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In the last two decades, the constant evolution of gaming hardware (Pc and Consoles) and the development of increasingly sophisticated game engines allowed Video Games to unleash a previously unimaginable expressive potential in representing complex performances and staging believable stories.

Commercially available engines such as Unreal and Unity proved to be significant in the Movie and TV Industry, where many studios adopted them as tools to support Directors and Cinematographers bringing their visions to life, acknowledging their potential as modern, all-in-one, virtual filmmaking tools.

As the movie industry has gradually adopted video game engines, the game industry simultaneously borrowed videomaking techniques to offer increasingly cinematic experiences. As a result, the role of Cinematic Artist, equivalent in many aspects to that of Cinematographer, was born.

In this article, We will demonstrate HOW close you might already be to landing a job as Cinematic Artist in the game industry if you have a background in filmmaking, WHAT's in it for you and WHY it could be a turning point in your career.

1- Filmmaking skills are transferable

The fundamental elements of filmmaking (Camera Direction, Editing, Lighting, Sound, Story Telling), and the equipment you would normally use on a live-action video production (Cameras, Lights, Microphones, Cranes, Dollies, etc) can all be found inside real-time engines, just in a virtual form.

The principles of lighting, camera direction and editing are relevant in the making of Cinematic cut-scenes as much as in the making of a movie. This means the knowledge you have obtained at school or on set is transferable and can be directly used when working on video games Cinematics.

If you have experience with Video Editing (Adobe Premiere Pro, Final Cut or any other tool), you will find Unreal's timeline (known as Unreal Sequencer) very familiar and straightforward.

Virtual Cameras can be customized to match real-life cameras set-ups. You will find parameters for Sensor Size, Aspect Ratio, Focal Length, Aperture, Focus distance and so on, and you can also use pre-made rigs such as Cranes or Dollies if you want to constrain your cameras movement so to reproduce traditional filmmaking techniques.

A built-in debug tool will make you feel in total control of your composition, allowing you to check with accuracy the focal point, framing balance and aspect ratio through the use of overlays.

Lights can also be customized. Barn doors can be oriented and light temperature can be tweaked as you would expect to be able to do on set.

2- Storytelling

Isn’t it why you have signed up to film school, or started a career in the film industry for? Well, then you surely know that Storytelling is what keeps audiences glued to their monitors. 

In video games, Cinematic cut-scenes are the moment where players, after achieving a so hard-fought objective, leave their controller for a few minutes and get transported by the story of the game. 

Some might argue that cut-scenes are what makes games boring and that most players skip them, but they probably haven’t played games such as The Last of Us, Uncharted or Detroit yet.

Companies like Naughty Dog, Quantic Dream and Supermassive Games, just to mention a few, have created some of the most Cinematic games out there, which, not by chance, are also some of the most played video games. 

As a Cinematic Artist you will have plenty of Storytelling to work with.

3- You’ll improve your filmmaking skills, faster.

Budget and Time play a decisive role in any filmmaker’s career and often represent an overwhelming obstacle for some.

How many filmmakers can show on their reel an epic battle between medieval armies? Or maybe a shooting sequence between a robot and a pack of bandits armed to the teeth? Or why not, a high speed chase between a supercar and a helicopter?

As a Cinematic Artist you will have much more opportunity to work on different genres and projects in a shorter span of time than you would if working as a traditional filmmaker. 

Every project will have a different set of technical challenges, pace, style and expectations, and your filmmaking and storytelling skills will always be stressed and make your creativity emerge.

But don’t think video games cinematics are all about robots, wars and blood-thirsty creatures. Sport games have recently become much more cinematic than they were just a few years ago, offering “career” campaigns which are accompanied by hours of in-game cinematic content.

In such a dynamic and ever changing environment, you will enrich your know-how and you will become more agile and at ease with your creativity. Developing a competitive problem-solving-oriented mindset will also open new doors for your filmmaking career.

Remember that your skills are transferable in both ways and what you will come to learn working on video games as Cinematic Artist will be useful to you as a Filmmaker.

4- Real-time engines are intuitive, easy to pick up and free!

Commercial real-time engines such as Unreal and Unity have millions of users all around the world who constantly stress test the engines’ features. 

This means both engines have been developed to be accessible, stable and extremely intuitive (especially Unreal).

Extensive documentation and example projects can be found on the developer’s website and Youtube has thousands of tutorials for any level of expertise.

Last but not least, both engines are completely free.

In conclusion…

Game Studios are coming to recognize with more frequency the significance of hiring professionals and students with a background in filmmaking, for roles related to the creation of Cinematic content, be it for in-game Cut-scenes or Trailers.

If you are considering a move to the game industry, it is then recommendable that you start studying virtual filmmaking tools (such as Unreal Engine) and learn how to put your filmmaking knowledge to practice, in the context of video games cinematics and trailers.

Film schools should also prepare new generations of filmmakers to actualise their skills and include real-time Cinematics as a branch to their courses.

We hope this was enough to demonstrate "why filmakers should consider a move to the videogame industry".

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