✨ Artbeat - Saiel's Sketchbook


Welcome to Artbeat.

I’m eager to learn and I’m also a really open minded person when it comes to receiving feedback, so feel free to do it whenever you want. In this sketchbook I’ll be posting my FX work evolution with almost daily updates.


My name is Sandra, but you can call me Saiel or Sai if you prefer. I’ve been developing indie games since 2009. In late 2018 I made a faith leap and changed my direction into 3D art for AAA games. A few days ago I discovered the wonderful world of VFX thanks to a masterclass from my former school and today I enrolled in VFX Apprentice’s Tradigitial 2D FX course. My goal is to become a technical VFX artist for games.

Hello, world! Here I present you my first beat done in Adobe Animate. It’s also my first ever frame by frame VFX animation.

Thanks for your time :sparkles:

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Welcome back, artbeaters!


My former school granted me access to a Houdini course they are giving to new students this year. I’m not sure about it’s quality, but I’ll give it a try.

Today I learned how flipbooks are made inside Adobe Animate. I also created a bunch of templates for 2K sketches. I’ll upload them soon to a Drive folder where you’ll be able to grab them for free in case anyone finds them useful. You can also ask me for a specific template if you are interested, making them from scratch has helped me a lot increasing my speed from opening the program to actually start creating art. Here’s a 9 frames 3x3 2K example:



I entered flow state with this beat and completely lost track of time. What a wonderful feeling. It all started as a warmup practice in order to get used to how Adobe Animate handles my strokes and to familiarize myself with the shortcuts, but having Alex Redfish’s work playing in my other monitor motivated me to try something that I know it’s outside of my current capabilities. Definitely going to try hard on finishing this one.



Here’s the electronic playlist I use to make zappy beats.

Thanks for your time, hope you all had a great day.

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Welcome back, artbeaters!


After speaking with VFX Apprentice’s staff, we’ve decided that since I have a more technical than artistic background, It’ll be better if I swap from Tradigital 2D FX to Booms & Blasts from now on.

Today I learned a lot about how to manage frames inside Adobe Animate (little things like the shortcuts for going from one frame to the previous or the next one) and it really pumped up my speed when working on frame by frame animations.


I went hard on looking for references about how to make lightning effects more zap-zap (you know) and this is the result after four iterations. This beat still needs a lot of work, but I’m happy with how things are turning out.

Thanks for your time :sparkles:

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Hello !
Your Artbeat project sounds really interesting !
Really glad to see a sound-related VFX/motion work, I love this kind of stuff, whether they are synchronized, or based upon beats like yours.

On the feedback side, the beginning of your latest lightning works really well; maybe you can try to make a more violent impact/impact frame, then let it dissipates with smaller zaps going on the sides/bumping on the ground, thinks supercharged sparkles (allowing you to ‘drive’ the electricity in different directions and have a more interesting ending motion, while creating a bit of chaos), instead of the ‘shrink’ you have right now. It should make the whole effect more dynamic. Anyway, that’s a great start :zap:

Also, nice playlist :ok_hand:

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Welcome back, artbeaters!

First of all, thank you so much for your feedback, @Spyro. I didn’t think that I would get feedback this early in my development and it helped me a lot. My brain expanded. I’m only half way through applying it, but I can already see the big difference it makes.


Today I got access to VFX Apprentice’s Booms & Blasts course and it’s been a ride. I mostly took theory lessons about basic things like shape and timing amongst others that I’ve never thought of before. Now I’m more able to know why I feel the way feel everytime I see a new VFX and I’m getting better at dissecting the little pieces that conform a more complicated effect.

One of VFX Apprentice’s students showed me how I can make a quick effect as a warmup without worrying so much for each and every curve and I’ll try to add it to my daily schedule. I’ll also take first my lessons and then work on my beats instead of letting the new things that I learned rest in my mind until the next day.


I don’t know how many time I spent looking frame by frame at stylized lightning FX impacts, but I guess that today’s iteration is more impactful than yesterday’s one thanks to Spyro’s and VFX Apprentice’s community feedback.

I also think that I lost track of what I was aiming for with this beat. Actually, I think that before today I was only improvising without having a main goal. For tomorrow’s iteration I’ll work on the dissipation phase and I’ll try to constraint this beat to “speed”, “erratic” and “impact” as the main pillars (another concept that I learned today). This maybe means starting from scratch with all the knowledge that I’ve got today, but right now I feel that It’s more like energy flowing and not a lightning hitting the ground, specially the first part of the animation. I still love it and I’ll probably reuse it later in a different beat, by the way.


