We’re glad to introduce the interview with Shawn Wiederhoeft, a SOA student from the Masterclass#12.
Could you present yourself to our readers and tell them the position you currently hold?
My name is Shawn Wiederhoeft, freelance environment artist in the game industry. I have worked on titles ranging from the Call of Duty franchise, to the far more Indie titles like We Happy Few by Compulsion Games. Currently I am working with Bluehole Games as the lead environment artist on Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds.
Why have you chosen to work in the video game industry? What do you like about it?
I have always been fascinated by environments in real life, and creating them with whatever I had at my disposal. I was obsessed with Christmas village scenes when I was younger, building out all kinds of scenes in my parents windows. Always fascinated by the artistic side of architecture but put off by the inner workings, games provided a natural pathway to play with both the environments, and designing structures and their interior spaces within. Working in games allows you to be an architect, an interior designer, a landscape architect, and a city planner all in one.
Why did you attend the SOA Academy Masterclass, which focuses on the ArchViz rather than on the VFX? Did the Academy help you in some way with your professional life?
I have always wanted to learn VRay, and we all know there is nothing sexier than the perfect ArchViz scene. I researched a lot online about where I could learn this, and SOA stood out above the rest. The chance to come to Italy for a month with people from all over the world to learn Vray and the theory behind archviz from the land of architectural masters was a no brainer. While my day to day work is done in real-time engines like UE4 and Unity, the Academy taught me valuable insights on material creation, and gave me the tools to expand further on my newly acquired Vray knowledge and translate some of those same principles to my day to day workflow. Most importantly to me, the Academy taught me how to take my artwork to the next level with the use of Vray and post. Understanding Vray is the ability to unlock doors, and create the shots you could only dream of previously.
You are an expert in mastering Unreal Engine. What can you tell about your experience with it?
Haha, you guys are too kind. UE4 is a powerful tool that I’ve only scratched the surface of. Like VRay vs Corona, it is just one tool to do the job. At the end of the day your work and creativity will be what makes the engine sing. That said, it’s an extremely robust and fun to work in. The speed at which you can assemble a scene, materials, and lighting, all in real-time is what makes it so artist friendly.
What were the biggest difficulties you faced at the beginning of your career? How did you handle and overcome them?
Honestly the biggest difficulty I faced early on was being patient. As a wide eyed artist coming into a studio naturally you will have dreams of taking the world by storm. Unless you’re one of those truly gifted few this just isn’t going to happen. I had to learn to pay my dues, prove myself any chance I got, and build relationships with those all around me. Never let your head get too big, it will kill your career.
Is there a work/ a game/ a project that you created which is most valuable to you? Why?
The very first title I worked on is probably my most memorable. We worked on an under the radar game called Singularity for a number of years. I made so many friends and really learned about the industry during this time. I was still naive and clueless to much of the Industry so it was like the “childhood” of my career.
What do you do in your free time after work? Can you balance your working life and your private one?
Great question, I’m glad you asked it. Anyone who has worked in the CG field in any capacity knows how important it is to find this healthy balance. I spend a lot of my free time writing, performing, and learning about music. I also thoroughly enjoy wilderness camping, canoe trips, hiking, and exploring little nowhere towns with friends. Listen to your mother and get off that danged computer!