately, rather bad. That is why I would encourage students to first experiment to find their passion and then to focus on it as much as they can.
What’s your favourite game and why?
I’ve never really established a list of my favorite games, but the game that impressed me the most the last few years is Dark Souls.
I always liked playing metroidvania games in 2D but not so much in 3D as they were always lacking in terms of level design. Dark Souls achieved the same level of complexity and ingenuity in level design as the best metroidvania game achieved in the past. In terms of level design, it’s like Super Metroid, but in 3D, it’s incredible that the teams at From Software were able to achieve it!
That combined with its rich, complex and intriguing lore makes it the game that had the most impact on me for the last decade.
Finally, what do you like to do in your spare time (if you have any)?
Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of novels in order to improve my Japanese abilities. I’ve always been inspired by Japanese games and my goal is to join a Japanese game studio in the next few years. So I divide my free time between improving my skills as an environment artist and improving my Japanese. Because both of these activities are really time consuming this is pretty much all I am doing.
Though I have to admit, learning a new language and being able to consume new media I didn’t have access to before is really awesome. There is no better way to dive into a foreign culture than doing it through its own language!
Tks a lot Charlotte for this great talk and of course 31st Union!
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