I guess that most of you already know about this, but here’s a League’s VFX Style Guide that was posted by Riot long time ago. I just found it and It’s really good for a newcomer to VFX like me even though I have some artistic background.

Thanks for your time :sparkles:

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Welcome back, artbeaters!


Yesterday I had theory day and I didn’t advance in my lightning beat but I got to know a lot of little tips and tricks for Unreal and Cascade. I’m thinking about making my beats using Niagara even though Booms and Blasts uses Cascade.

This week I met a lot of people from all around the world. VFX Apprentice’s community is fantastic and I’m very happy about making the decision to start there my VFX journey.


Last night I installed Houdini and, oh, boy, what a beast. I learned how to model in a procedural way and this is what I ended up with after following my former school’s introduction course.

I’m not looking for feedback with this beat because it’s just a test and I’m not planning on making anything more with it. I’ll probably take some Rebelway courses after finishing my Apprentice’s ones.


This week I taught some technical stuff and I would like to share with you one YouTube channel that probably some of you already know. Freya Holmér makes awesome content if you are looking into getting up to speed with programming concepts. In particular, I love her “Math for Game Devs” playlist. She even made some assignments in case you want to test your skills. Really useful for shader development, for example.

Thanks for your time, see you on Monday :sparkles:

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Welcome back, artbeaters!


Today I thought about the complexity of the projects inside the Booms & Blasts course and I decided to first go through Bruno Afonseca’s ArtStation learning course. I would like to thank Simon for recommending me to do it time ago. I’m really happy about this decision. I’m in the last part of the course making the particles inside Unreal and I’ve learned so much because I’ve never used this programs to make proper FX before.

I really want to finish my lightning beat, but I hit a wall with it. I’ll let it breath for a couple of days.


I developed the files and structure of this beat in a way that will enable me to make my own design once I finish Bruno’s one. I highly encourage you to take the course I was earlier talking about if you’ve never done FX using the Designer to Unreal pipeline. It’s free until the end of this year.

I’ve already done all the textures I need for the full effect inside Substance Designer and created all my materials inside Unreal 5. Currently I’m working on the final part of assembling all the emitters into one particle system. I’ve never used Cascade before, but Bruno’s way of explaining what he is doing and why he is doing something is really easy to follow. I’m not really looking for feedback on this one because I’m just following Bruno’s steps. Once I start making my own beat I would love to know what you think about it.

SFemenia_BAfonseca_Tutorial_WIP


Here’s the random underground hip hop playlist I usually have when following tutorials. I think I’ve just made up the “underground hip hop” part but I’m not really sure of how to describe it.

Thanks for your time :sparkles:

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Don’t beat yourself up for the lightning animation :eyes:
Ahah, it’s gonna take some time until you get it right, animation takes a lot of practice and concentration.
Starting it all over again might help you!

I’m loving your magic circle, I can’t wait to see what you come up with !

Welcome back, artbeaters!

You are always looking for what’s best for me, @SelicatoArt. Thanks for all the support.


Today I finished Bruno Afonseca’s ArtStation Learning course and It has been a really good experience for me. I also got to work with UE5 Sequencer for the first time and It’s going to be really cool for showcasing my own FX.

I tried to make my whole beat GIF less than 8MB in order to upload it here but I couldn’t, so here’s a YouTube video to showcase what I ended up with today. Just ignore the colors as they are a bit extreme to test some things. Tomorrow I’ll start working on my own design. I would like to thank the VFX Apprentice’s community once again for being so helpful everytime I got stuck during this process and for all the tips they gave me along the way.


Here’s another electronic playlist that I use on a daily basis, from washing the dishes to playing ranked games.

Thanks for your time :sparkles:

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Welcome back, artbeaters!


Today we had live class with Jason Keyser and I learned a lot from the feedback he gave my mates and me. He helped me understand why I feel weird when I see my lightning beat, amongst other important tips and tricks. Today I also got the pleasure of meeting Sjors de Laat, one of my future mentors at Rebelway and he answered a huge amount of questions that I had gather during this days.

I finally started my own beat today based on what I learned from Bruno Afonseca. I called it Snowflake. After looking at references I made a little concept in Photoshop of the full effect to know which parts I will need to do from scratch and which ones I can reuse from my little library. I also built inside Substance Designer the most important one of them.

I think I still need to work on the shapes because right now I have pointy and rounded shapes together and the player wouldn’t know if he should run to it or from it. I’ll go on with what I have because I’m using a non-destructive workflow and I can always come back to Designer and tweak my shapes. I’ll work towards having a MVP of my beat so I can start gathering feedback of the full effect.


:fire: BURN IT ALL DOWN :fire:

Thanks for your time :sparkles:

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Welcome back, artbeaters!


