Career Advice - Working as a 3D Photogrammetry and Real-Time Artist, with Guilherme Rambelli

Career Advice - Working as a 3D Photogrammetry and Real-Time Artist, with Guilherme Rambelli

Guilherme Rambelli is an Art Specialist in Photogrammetry at Treyarch, with almost a decade of experience crafting and experimenting with this technology. Guilherme shares his journey and advice to aspiring artists looking for an exciting and challenging career like his own.

Are you interested in Immersive Art and Virtual Reality? Or delving into the science of Photogrammetry? Guilherme Rambelli is an Art Specialist in Photogrammetry at Treyarch. He has almost a decade of experience, with expertise in photogrammetry and capturing reality techniques. Guilherme is also one of the brilliant judges on the Rookie Awards 2021 panel, and he sits down with us to share his journey and advice to aspiring artists looking for an exciting and challenging career like his own.

The Journey

What's your current role and what does it involve?

I Recently joined Activision Treyarch as an Art Specialist in Photogrammetry. My main responsibilities will be to advance the current efforts towards photorealism for real-time rendering, with the use of Photogrammetry, LIDAR scans and other capturing reality techniques. Those techniques combined with a variety of post-production software workflows, will allow us to pursue the next generation of photoreal real-time graphics.

What led you to become an Art Specialist at Treyarch, and what were some of your favorite hobbies growing up?

I fell in love with Games when I was 2 years old and for my birthday, got my first video game. Since then, games have been present in my life in a way to connect with everybody that I know.

When I was 15 years old my mother advised me to study something related to this passion of mine, since I was spending most of my time on it already. So, I started studying Game development in Brazil from the age of sixteen.  I then studied at Gnomon in California, and landed my first 3D related job at 20 years old, working at Hello There, in Venice, CA.

My daily activities were mostly 3d modeling and texturing for TV commercials and Promo work. I also had some exposure to LIDAR scanning: learning how to use DSLR cameras, Match-moving and real time tracking, with a technology called Lightcraft. Believe it or not, what I was doing back in 2012, was pretty much what virtual production is today.

While I was at Hello There, I was still very much interested in breaking into the games industry, so I was always dedicating my “free” time around work to improve and optimise my real-time skills. At that time, a friend from work Matt Rappaport (Sr. Generalist and Lighter at Fuse FX), introduced me to photogrammetry.

I was hooked. I was determined to understand how I could use [photogrammetry] to leverage that incredible amount of detail to create Real-Time or Game Art.

For a few years I studying and explored the techniques I came to love, and was met with Game Art Leads and Directors explaining to me how Photogrammetry wouldn’t work for games because of the Lighting artifacts that are often burned and “impossible to remove” from the textures, and the clear disparity between hand made assets and photogrammetry. I had many a job application refused by individuals who didn't find this science valuable.

It was when Electronic Arts, DICE, revealed Start Wars Battlefront, displaying an incredible leap forward in graphic fidelity, with photogrammetry right at the center of their workflow advancements, that I realised that DICE would be the perfect home for the skills I was crafting. And, it was indeed!

I joined DICE in 2017 and had the opportunity to work on Battlefield 1, Battlefield 5, and engage in a couple R&D initiatives with EA Central and the internal DICE team, always with some connection points tracking back to photogrammetry.

After 3 years at DICE, I was invited to join The New York Times R&D team to establish their workflow. So, I decided to move to NY and engage this opportunity, which turned out to be incredibly enriching. At NYT I was exposed to a very different working environment, with great exposure to Tech companies that were always open and willing to collaborate and share different tools for us to use and to improve, by integrating them in our developing workflow, and providing feedback based on our needs. The open channels with Reality Capture, Umbra, Amazon AWS servers, etc. were fundamental for us to create a successful and streamlined process.

After close to two years at the Times, the core workflow and documentation allowing Photogrammetry and LIDAR to be part the NYT toolset of how to tell stories had been established, and proved successful with a hand full of stories we were able to publish. With our initial goal at NYT achieved, I decided to return to the game industry. I knew I could migrate a lot of the knowledge I absorbed whilst there, back to the game industry, combining capturing reality techniques to help advance the process for creating Game art.

What passions or interests do you feel guided you in the career you are now in?

Games was always the true north for me and making my living out of that always sounded appealing, even when I was in Brazil and it seemed no more than just a distant dream.

Can you describe how you planned to get your first job? And how did you get your first break?

My first job with 3D was during my last class at Gnomon School. It started as an internship, and it eventually became a full-time job. I was more focused in getting started at any job fully or partially related to what I wanted, because I knew that was already going to serve me as the first step.

Share one high and one low you experienced when you got your first job? What skills do you think you needed to get through those challenges?

I believe one high experience for me, that always helped me to get through things, was to always know that no matter what it is, it can be done. Sometimes there are tasks that I have never done before, but most likely someone else has, and in that case, all I had to do was to ask for help and learn from others.

As for low experiences, I had had a few, but I saw them as learning opportunities rather than just a "bad" experience.

