Correct Technical Briefs: how to set tasks for artists

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The work of artists always starts with a thorough examination of the technical brief. If it is clear and logical, the chance of getting the result you need at the first attempt becomes much higher. The Inlingo.Art team has shared five things that should be taken into account when sending a technical brief. There is a checklist at the end of the article which you should save.

1. What exactly do you need to do?

If someone has to jump between lots of documents to get to the basic point of a text after reading several pages, the technical brief has been written badly. It is ideal if your request starts off by setting the main task clearly and concisely – what is it that the artists must create for your project and how much of it.

You should also try to avoid confusing wording. When you say “We need characters,” many questions come up. Be specific: “We need two 3D models with textures and rigging.” If the project is large, then it’s best to divide tasks up by type. For instance, “Task 1 – modeling and rigging. Task 2 – animation. Task 3 – preparing 2D art based on the models.”

This approach will make the job easier for everyone: the artists won’t have to spend a long time figuring out the tech brief, while you won’t have to spend time on additional explanations.

2. Which references can the artists use?

The ideal option is using finished works which are part of the same project that they need to draw for. However, it’s no problem if the project is at the early stages of development and there’s nothing to show for now. Works from other projects that you think are suitable may be used as references.

It is great if the tech brief clearly states what it is that you like in the works you suggest and which particular things you want them to focus on. For instance, “We like the aerial perspective in work No. 1 and the stylized proportions of the buildings from work No. 2.” Negative references are also useful – tell the artists if you don’t want to see something in their work. This could be something like “These 3D models have outlines which we don’t need.”

Another good idea could sometimes be dividing the references up into categories by stylistics and the quality of the finished content. These can be completely different materials.

You can write which particular aspects of each of the references are key for you and how you want to combine them. If the project has an art bible or a style guide, put links to them in your tech brief. They will be an excellent addition to the references, which will help the artists dive into the atmosphere and keep to the right style.

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Materials that reflect the visual style of the project are a key element for understanding the direction in which we are going. The more references and stylistic requirements you send, the more precisely we will meet the vision of the Art Director.

Anastasiya Gusarova, Project Manager at Inlingo.Art

3. What are the technical requirements you have in your project? 

If you want to get complete works in a specific format, or if it is important to you that artists use particular tools, make sure you tell them about it. It’s also best to warn about the lack of requirements of this kind, so that the artists will understand that they have technical freedom and can bring your request to life using any means available to them.

It is also important that files are compatible with the old versions of the programs being used for the project.

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We once took on a character rigging task where it was important to the client that the work was done in the old version of Maya. The client reported this to Business Development, but this had not been mentioned in the technical requirements at all, so part of the work had to be redone as a result.

Levon Oganesian, Project Manager at Inlingo.Art

4. What is your vision of the project pipeline?

The team must understand the path they must take to get to the end. This is why it is best to immediately formulate the way the working and approval processes are organized in your company, the number of iterations that the artists must go through, and the criteria for the assessment of the work.

It is also important to make sure that the client and artist have the same understanding of all stages of the pipeline.

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For some, the sketch stage is a huge number of very rough black-and-white drawings, while others consider this to be clean linework with light sources marked out, the correct perspective, and a high level of detail. It is important to be sure that the expectations for every stage are the same, especially if the client and artists are working together for the first time. The ideal approach is to send references which also show the level of detail on each stage.

Ekaterina Gogoleva, Project Manager at Inlingo.Art

We are going to leave you with a complete description of a pipeline in a tech brief. It is good when it looks something like this:

5. What can you remove from a tech brief?

Details can both help and confuse in a tech brief. For instance, if we are making a piece of concept art, then any lore will help with the relevant details to be introduced into the image.

However, the narrative is not required at all when we are making 3D models of 2D characters that have already been created. Too many details might interfere with the artist noticing something genuinely important. This is why you should not leave information that won’t affect the final result in the tech brief.

Here is the final checklist for you to save:

  1. Have you specified the exact number and type of files that must be received in the end?
  2. Have you collected the references and described what you like/don’t like about them?
  3. Have the file format and technical requirements been specified in the tech brief? 
  4. Are the stages of interaction transparent, and is the project pipeline and quality of work at every step understandable?
  5. Are all of the details required for the work in the tech brief, and have any extraneous details been removed?
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