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Art Dojo

Agile Practices Applied to 3D Artists

10/08/2013 by Alvaro Triana Sanchez

One popular practice of programmers is that of the coding dojo. A "dojo" (from Japanese: dōjō, 道場) is a space where you practice your skills in peaceful times to prepare for a confrontation against a real opponent. When we talk about a "coding dojo" we are referring to the space focused to improve the programmer's skills through the execution of certain katas (kata,). While facilitating these coding dojos, we start to wonder: Is it is possible to aim this exercise toward artists? Thus our art dojos were born.

Everyone worked on the concept art . . .

One of the obstacles of arts dojos are their specialization. Artists tend to be more specialized than programmers; we have modelers, concept artists, animators, and so on. They need to specialize to a deep degree, and that includes mastering completely different tools. It is easier for a programmer to go from PHP to C# than for an artist to go from drawing in Photoshop to animating a character with 3D Studio Max. So we recommend having a preliminary session where all the practitioners can get a glimpse of the exercise that will be made in the dojo. Then the team will practice these techniques for a few days before participating in the dojo with other members of the team.

Then we all worked on both modeling and textures . . .

The most common instance of a dojo is to practice a predefined kata, but what if we want to create new content? Well, it will be a very different kind of challenge, but a very rewarding one. Once we gained confidence from our dojos, we started a new project: designing a character from the concept art to its animations. As I write this, we are still working on that character, and the results have been pretty interesting and very satisfying.

Scrum has been widely applied to the software development, but sometimes its benefits don’t reach other areas. Inspecting and adapting are principles equally valid for every team, and the multidisciplinary teams must experiment with these kind of practices. With these dojos, we are able to explore other alternatives, and this encourages the team to explore out of its comfort zone. This will form teams capable of giving more value to everything they do, and it will lead to the construction of better products.

And the final step is animation!

So, it is necessary to experiment with these practices outside the software development. There is still a lot of room for improvement, but Scrum and Agile practices must be shared across all possible disciplines. This will help us learn more about our environment and find new ways to improve our practices.