My plan for today was working on my own beat, but instead I took Ryan Smith’s ArtStation course because I felt confident in myself after finishing Bruno’s one and because I love Houdini. I don’t have a lot to say about it apart from “just do it”. If you would like to use the Houdini-Designer-Unreal workflow for your projects and you already have some really basic notions about how to use each of them, I highly encourage you to take this course.

I left today’s beat almost finished, I just need to add some particles and tweak all the values so I can get my own vibe. I don’t think that I’ll be able to make my own beat because I have the Apprentice license of Houdini and it doesn’t let me export my meshes in FBX. I still did all the modelling part, but I ended up using the meshes provided by Ryan because I couldn’t find a way to replicate the techniques used exporting in OBJ.

I would like to thank Simon once again for teaching me how to share a really heavy GIF.

With this beat I’m mostly looking for feedback for the composition of the shot, the mood and the lighting. Should I add a custom ground? Should I set a three lights setup as if this was a prop? I can’t really have feedback about the effect as it’s just the result of following Ryan’s steps. Maybe once I finish tweaking things I’ll compare mine with Ryan’s in order to learn from the differences in the result.

Thanks for your time :sparkles:

3 Likes

Welcome back, artbeaters!


Today I finished Ryan Smith’s course and learned how to debug shaders and apply post process to a sequence with the help of the VFX Apprentice’s community. I’m just so happy. Ryan, if you ever read this, I would like to thank you for making available all this knowledge.

For this beat I used Houdini to procedurally model the core and the sphere (even though the final render uses the meshes that were provided by Ryan because I can’t export in FBX from Houdini Apprentice), Substance Designer to make the main texture and the flow map, Unreal 5 to make the scene and Niagara to build the particle system and the emitters. The ground is the one provided in the starter content. Feel free to give any feedback, but keep in mind that this was made following a course. Here you can see the approach of the original author in case you want to compare the outcomes for your feedback.


Other links: YouTube


I guess that a lot of you already know about this, but you can access a lot of really interesting VFX talks in GDC Vault.

Thanks for your time :sparkles:

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You’re growing at impressive rate Sandra!
It shows through you’re really loving VFXs!
Keep it up c:

Welcome back, artbeaters!

Thanks for your kind words, @SelicatoArt. Working by your side has been a great experience.


UE5 crashed a lot today and I couldn’t advance as much as I would like. I ended up fixing what was causing issues and learning a lot about the internal workings of the engine. I also learned how to translate VFX from Cascade to Niagara and how to create more complex systems with event handlers.

Today I created all my beat’s remaining textures and brought them into UE5. I also created instances of my already done materials for this beat. I had time left to make the first part in Niagara having into account what I learned with Bruno Afonseca and Ryan smith.


Ground tiles made by Bruno Afonseca.


Kenney has really cool assets which are really useful in earlier stages of your projects like for example the Prototype Textures or the Blaster Kit.

Thanks for your time :sparkles:

3 Likes

Welcome back, artbeaters!


Today I went through a lot of Niagara and UE materials theory in order to fully comprehend what I learned from Bruno Afonseca and Ryan Smith. I also finished my first beat! I want to tweak so many things, but tomorrow I’ll start the Booms and Blasts course from VFX Apprentice and I had until today to finish both Bruno’s and Ryan’s courses with at least one VFX of my own.

I’m really happy with my progression overall. Thanks a lot to everyone who has helped me until today. I hope you’ll feel proud of what I have accomplished.


For this beat I created the textures in Substance Designer and created the materials and the particle system inside Unreal Engine 5 using Niagara. I had in mind a non-destructive workflow since the start to make faster and easier iterations with every revision. This couldn’t be possible without the knowledge shared by Bruno Afonseca and Ryan Smith.


Ground tiles made by Bruno Afonseca.
Other links: YouTube.


I highly recommend you guys to take a look at Dan’s YouTube channel if you are struggling with the more technical part of making VFX. The “Tech Art” playlists are mines of gold.

Thanks for your time :sparkles:

4 Likes

Welcome back, artbeaters!


This two days I’ve been creating the structure for my Booms and Blasts project since the original one uses UE4 and Cascade and I want to use UE5 and Niagara. I also want to fully comprehend the technical parts that come already done in the course and I’m dissecting the master material into smaller, optimized and modular functions. I’m learning a lot of cool techniques and I’m also growing my material function library along the way.

I plan on recreating all the little effects that come already done in the course resources too. We are suppose to use them to kitbash more complex FX, but I think that making them all from the ground up using my own shader architecture will be more beneficial for me as a learning experience.

