What It Takes

We are looking for a Technical Lighting Artist to help us create stunning worlds that set the visual fidelity bar for entertainment. This individual will contribute to the artistic vision of amazing, top of class games with a specialized focus on creating realistic and fantastical lighting of characters and environments. Longtime Santa Monica Studio Sr. Staff Artist Nate Stephens and Sr. Environmental Artist Mario Wiechec, discussed this role with us and offered up some illuminating tips on what this particular position entails. If you have a passion for photography with a mix of coding skills, and a deep understanding of creative lighting principles, this may be for you.

What does it take to be a Technical Lighting Artist on our team?

Nate: Scientific knowledge of how lighting works. Our programming team creates based on real world principles, so we need someone who has an understanding of the physical laws of Mother Nature, how lighting works scientifically. That is among our top requirements.

Mario: The different relations between light and shadows, how light behaves during a sunset, a sunrise, at different times of day and in different regions…and an understanding of the relationship between cinematic movie lighting versus the real world, versus a video game would be tremendously helpful.

Nate: Knowledge of photography is a must. A lot of things we do in the game mimic a camera. A lot of the terminology is the same as it is with a camera. We have this “real-world-plus-movie-world” type approach that we are going for. Movies simulate a lot of fake lighting rigs and camera tricks, but we need to blend that understanding with how lighting works with the laws of mother nature, to really nail the creative vision of what we're trying to achieve here.


At the core of what we are looking for, what is the key aspect of this role?

Mario: We're constantly inspired by practical lighting techniques in Game of Thrones, The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and even more niche ground-breaking practical films (like The Dark Crystal and The NeverEnding Story) keep coming up in our conversations. Having a practical knowledge of lighting is key. That's why photography skills can be very important to this role. If you know how to shoot pictures, you'll fit right in.

Nate: At the heart of this position, this person is going to sit between our Programmers and the Art group. In our lighting work flow, programming develops sweet code that does something we need, however, by the time it gets to the Art group there needs to be a nice menu and documentation, and it needs to have been tested in a scientific way. The Art group doesn't have the time or focused expertise to do that. The Tech Lighting Artist does. That person sits between both groups, and not only makes certain the code works, but that it's delivered to us in a useable form.

Everyone here is family oriented. Yes, everyone expects high results but we are all willing to work together, which is great. Removing barriers between all disciplines on our team allows us to be more successful and creative.

Mario: When the tech is programmed, we often do not have the time to test the lights before it gets into the main production build, so the end result is a bit half-baked before we have to dive back in and bring it to our quality bar. The Technical Lighting Artist can set up real live scenarios with the code, go through all the bugs, make sure it’s working, and then make it pretty and usable for the artist.

Nate: This is not really an art job, it's more of a tech role. An understanding of basic scripting, coding and photography are critical. That said, knowing what looks good, what doesn't, and having a creative vision would make the perfect blend of someone we'd love to work with.


What is the biggest problem this role will solve?

Nate: Work flow, work flow, work flow! The work flow to do what we do is a bit messy at present. We need someone to really streamline this part of our pipeline so it's friendly to our artists.

Mario: There are certain things in lighting that are very hard to reproduce that we sometimes have trouble translating to the programming team without test cases to prove it. Sometimes our artists’ perception is wrong, but it's hard to tell why it’s wrong. We can make assumptions though, having a Technical Lighting Artist who knows code and can communicate that more efficiently, would be extremely helpful.


Culture is the beating heart of our studio. Where does this person fit in?

Nate: We always want a great communicator. That's a must. Sometimes the discussions between Art and Programming can be intense…no surprise there. In a given situation, the programmer’s code and theory may be correct, but the art team may need to break that theory to make stuff look good. That is very much a “push and pull” operation. The Technical Lighting Artist is someone who can go between these disciplines to solve that problem, mediate both sides effectively (like our Tech Artist Richard Greenspan). This person can see both sides and find the win. 

Mario: Everyone here is family oriented. Yes, everyone expects high results but we are all willing to work together, which is great. Removing barriers between all disciplines on our team allows us to be more successful and creative. In this era of next-gen games, this is a relatively new type of position in the games industry. There is a big opportunity for this person to expand within our studio.

Finally, when we boil down the experience requirements, what matters most?

Mario: Understanding the technical side is very important. What helped me succeed as an Environment Artist on our team was having prior experience with lighting games. I knew a lot of the rules that needed to be followed and I am evolving that on our character and environment lighting in-game right now. Someone who has done lighting on a AAA game, and even handled material work with next gen technology, is going to integrate with our team pretty quickly.

Nate: For this position, we really need someone who knows the order of operations in the end, when the end of the project is in sight, or it can get real messed up. That's why we feel having a good amount of industry experience and finishing a AAA game is important.

CLICK HERE TO APPLY for our Technical Lighting Artist position, or visit our CAREERS section to explore all other available opportunities

topics: Internal
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