What is a Technical Director in Visual Effects, Animation and Games?

Starostwo Tji [Hello]

My name is Alexander Richter and Welcome to TD Monday.

Every Monday we discuss topics of VFX, Animation and Games.

So today's topic is "Who and what exactly is a Technical Director?"

[epic intro]

Since this series is called TD Monday.

I thought it's time to talk about what exactly is a Technical Director.

I'm currently in Vienna Austria

and I thought it's a great background to talk about this topic.


and if you don't know who I am

and like why would you I mean

it's not like I have like 1 million subscribers on YouTube

[Let me check]

No I don't! [he said in a windy voice]

My name is Alexander Richter

I'm a diploma Technical Director from the Filmakademie

I have like 5 years of experience of being a Technical Director

I worked at VFX companies like Framestore or Mackevision

or animation companies like Studio Soi and Animationsfabrik

I worked on 2 feature films [The 7th dwarf & Jim Button]

and dozens of other projects.

Trailer for the ITFS. [Animan, Drool Pool, Planeta De Queso, Los Mariachis]

I have an open source pipeline, which is called Plex.

So check this out [on GitHub]

and wrote like dozens of articles in the Digital Production and in forums online

On this video we will mainly focus on

What is a Technical Director in VFX, Animation and Games

since this is my area of expertise

there are like dozens of other job areas where you find Technical Director

But in this definition we'll focus on just this area

So my definition of a Technical Director is:

"A Technical Director makes things easier

and he makes things possible."

So let me explain.

With "making things easier"

I mean mainly the parts of pipelining and workflow

A lot of times people think of pipeline and workflow

if they think of a Technical Director

and in a way, it's true

It's about guiding the project in a way of technical and organization thinking

Where you suggest which software is used

which naming is used

where everything is

where are your files

how they're named and so on

how the structure of the project itself is

and the files are in a good way for teamwork

and especially it helps you to preserve time

and you can focus more on the creative part of the job

instead always like thinking about where to put the file

how to name it

how to save it and so on and so forth

Technical Director normally define this kind of stuff

They define a lot of workflows

but they also write you scripts, plugins and makros

to automate your process

like automate your saving, loading

and all the things you will encounter while you work on

modeling, lighting, rendering and so on

it's like a help

to have you for be more focused on creative work

instead of all the organization and workflow stuff

2. part of my definition is

"making things possible"

and I mean with that

Software Development and Research

so one of the things I did for example was

implementing a research paper

Which is called

[Skin Microstructure Deformation with Displacement Map Convolution]

and in this paper

it was about having in close up a more realistic skin in terms of wrinkles

so you find all the microstructure wrinkles there

and I implemented this paper to create displacement map textures for every frame

to have this fine details added to the character

and to make him more believable

and this research is a part of what you can do as a Technical Director

Even if they're things existing

like for example, you want to create a fire solver

since there is not enough creative possibilities [in the existing]

because it's grounded in reality [shame on you]

but your artist or your director wants to have a little bit more toonish way

or a more creative way of how the fire is happening

or there are this kind of tools and plugins

but they're not suitable for your project

because they take too long to compile

they take too long to render

and you want to create your own plugin

and your own fire solver which is made exactly for this project or shot.

To make it even possible to make the shot

in a way in the director thinks it should be

or in a way of the time [constriction].

The "director" part talks about the responsibilities

for a specific group of mostly artists or producer

So a lot of times there's a TD involved with a bunch of artists

for example

a lighting TD with like 10 artists working on the project

A modeling TD with the modeling artist and so on and so forth

and he's there to maintain the technical fluency of the project

So every time a lighting artist has a problem with the lighting setup

like it takes too long to render

The scene takes too long to open

it breaks and so on.

It's not renderable in any way

he will give it to technical director

and the technical director will find solutions

for example to make this light setup smaller

but still consistent with the shot

or he finds a ways to open this file again ...

He is responsible for a specific group

and that's where the directing part comes in

The technical part is to have this technical solving mind

it's like having a mathematical thinking

where you work in this puzzle solving way

As I said: If you have problems with opening a file

if you have problems to maintain the artistic integrity of what you want to do

A Technical Director should think of a technical solution

find/create plugins

find/create small scripts

and integrate them into this solution to make the artist work happening

in a way that they can focus on their artistic mind

and not too much on the technical challenges they encounter.

A very controverse believe is this last point.

And it's:

"If you're the laziest person in the room,

you're probably a Technical Director."

[Trigger Holy]

Even people surrounding me or who are Technical Directors are like:

"What's up, man?

That's it's not true!"

and in a way it is

I mean every technical person, every programmer is in a way or another very lazy.

It's because

in 2018 no one applauds you for hard-working

everyone applauds you for being smart

So "Don't work hard"

"Do work smart"

If you are in a technical mind setup

if you are a little bit more into this logical thinking

you get very bored by this repetition.

So if something is repeatable

it means it has a formula

So it's automatable by a script, by plugins or by macros

On th other side

it's not very challenging for your mind

Repetition means you already figure out the Rubik's Cube

and everything after that is just practice a little bit

but it's not very puzzle solving

which for me is one of the the greatest thing of being a TD

Everything is a puzzle

from why the scene is not opening

how to make stuff render faster

how to maintain a project

and stay consistent to the artistic mind

have a consistent story.

Everything is a puzzle.

Like everyone solves puzzles in its daily life

and as a technical director it's your daily life

if you like to solve puzzles and if you don't like to have repetition

There's partially either the technical artist or technical director in you

because you want to focus on stuff

that makes makes fun for you

and you don't care about clicking around

making things again and again and again per project, per shot and

You want to focus on the stuff that makes the end result happening

and I think that's the main drive for a technical director

especially if you work on pipeline or workflows.

You really look into things which makes the life of everyone easier.

In a way it's a very personal view on what a technical director exactly does

because it just reflects my experience

as being part of the Technical Director Diploma at the Filmakademie

and my 5 years of work experience in companies.

So even there I noticed that there's like a difference between VFX and animation

between companies

but it's very important to know what the responsibilities probably will be

if you go this direction

and what to expect and to learn if you want to go to road

maybe you want to drift away from being an artist

and start to be more technical

director sense or technical artist

Let me know in the comments below of your definition of a technical director

And I'll see YOU in the next video!

[clap of death]

[finally a real TD ... wait]

[ask me more in the comments]

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