With 100 million consumers shopping in AR & VR by 2020, AR jobs provide exciting possibilities for recent 3D grads and working 3D artists alike. To get the low-down on the opportunities and challenges faced by today's 3D professionals, I sat down with Joe Coggins, one of the 3D artists at Zappar to hear about his experience breaking into AR.
DM: Hey Joe, let’s start by giving people a little background on your university studies.
JC: Hey! So I studied for four years at the University of the Creative Arts in Farnham, Surrey. There, I learnt fundamental 2D & 3D design skills alongside more theoretical elements like game and design theory through workshops and life drawing modules.
DM: So how did you get the job at Zappar? What was your experience like after leaving uni?
JC: The Zappar job came about nearly a year after graduating from UCA. It was super tough trying to find a job that dovetailed nicely with the skills I learnt at university. I went for multiple jobs at video game companies and made little headway, so I tried some tech job fairs, one of which was called ‘Silicon Milkroundabout.’ That’s where I met Connell Gauld (CTO, Zappar), and was ultimately the reason why I got the job at Zappar!
After showing him my work, he told me to email him; so I did. I got offered a three-month internship off the back of it which then turned into a full-time position. I was over the moon!
"AR is an incredibly innovative and captivating way to show off your 3D portfolio and bring your 3D models to life."
DM: What appealed to you about designing for AR? Had you heard of AR before you joined Zappar?
JC: Personally, the appeal in designing for AR came from an urge to innovate and test my design skills while ultimately taking a career path that would future proof my career more so than other industries. The first AR experience I was exposed to was a ‘Scratchy’ 3D experience from the film Ice Age. It was a photo feature experience that was simple but grabbed my attention right away. However, I didn’t fully understand the potential of AR until I joined Zappar.
Before I joined, AR was still at the stage where you had to explain to people what it was and what you could use it for. Now, there’s still a small amount of education required, but if you mention things like Snapchat, Pokemon Go, or more recently, Apple’s ARKit, people twig a lot faster.
"Personally, the appeal in designing for AR came from an urge to innovate and test my design skills while ultimately getting a job that would future proof my career."
DM: What projects have you most enjoyed working on at Zappar?
JC: Some of the projects I’ve loved working on include Angry Birds Action! (the AR side to the app), various Warner Brothers projects involving my favourite Looney Tunes characters, and Disney experiences featuring some of the most iconic cartoon characters in history, Mickey and Minnie Mouse. It’s difficult to choose, but my favourite is probably Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, simply because I was really proud of recreating the Turtles’ lair and some of the different assets for the game.
DM: What new skills have you had to learn since being at Zappar?
JC: I’ve learned so much since being at Zappar, from time management and workflow pipelines to a more technical understanding of the optimisation process for mobile AR as a whole.
Working with big brands like Rovio, Disney, and Warner Bros. has enabled me to understand the different nuances of the design brief, a skill that I've honed since university. On the technical side, Zappar has enabled me to better understand ways to rig and animate characters more effectively, and to optimise 3D models and assets for mobile—for example, reducing texture maps and streamlining the export process.
"As AR, VR and MR become an indispensable toolset in the arsenal of marketeers and creatives across the globe, 3D artists are going to be in ever-increasing demand."
DM: What are some of the core differences you face when designing for AR compared to video games or film?
JC: The difference I (and indeed others) face when designing for mobile AR generally revolves around polycount. Due to the processing power of smartphones (compared to say a PS4, Xbox or PC), polycount should always be considered at the start of the design process. Keeping the polycount low means we don’t get any frame rate issues later down the road.
I love designing for AR. It’s a completely different process compared to designing for videogames or film. At Zappar, we’re always trying to push the boundaries of design, for example, we’re always looking at the maximum amount of poly’s we can include in a single scene without negatively impacting frame rate or download speed on your device. We’re currently at around 100,000, but is something that changes on a regular basis depending on the type of experience. Sketchfab runs regular low-poly competitions for you to put your skills to the test.
DM: So, what do you think the growing potential of AR means for 3D artists and designers?
JC: For me, AR can ultimately bring you closer to your creations, almost to the point where you can reach out and touch them. It’s the natural evolution of design, from still illustration to animation, to 2D & 3D rendering, to finally seeing your design within the context of the real world.
I think for 3D artists, animators or anyone working in the creative industries, it means a completely new and untapped canvas with which to design, create, and ultimately change the creative community forever. As AR, VR and MR become an indispensable toolset in the arsenal of marketing managers and creatives across the globe, 3D artists are going to be in ever-increasing demand.
Even if you don’t want to work in AR, it’s an incredibly innovative and captivating way to show off your 3D portfolio and bring your 3D models to life.
DM: Finally, what advice would you give to 3D graduates wanting to start a career in augmented reality?
JC: It’s all about getting out there and talking to as many creatives and decision makers as possible. For those of you in London, the career fair Silicon Milkroundabout would be a good start.
Work on your portfolio, make sure you have some amazing work to show off when meeting people (definitely showcase your work in AR). You can give Zappar’s content creation tool, ZapWorks, a try for free. Facebook groups are another way to stay connected with the community and also pick up job opportunities along the way. I like Ten thousand hours, which is great for hints, tips and support with everything 3D related.
Make sure you actively promote yourself and your portfolio on free sites like SketchFab, Artstation, Polycount, Zbrush and also the ZapWorks Forum. They all have great communities that actively want to help critique and share your work. And finally, drop us a line here at Zappar! We’re always looking for talented 3D artists to join the team.
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Check out Joe’s Sketchfab portfolio
Why 3D animators should start working in augmented reality
Where to source assets for your next AR project