For those of you who wonder, the course I’m going to make after Booms and Blasts is from Rebelway and it is called Stylized Realtime FX for Games. I think after speaking with already working in the industry VFX artists that it’s the best next step that I can take in order to achieve my goal of becoming a technical VFX artist. It will help me ground all the concepts that I’m learning during this first weeks and it will also help me build a more technical portfolio.

I’m already helping my mates in VFX Apprentice with some technical issues in their projects and it feels really nice.


Today I took some of the Booms and Blasts classes while I was resting of making material architecture and this is my result. I’m not looking for feedback yet since I’m using the textures that are provided in the course. I’ll make my own ones once I finish my project structure.


Ground tiles made by Bruno Afonseca.


In case you don’t know, ArtStation Learning offers good quality courses for free until the end of the year.

Thanks for your time :sparkles:

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Welcome back, artbeaters!

I just want to quickly point out that I had my gaming color profile activated in my monitors since the first day and now I understand some things :clown_face:


This days have been such a great experience for me. I can’t even translate it into words. On last Wednesday we had almost three hours of live class with Jason Keyser and the assistant mentors. I can’t thank enough the VFX Apprentice’s staff for all the work and effort that they are doing in order to help us make our own path into the VFX industry. I’ve been in a lot of courses before (not VFX ones, but gaming industry related ones) and any of them had this way of interacting with the students. They take feedback really seriously and they are always willing to adapt and evolve in order to fill our needs. Thank you!

If you are wondering if you should join any of the VFX Apprentice’s courses, just do it. Imagine almost 25 artists from all around the world ranging from beginners like me to industry veterans with more than 10 years of experience sharing thoughts, anecdotes, tips and tricks in a voice conversation and +400 more in the community server. I can’t find any other best environment to learn VFX, honestly.

As I said, I can’t translate the feelings and the gratefulness that I have towards VFX Apprentice’s community. And today they presented us two new assistant mentors which work and willingness to help is over the moon.

I also received really helpful feedback for my Snowflake beat that I want to implement once I finish my current beat.

Going back to my actual work this days, I finished my material architecture and the Wispy Cloud part of Booms and Blasts. Currently I’m creating from the ground up in Niagara the simple emitters that come with the course resources in order to make our own kitbashed complex FX. I’m learning a lot about animation curves, timing and color gradients amongst other techniques and I’m creating my own library of emitters.

Once I finish, I’ll be able to create almost any simple FX and add build up and dissipation phases to my Wispy Cloud. I’m still thinking about which theme to use, though.

Here are some snapshots of part of my project structure:

Niagara Template Systems. Thumbnail means it’s finished and ready to reuse.

Niagara Template Emitters.

In the course they provide us with a master material with all the functionality that we will need in order to complete the course. The only drawback is that it isn’t production ready as it prioritises our learning experience over optimization.

I also recreated the master material in UE5 with the same logic as the original but with modular functions that build into each other and provide a more user friendly (for me at least) instance edition:

Some Material Functions.
SFemenia_Material_Functions

Part of an instance of the Master Material UX comparison + smiley face done in Paint because I couldn’t wait for Photoshop to open at the time of making this 90’s collage in order to share my progression with my VFX Apprentice mates.


You can read the information about it in the EOD section above.



I’ve had over this past weeks a lot of times the same conversation with different level artists and I just wanted to say something to you if you feel yourself wondering in front of a blank canvas as some of my mates were doing.

If you spend all your time in the morning worrying about which shoes are the best, which is the best route, wondering if you are fully prepared, wondering if you have eaten the best nutrients, waiting for the perfect weather and the perfect time, the day is going to turn into night and you won’t be able to start walking your journey.

Just take what you have and start walking. Problems will arise, but that’s the fun part of making games. Iterating, getting better, getting faster and learning along the way. If you never face the problems you’ll never know where are your limits in order to break through them.

You will never be prepared, neither will anyone. The difference lies in who walks and who stays at base wondering about a lot of things that aren’t that important after all. Overthinking is only “good” if someone’s life depends on the outcome of your decision.

You don’t need a perfect dissolve texture in order to move on. I bet you whatever you want that perfection isn’t something that exists outside of pure mathematics.

Just keep walking. You’ll get there. You can do this. I believe in you.

Thanks for your time :sparkles:

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Welcome back, artbeaters!

I spoke with some of my mates in VFX Apprentice about my sketchbook and I wanted to clarify what are this “Beat” and “EOD” things.

Artbeat is a word game with a lot of creative meaning for me. Just change the “art” part for “heart”. And then those are my beats.

