This week, we get to chat with JiHyun Julia Song, 3D Environment Artist. When she isn’t enjoying movies with her husband or checking out new restaurants, she plays a large part in creating the realistic environments and details found throughout our games!
Who are you? What do you do at Infinity Ward?
Hello! My name is JiHyun Julia Song, and I am from South Korea. I am a 3D environment artist who builds structures and does set-dressing using our own engine. I also do the pre-visualization to convey my ideas. In my role, I’m expected to create realistic environments as our game is aiming for photorealistic look.
When did you join IW? What did you do beforehand?
I joined IW almost 8 years ago. I started with an internship program. I still remember when we had intern’s appreciation day, and the company brought the whole environment team to Universal Studios. It was such a memorable experience!
Before I joined IW, I worked for a Korean game company as a 3D modeler/world builder creating stylized art. When I was there, I always had the desire to work on a realistic game, so I decided to study abroad while I attended an art school in San Francisco. I learned and improved my art in creating realistic and intricate environments.
At the graduation show, one of my leads came to my school, and hired me for a Call of Duty project. A dream came true!
What do you like to do outside of the studio in your free time?
My husband is a movie-guru, so I watch a variety of movie genres. I find it helpful for my art because movies give me indirect experiences, showing their thoughts and cultures. Also, as I am a foodie person, I like to go and try new restaurants and coffee shops in different places.
Tell us about a piece of work you are most proud of.
I am most proud of myself when I come up with something “outside of the box”. Here are a few examples:
When the game designer gave me these blockouts, I had to get creative to improve the design and make it look more visually appealing. I can’t change the design too much because it has already been approved for gameplay. Not to mention it also needs to have a suitable art in the surrounding areas. At times, it can be a challenge to meet both departments’ needs.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to get into a similar role of Environmental Art / Video Game Art?
When I was in school, my teacher always told us to be proactive saying: “Don’t rely on reference pictures from the internet. Go outside and take your own reference pictures.” It’s because when you see the objects closely in person, you can actually see the details more precisely. Learning new tools are important but improving your eye-level is also important as you are observing how things are.
Here is one of my personal projects I did while at school about 8 years ago.
What do you know about working in games now, that you wish you knew before?
I wish I knew about architecture and city planning/landscaping. To pursue players with various realistic environments, everything must make sense in both ways so that you can plan and construct structures better as you are understanding their cultures.