What about the industry are you most passionate about?

Definitively Games! Although, I’m often pulled to participate in some projects outside the game industry, they are always somehow related to the game industry to some degree.

I believe as Photogrammetry has become more present in any area related to recreating real life digitally, it has allowed me to choose from a growing range of areas that I can work in with that same skillset.

For example, for Harvard/ NASA, I was responsible to scan their simulation facility, with the end result delivered as a digital simulator working in a game engine.  There was also the Project I Directed for Buzz Aldrin when I was at 8i Labs, which granted me 2 Webby Awards, and the honors from Primetime Emmy Award for being selected as a finalist for "Outstanding innovation in Interactive Media".

Day in the life

What does a typical day look like for you?

Thankfully, my day can have different set ups. Sometimes I can be on a work trip scanning different places in the world, and others I’m processing and working with the team to understand what specific needs for project. I am often mixing “in the office work” between researching and applying new techniques, and executing work when it is needed as well.

What types of tasks do you do in a day and how do you manage your workload?

I normally prefer to opt for quality instead of quantity. One day may include the whole team working out a plan for how to approach something, which can set up the success for an entire project, without physically getting a lot of the 'work' done.

Tips for working from home?

I try to minimise anything that can steal my attention from work, and set 1 or 2 priority tasks a day so I can focus on getting quality work done.

How do you manage a work-life balance?

I try to keep active going to the Gym a couple times a week, that normally cascades in my life to better eating habits, sleeping patterns and Family time.

What software and tools do you use and how have you managed to keep upskilling?

In the last couple of years I spent most of my time capturing assets with automated camera rigs or handheld SLR cameras. I use Photoshop and Lightroom for color calibration, Reality Capture for PG processing, and a series of multiple workflow routes depending of what outcome I am looking for. The predominant software I use is Maya, Houdini, Zbrush, Substance Painter, ArtEngine, Unity Delight, Agisoft Delighter, UV Rizom, Xnormals, Unreal Engine and Unity.

I also use Facebook groups,  Instagram and LinkedIn to follow technology and experts in the areas I’m most interested, to learn from their learning or errors. Finally, often run experiments pretty much every day on my own, to keep learning!

I believe as Photogrammetry has become more present in any area related to recreating real life digitally, it has allowed me to choose from a growing range of areas that I can work in with that same skillset.

One thing you’d never change about your job?

I love the fact that I have to keep learning something new constantly, and follow industry trends, in order to be able to improve my craft.

Career Advice

How do you stay connected to other artists in your industry?

I usually keep contact with friends that I made at work through Instagram. On a more professional level, I think Facebook groups, LinkedIn and Arstation, are great for following industry friends and artists, check what they are up to, and ask questions.

Facebook Groups and Linkedin for Technology, and Arstation for Craft.

Is formal education essential for someone aspiring to do your job?

I believe formal education can help you find what you’re interested in the most, but focusing and doing that one thing you like over and over will teach you way more than any course you can find. Although, having contact to experts from that subject you like  can give you a lot of insights and shortcuts into the industry.

Describe a project brief that you’d recommend artists create for their portfolio?

I believe creating an impressive scene or render piece, can show that you are capable of achieving something that looks good, but a breakdown of you process, can inform that you know why you’re taking each step on your process, and that shows a different skillset that is also very important when problem-solving on a daily basis at work.

What skills do you look for when hiring an artist?

Understanding of process, quality vs quantity (when it counts), communication skills, willingness to learn and being flexible. Understanding how multiple areas work, but being an expert in one of them, can also help you to land in a more pivotal position at work.

What skills seem to be missing all too often?

I believe that being open to adapt in a working environment is an incredibly hard skill to uncover. Everyone I have met that had that skill, was able to strive at work.

What mistakes do you see artists making when applying for jobs?

Artists often think they should only apply for a position and wait for recruiters to reply. If instead they apply and reach out to recruiters and other people from the team, they would end up with more chances to get the job.

What tasks would you typically ask a junior artist to handle?

I would ask a Junior artist to execute an asset just as I would a Mid-Level artist. I would however give them more time to complete the work, and would be paying more attention to the areas they might need help so they can get the guidance they need.

If you could give one piece of advice to artists starting out, what would it be?

Create an in-depth breakdown of the process you took to get to the end results you have in your portfolio. This will give a lot more information to a recruiter who needs to decide which artist is better prepared for the job. And don’t worry about quantity, quality will be more relevant on an individual level.

If you could go back in time to when you first started out, what advice would you give yourself?

Follow your gut. Ask for advice but trust your own opinion. Things end up working for the best.

Guilherme Rambelli is an Art Specialist in Photogrammetry at Treyarch with 8+ years of experience, with expertise in photogrammetry and capturing reality techniques. He has worked for companies and clients such as The New York Times, DICE Los Angeles, Quixel, NASA, Harvard, Unity, Gnomon Workshop, CGMA and others.

You can find Guilherme on LinkedIn, ArtStation and his own Website.