EOD stands for “End of Day” and I learned this practice in my internship when I was a 3D environment artist. I used to do it anyway to keep track of my projects, but making an EOD is more like “what did I work on today?”, “what problems did I have?”. “what I’m planning to work on tomorrow?”. You can also make EOW (end of week) which is answering the same questions but with a week perspective. Almost like agile software development. My EODs here are more relaxed, more like a devlog, I guess.

That way of reporting made our leads’ life easier and It gave us focus. It’s really cool to see your EOD from a couple of weeks ago and realise how much you have improved. It’s easy to feel stuck when you are learning because you only see the things that you want to make and forget the ones that you have already achieved.


These days I took a step back and rest a bit while thinking stuff like where I would like to work and which style fits me the most.

I made a couple of tutorials with more advanced techniques and I also set up version control for my main project. I dove deep in the web in order to find Korean/Chinese tutorials and artists because I fell in love with their style and I wanted to understand how they make it look that way. I still prefer making stylized assets but this other style allows me to use a more technical approach.

I also learned that I can make my own modules inside Niagara and that gave me the feeling that I can make whatever I want. Right now I’m figuring out what is the best way to store and communicate data between shader, blueprint, Niagara systems, collections and so on.

I feel that when you are learning, it’s better to not polish every project as if it was a portfolio piece. Working in art means that you are going to spend 20% of the time getting the 80% of the work done or the technique learnt and the other 20% of the work left (polishing) can take the other 80% of the time left.

So I’ve been following this Korean tutorial in order to learn how to animate a sword trail, apply distortion to my effects and get up to speed with Cascade:

SFemenia_FX_Sword_Part_02

Floor, character model and animation from Epic Games.

And I played a lot with the available forces inside Niagara:


Background from Kenney.

And also I did this other tutorial for fun:


I got this conversation about what I wanted to share here and at the end of the day, I figured out that I really want to explain what I learn making breakdowns and teach the ones that will come behind me. I also want to give back to the community all that I can.

I’m afraid of explaining my approach and later finding out that it’s a bad approach, but I’ll just do it anyway because you never know if someone is going to find it useful and I guess that people will take my words as tips coming from a beginner.

Some of this days I didn’t updated my sketchbook even though I had things to speak about because I didn’t know if just words deserved your time. I know that a lot of you are really busy people, but I realised that nobody is forced to read that kind of updates so I’ll just do them for the ones that might find them useful and for my future me.

Sometimes it’s scary to show my beginner stuff because I know that some people might see that I have just started and won’t let me work in their projects. I have one year buffer to make this dream come true. If I’m not able for whatever reason, I’ll must go back to programming and I truly want to make VFX.

I’m telling you this because I don’t want Artbeat to just be a collection of FX, I want to know more about you and I would like to show you more about me as a person. I love when new people starts posting their beginner work and I guess that we all have the same fears. To this beginner artists I would say the same thing that I told myself everytime I doubted: just do it.

R I N B A N is going live in two days, don’t forget to turn on your notifications.

Thanks for your time :sparkles:

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A real milestone here, a lot of tutorials. useful informations and passion.
Keep it up :raised_hands:

Welcome back, artbeaters!

@SelicatoArt :fist_right: :boom: :fist_left:


Today I finished some of my little emitters while I was listening to The RTVFX Podcast and I learned a lot just by listening to all this great artists. Totally recommended.

I don’t have a lot more to say, It has been a really calm day.


I’m half way through translating the little emitters that came already built in the course. The originals were made in UE4 using Cascade and I’m making them from the ground up in UE5 using Niagara.

I can’t wait to finish them all and start creating my own kitbashes. After that I’ll apply the feedback that I received for my Snowflake and continue with the Booms and Blasts course. I want to add some of this little emitters to my Wispy Cloud to check if everything is working as intended. My lightning beat will be used in one of the four main VFX that I’ll do during the course.

I’m having some troubles when exporting the GIF of my beats. They just play slower in the exported version than the one that I see in my viewport. I’m using ScreenToGif as my main GIF editor. I’ll try to fix it in the next days.


Textures used made by the VFX Apprentice mentors. Ground tiles made by Kenney


Speaking a couple of days ago with a mate from VFX Apprentice I realised how much I needed to take care of myself. This days I’ve been skipping meals and my sleeping schedule was a joke because I couldn’t stop making VFX or learning about something so I was forgetting to make this important things.

Remember to eat healthy, make sport, sleep well and drink a lot of water. If you are exhausted you won’t be able to be productive and you’ll find yourself looking at the same thing for minutes without being able to find what you were looking for, amongst all other bad things.


GDC Talk - Beating the Burnout: Finding Success Under Stress

Thanks for your time :sparkles:

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