CG Chatter 018: Lead VFX Artist Jamal Coleman

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Welcome to the CG Chatter Podcast episode #18! In this episode I chat with Jamal Coleman, Lead VFX Artist at Outact.

Jamal’s previous projects have included the acclaimed title Smite with Hi-Rez studios, then before that with Turbine on Lord of the Rings Online and Infinite Crisis.

Jamal has had a really interesting career path that began with nursing but then ultimately lead to creating effects for games. Despite how incredibly different these fields are, one constant for him has been his love of challenging himself and exploring new things. In addition to discussing his career and advice for those looking to get into games, Jamal also provides detailed breakdowns of how he creates real-time VFX for games, and contrasts that workflow with creating pre-rendered effects in a 3D animation program.

Highlights include:

  • What it means to be a real-time visual effects artist
  • His BFA in Computer Animation
  • Jamal’s first vfx project, creating a small explosion in Maya fluids as an art test
  • The art influence he got from his siblings and father
  • Why he initially wanted to be a nurse, and why he switched to computer graphics
  • His time living in Croatia and the impact it had on his life
  • The value of a good education
  • The journey to figuring out what he wanted to do
  • Jamal’s passion for challenging himself and getting out of his comfort zone
  • Jamal’s love of drawing when growing up
  • His start in digital art at UMass
  • The hesitation of some family members over him switching from nursing to a BFA
  • His awe at seeing what could be done using 3D and computer graphics programs
  • Jamal’s passion for drawing when growing up
  • His start in digital art at UMass
  • The hesitation of some family members over him switching from nursing to a BFA
  • His awe at seeing what could be done using 3D and computer graphics programs
  • His internship at Hampshire College
  • Blender’s great FBX exporter and intuitive shortcuts
  • Jamal’s VFX workflow
  • Contrasting real-time vs. pre-rendered effects
  • How particle systems work
  • Differences and similarities in particle system workflows between different software packages
  • His “break” into the industry at Turbine
  • 95% of what Jamal knows about particle engines was learned on the job
  • His work on Lord of the Rings Online: Riders of Rohan & Infinite Crisis
  • His move to Georgia to work at Hi-Rez Studios
  • Jamal discusses his featured work (see below)
  • His decision to move back to Boston with his family
  • His temporary departure from the games industry
  • Jamal’s work at Outact
  • Working with a remote team
  • His VFX workflow these days
  • Contrasting different VFX styles and aesthetics
  • Building texture & asset libraries
  • Working within design specifications
  • Working with outsourcers
  • Creating Pinterest boards for effects inspiration
  • “Masterpiece Syndrome”
  • Tips for good work/life balance
  • The importance of asking companies about their “crunch culture”
  • How having a family can affect the type of work/life balance someone might want
  • Keeping communication lines open with your boss
  • Jamal’s many outside interest including fishing and gardening
  • How easy (and free) it can be to tinker in a game engine, and why it’s important to do so
  • Unreal’s new timeline editor
  • How copying/emulating an effect you saw can be a great learning tool
  • Ways to get involved in the game community

Episode links:

Featured Work:

018_JamalColeman_Pic1018_JamalColeman_Pic2018_JamalColeman_Pic3
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