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Welcome to Behind the Screens - a series of interviews with members of the Dimension team to learn more about their journey and what their role means to them. First up in the series is Dessy Markova, an Environment Artist who started at Dimension a year ago.
Hey Dessy! Tell us more about being an Environment Artist
I work on a lot of environments that are built for the Metaverse and mixed reality experiences. However, I’ve been involved so many different projects at Dimension that I guess I’ve become more of a generalist. I’m usually part of the concept planning and stay involved up to the final stages of the project. A project often starts with conceptualisation, which involves gathering references so that I can start bringing the idea to life. I often start by sketching ideas out on my iPad using Procreate.
After concepting, I go into the modelling and blocking out stage either directly in Unreal Engine or with a 3D modelling software like Maya or 3ds Max. At every stage, I’m thinking about the final product and how it will be presented. So that means thinking about the cinematography and shot selection, whether that’s my responsibility or someone else's. It helps keep the work consistent so that you know you have continuity throughout the whole project. Once you have it blocked out and everything is approved, you continue on to the detailing stages with texturing and adding materials, then lighting, and then at the end you get the final composition and the camera movement.
How do you find working remotely?
I actually love it. I get my own flexibility to work from home, but I’m also able to keep in touch with my team through Slack. There’s constant communication with daily meetings for each project and everyone is very approachable and open to bouncing off ideas. So you never feel you’re fully remote. That connection with the wider team is always there. Whenever we do see each other at company gatherings, it’s great to actually feel like you’re part of something bigger but I’ve never felt like I’m missing that in my day to day. I think Dimension handles that internal communication quite well.
What led you to Dimension?
My formal education was as a digital artist which included everything from graphic design, film, 3D modelling, etc. I fell in love with 3D in my third year but I knew something was missing because I’ve always loved storytelling within my work. After I left school, I took a job as a Digital Artist Associate at Disney Research for six months. That really honed my technical skills and ability to problem solve, but I felt like I was missing that storytelling aspect in my work.
After Disney, I made the jump to architectural visualisation, which had always interested me, since I love design and interior decorating. It’s there that I really built my understanding of lighting and composition, and how you can make an environment look very realistic while telling a story.
At this point, I’d been following Dimension for a wee while and after a few years working in architecture I thought I would shoot my shot even though I was coming from a different industry. When I got the call back, it wasn’t a very technical interview screening since my portfolio spoke for itself. It was more about whether or not the environment was right for me and if I’d be able to deliver projects that require creativity.
Fast forward to my first day and I was already working on concept designs! It’s been a perfect fit for me and I love the process of coming up with the ideas from start to finish and helping a story be told.
Tell us about your favourite project so far
I can’t talk much about it yet, but it’s been really fun to create something which tells a story through the visuals. It’s very important that the atmosphere is tied to the storytelling elements. Even though the characters are the centre of the story, the environment is what makes it come to life and feel believable.
One of my favourite parts of any project is coming up with the initial design. There’s a brief to follow, but you can always make it your own. I love gathering references and merging things from real life into my 3D designs. That really helps with consistency and making the environment realistic. Everything from the materials to textures you use have to be chosen carefully, because they might look great - but if it doesn’t help tell the story you’re actually losing out. The key to a good concept design is thinking about the process from start to finish and always keeping the bigger picture front of mind.
What advice would you give to aspiring Environment Artists?
First and foremost: take the plunge and apply to the job you want. You have to be confident in your skills and you definitely need to have a portfolio that speaks to where you want to further your career. Even if you have a project that’s not perfect but it shows where you’re headed professionally, you should demonstrate that and not worry about only showing the most polished work. Your portfolio should show where you want to develop. For a creative position like this, you need to show your desire to do creative work. Don’t be afraid to show a bit of your personality in it as well.
As the demand for virtual production and virtual environments grows, how do you see the role of an Environment Artist changing?
Working in real-time will always have its challenges because the technology changes so fast and more people have access to it, so I think it’s really important to stay up to date. Obviously, that can be quite challenging but, looking at recent developments with AI-assisted tools, it’s clear that the tech moves fast.
Personally, I would love to see myself progressing towards a creative lead role. I work closely with our creative director Rob McLellan and it's been fantastic to see how he leads projects and makes use of the latest technology to tell his stories. That kind of mentorship was something I really wanted when I changed industries and joined Dimension.
Dimension has been a perfect company for me because I love being a generalist and working on challenging projects, but it takes time to learn what’s right for you. Don’t be afraid to take the plunge and test out different projects and industries!
We're always on the lookout for talented individuals to join our growing team. Click the link below to see our open roles or email us directly with an outline of your experience and we'll keep you in the loop for any positions that open up.