Artificial Intelligence (AI) is both wonderful and scary at the same time. While it holds the potential for being one of the most important breakthroughs in history… even overshadowing the Personal Computer as a tool of discovery, it’s also a disruptor of current trends and skills as many of these types of breakthroughs tend to be.
A lot of 3D artists are seeing the writing on the wall with the release of early generation AI-created images that are simply mind-blowing by just typing in the right combination of words (MidJourney, Craiyon/Dall E Mini). It’s not the apocalypse yet but it's like being in the middle of a long, dark tunnel with a train coming at you and no place to go.
Mesh will be next now that workable mesh can be produced as discussed in New Scientist’s “AI generates photorealistic 3D scenes and lets you edit them as well” (article link, subscription may be required) or take a quick look at the video below:
While there are still copyright issues to be resolved such as who gets how much credit for AI-produced art like an image (person inputting commands, person or team that built the AI application and maybe even any photo libraries that the AI trained on and so forth) will eventually be sorted out.
Might as well just accept the inevitable right? That light at the end of the tunnel is getting bigger and 3D artists are stuck on the tracks… deer in the headlights as it were. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves as this won’t happen overnight, but it will happen and we need to embrace and think about transitioning, once again in some cases, from our current focus to one with a long future.
This type of change is inevitable. When I was a young farm boy, we used to employ a lot of hired hands as we call them back then. Being “a hand” meant they stood out from the others, were self-motivated, and knew what to do without orders. It meant they were in demand as they were very important to getting food to the markets for everyone at a time of low automation and smaller equipment.
Like the factory jobs in the cities, you could get a job with a farmer and have it for life. Then everything changed as tractors grew big enough to plow hundreds of acres a day. Powerful harvesting machines, pickers, shakers, and all sorts of labor-saving equipment matured into solid work tools. This gradually displaced MOST of the farm labor in favor of automation.
Even in 3D, there used to be more jobs. I can remember small teams being hired to just place assets in a scene. When 3D was new, we had to place hundreds of objects manually. Computers could not run the whole scene back then in a rendered state, real-time didn’t exist, so some workflows involved creating a huge scene in wireframe and then dividing the scene up into usable sizes.
My job at one point was to place around 1,000 soldiers on a battlefield, one at a time, prop by prop, accessory by accessory. It wasn’t terrible work, but tedious as hell. It was solid grunt work that I came to rely on for income at certain times. If the job was big enough, I would hire other freelancers to help by farming out the work. None of us really liked it but it paid the bills and allowed us to work from home and this was at least twenty years ago.
It all came to a stop with one small Replicate and Scatter script.
Making characters used to take several days to a week at one point and now we can crank out several a day and that includes clothing and accessories. Some character pipelines employed several people for mesh creation, rigging, testing, animation, and so on. Today we don’t even need a pipeline to create a custom character, much less employ others in the process.
In my own career, adaptation was endless. It went from creating CD, album, and book covers to webmaster to storyboards to 3D arts to entertainment arts to writing about the arts. All just to stay relevant and competitive in the digital art marketplace.
“The Only Constant in Life Is Change.”- Heraclitus
So, if you haven’t already, sniff around to see what’s in the air if you are a digital artist so you can have a chance to stay one step ahead of change instead of being a victim of it. I’m not ready to say the sky is falling but I am shopping for a hardhat.
M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord, is an international award-winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director, and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. Now retired, M.D. is currently working part-time on writing and select character development projects. You can learn more about MD on his website.