"We Don’t Need Artists Anymore!" - Finding a Place in the Procedural World

I was stunned when I heard an engineer gleefully utter that proclamation. I wasn’t surprised by the sentiment; I know that a certain amount of friction exists between the polar worlds of artists and engineers - mostly, I believe, from the lack of a common language. But is that statement true?

I was stunned when I heard an engineer gleefully utter that proclamation. I wasn’t surprised by the sentiment; I know that a certain amount of friction exists between the polar worlds of artists and engineers—mostly, I believe, from the lack of a common language.

But is that statement true?

Do you feel your career as an artist is toast?

It’s no secret that digital lighting, textures, terrains, and vegetation all benefit from procedural technologies in today’s games. Physics and Artificial Intelligence engines have for years enhanced or even generated quite a bit of secondary character animation traits such as fabric interaction and flesh jiggle, and even primary ones such as crowd movement, walk/run cycles, and weapon handling.

But are we truly at the point where game levels and animation can simply produce themselves?

And are we talking only games? Not really. Check out the SpeedTree site (http://www.speedtree.com/) to see how their tree generation software was used on Avatar.   

Now watch the process used by Alex Ruiz to create “Convergence” using Adobe Photoshop*. My friend, composer Justin Lassen http://www.justinlassen.com/, pointed me to this wicked demonstration of digital art creation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lN_oAOMBNN0 

Do you feel better or worse at this point?

Okay. The truth is—you should feel pretty darn good. What we’re seeing is simply the evolution of artist tools.

Those tools have been evolving since the beginning of time. In the hands of an Alex Ruiz or other extremely talented artist, those tools can facilitate the creation of more art much faster than ever before. This is a good thing for artists.

It’s a situation that has occurred over and over again in the art world as new tools have come into play. Do you remember the airbrush? Yes, the one you find in applications like Autodesk SketchBook* Pro, ArtRage* 2 and Adobe Photoshop have a real world counterpart. When this tool first came heavily into play many artists thought they were witnessing the end of oil painting, possibly the end of “real” art altogether—this was in the 1920s! Look up the work of Alberto Vargas (warning: he created pinups which some folks could find risqué). In an earlier Visually Speaking post I mentioned a similar hysteria that swept music session players when the first drum “machine” was introduced.

When I first began teaching digital animation tools to traditional cell animators, the same terror gripped many of those folks.

As always, those who benefited the most from the introduction of a new art tool were those who stepped back, took a deep breath, and learned how to create art with it.

-  Pitz

Be sure to check out the Billboard at www.intel.com/software/visualadrenaline for info on new content creation software and technology, and Digital Arts at www.intel.com/software/digitalarts for techniques, tips, and tricks for digital content creation.

randomness