View Full Version : How to manage a team of artists
05-22-2010, 05:32 PM
This year we started a game art project as part of a new school syllabus. As such, much of it is still rather experimental. One of the things that got implemented was to assign Lead positions to a couple of class members. Obviously there are a bunch of problems with this, including my being chosen as Lead Artist while having zero experience managing an art team at all (woo!), as well as the fact that we all take a bunch of other subjects too, meaning that they generally don't work ahead to show me stuff for critique (not that I'm exactly capable of giving that either).
There are a bunch of other problems too, but the end result is that we've got a bunch of models with different art styles, different proportions and, I'll probably see next week, different styles of texturing. :P It's chaos. I realise that some of real-world practice probably couldn't apply to what we're doing because of the various constraints of a school system, but I'm interested to know how it's actually supposed to be done.
Aside from a crapload of reference material, I'm not sure what else I could have done. :/
Do you have any tips for managing a team of artists and getting work that's consistent with one another? Is it about much more than reference material? Do you use a shared colour palette? How do things work in the real world?
05-22-2010, 06:42 PM
I think you need to make what's called a "style guide". On the style guide you show some sample assets (models, textures, and key concept pieces) which adhere perfectly to the style guidelines/art direction and technical specifications of the project.
It should cover as many different scenarios as you need it to in order to fully convey the art style of the project. More than just being a set of images it should also have explanations on why different design decisions were made so that the artists on the team can get a better understanding on what they should be doing as they work on their own assets.
Give a copy of the style guide and the sample assets to all the artists on the team and go over it with them.
Make some deadlines for different stages of each asset or group of assets, make the deadlines before you really need them. You should probably review each asset after modeling the high poly, modeling the low poly, UV unwrapping, and texturing are complete. Compare them to the style sheet at each stage of completion and make sure they are progressing in the right direction. Also check for any technical problems.
Communication is probably the key here. Get your artists to check stuff in with you more often so that corrections can be made before things need to be finished and less time is wasted. You don't necessarily have to have a sit down face to face meeting with each artist for each stage of each asset (which would probably be too hectic), find a way that you can give feedback on your own time in a organized way - see below:
If possible set up some sort of centralized place where everyone on the team can see the work being done by everyone else and offer up critiques, posting on Polycount is probably the perfect place for that since this is a student project and NDAs aren't in the picture.
Now take everything I've said with a grain of salt as I've never worked as a lead artist.
Good luck :)
05-22-2010, 06:50 PM
- Lots and lots of open communication
- Manage, don't micro manage
- lots and lots of solid concept material and a project style guide will really help to get everyone on the same page with keeping assets consistent.
- Try to play to your artists strengths if possible, they are all going to be good at different things and i'm you know what they are your production will be better off for it.
- Keep it friendly and positive, school projects always go way better when everybody is excited about the project and willing to bust their butts.
05-22-2010, 10:38 PM
Typically you select your artists by interviewing the ones you think will artistically and personally fit best. So you're throw a bit of a curve having people haphazardly grouped together. It does happen, its pretty crappy when it does tho...
Don't be afraid to let the harsh crits fly, if they really want to make in this industry they need to be ready to handle revisions. You can help by softening the blow by sandwiching your crits with positive things.
+ I like the shading on the face, great flesh tones.
- His posture is very stiff and the legs are disproportionately short, we should of caught that earlier.
+ The boots are pretty awesome, those baked pretty well.
+ I like where this is going lets get those few minor tweaks taken care of and call it golden! Nice work.
With that said do not needlessly praise crap work, and if someone is slacking talk to them first don't make a scene out of it.
Don't labor on the negative, don't write up a laundry list of nit-picks and try not to critique work flow unless its critical. You probably don't have time to debate all the different ways to do something. With that said it can be helpful to get everyone together and loosely agree on a way of working.
Check in with people often. The best time to head off a problem is as early as possible. If you wait until materials are done to address modeling issues then its too late.
Gripes go up not down. No one is perfect especially while learning so don't bitch and don't stress. You're the cool head of reason and lead by example even if you don't mean to. If you freak and stress out so will everyone else.
Being lead doesn't mean it all falls to you to fix. People need to take responsibility for their mistakes and revisions. Revisions need to be well thought out and near bullet proof. With new people revisions can be pretty touchy, listen to their counter complaints as to why they don't want to change it, and have a well reasoned counter argument as to why it should change other than "because I said so".
05-23-2010, 02:49 AM
@Ben Apura: Thanks for the tips. I realised pretty early on that to do a decent job of it I needed to have been able to prepare much earlier, rather than pretty much having to make up the stuff on the spot. What I've tried to do was just to work ahead so that the others always had my work as a reference in addition to the image dump the concept lead and I built.
I happen to run a forum (but it's more graphic design and illustration oriented; there's a distinct lack of any 3D folks there, never mind experienced ones), so it was no problem setting up a little place where people could post screen grabs of their progress. The people who actually embraced the forum and I had really good communication, and they generally didn't have to make many changes except when later on others spotted potential problems that I'd overlooked in our more private crit session. But a bunch of them are (in my opinion) lazy monkeys, and I wish I could fire them. :P Thankfully, there's a lot of redundancy in the assigned work, so we can toss out the crappy work and still have enough for the game.
I'd suggest that we move it here anyway, as there are waaay more experienced people to give crit. But gosh. Some of the work is downright embarrassing. :P
@Canadian Ink: Thanks! With regard to playing to artists' strengths, there definitely are colleagues who're distinctly better at (and more passionate about) certain things than others. Unfortunately, since everybody has to do everything for the sake of learning (and, probably, fair marking), I'm finding it difficult to get those who are more focused on on area to shine.
@Vig: Thanks, that sounds like great advice. I think the spirit of my critique is pretty good. I wish I could check on their work more often, but unfortunately I only see it when they post stuff. I'm guessing in the real world this would be significantly easier.
I'm pretty calm in the sense that I see karma happening. Those who get their stuff to me regularly get their stuff in the game, and have better pieces for a portfolio. Those who don't end up with nothing to show for it. So it's not so much that I'm stressing about it or being unpleasant or anything, so much as my feeling as if things could have gone considerably better. Sure, there are folks who don't give a damn, but if things don't end up awesome, I don't want it to be because of something I could have controlled.
The other Lead folks and I end up with extra work, and we don't get extra credit (aside from a Lead credit on the game if/when it gets released), but if we learn from it then I guess it's all good.
We're finishing off the character stuff now, but after the holidays we're getting into environments. This time I'll at least be better prepared because I actually know I'm going to wear the Lead Artist hard-hat. :P
I'll definitely trawl the polycount wiki on environments and level design, as well as making some preliminary stuff that they can refer to (an attempt at a style guide?), even if, at the very least, it gives me a bit more experience with which to crit. If you've got any tips on how to plan and build environments, I'd love to hear them; all we've really done so far is some arch viz and character stuff, and I think neither of them are really related to making the gritty subway where the game's takes place.
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