Weta Gameshop’s Jesse Barratt Shares CG Futures Career Impact

Weta Gameshop’s Jesse Barratt Shares CG Futures Career Impact
February 19, 2019 CG Futures


Jesse Barrat is a 3D Artist at Weta Workshop’s in their first game specific team and has worked on Weta’s critically acclaimed AR shooter, Dr. Grordbort’s Invaders for Magic Leap. Prior to Weta, he spent over four years in the Australian game industry, working at studios like EA/ Firemonkeys, Mode Games, and Playside Studios on titles like AR Dragon, Zombie Riot, Second Chances, Need for Speed No Limits, Real Racing 3 & The Sims Freeplay. On top of being a top-notch Environment Artist, he’s also a successful business owner and a true entrepreneur.

Q: How long have you been involved with CG Futures?

A: Since the very beginning, so what’s that, 5 years? It was very small in the beginning, really casual. I believe we were at ACMI in Melbourne, which is the Australian Centre For The Moving Image. It wasn’t super big, it wasn’t anything like it is now, but it was just a great introduction into the industry. I attended as a student back then, to discover and understand what the visual effects and gaming industry is all about.

Q: What kind of benefits do you think you’ve gotten from CG Futures?

A: Benefits? Where do I start? It gave me insight into the industry, as well as meeting with amazing people and of course, seeing tutorials. You know, there’s all the obvious stuff, but I think the less obvious things, like meeting not only international people and building those connections, but also meeting people locally in the industry. Even though the Australian industry is small and we generally know of each other, it’s very hard to meet people from other studios on a social basis, so it’s a really good outlet for that.

Q: Do you feel that CG Futures helped you network for any of the jobs that you’ve had?

A: Absolutely, absolutely. I introduced myself at the event and met a few people from EA, which was my first gig. I think being a familiar face, not necessarily being memorable, but being a familiar face or name when it comes to interviews or sending emails, is really, really important. People say it’s not what you know, it’s who you know, and that’s totally true. Coming at it from that is sort of how I built what my career is now. So, from EA I met other people working in the industry, and then through connections got a job at Playside and then, you know, moved to Weta from there. So, definitely thanks to events like CG Futures definitely.

Q: How did you fall in love with 3D art?

A: Well, the thing is I’m a lover of art, not necessarily just 3D art. My mother, grandmother, and my great grandmother were all painters and artists. Everyone in my family is an artist in one way or another. My brother is a chef, my oldest brother is a landscape gardener, my sister has danced all her life, we’re artistic people. So, I think growing up in very art heavy, free speaking, free voiced family has helped me get into art, and I suppose I just chose pixels as my medium instead of oil paints really.

Q: What draws you to environment art versus character?

A: People put a lot of distinction between genres, you know. “I’m an environment artist”, “I’m a character artist”, “I’m a tech artist”, “I do hard surface”, but I think they’re all very, very similar. In my career, I’ve had to do characters, I’ve had to do environments, I’ve had to do guns and tech, and I’ve had to do design work and marketing. Environment art in itself is a character. It needs to tell a story, it needs to have a feeling, and characters obviously have to do the same thing.

So, for me, I don’t think there’s much of a distinction, but I think I chose environments from being involved in environments from a very young age. I was a scout for ages, I’ve always loved hiking, I’ve always loved camping, I’ve always loved hunting and fishing, and I’ve always loved being away from the hustle and bustle and being` away from that cityscape.  I think from that, I kind of built my love of environments. Day-to-day, I tend to appreciate the weather and the mood of where I am, sometimes more than the people that I’m with.


Q: You do a lot of work in AR, what’s the difference when designing an environment for an immersive experience versus a more traditional game.

A: Most of my career, really 80% of my career, has been on VR and AR mixed reality titles. So, from the very beginning, you know from Oculus Rift DK2, I’ve been making stuff all the way up until now. I think with VR and AR, you have the difficulty of making it a: work and b: making it immersive, because there’s a certain level of immersion that comes with a headset, but there’s also a certain level of lost immersion because people have a certain perspective of what they’re getting into.

I think I prefer working in VR and AR because it’s more difficult, you can’t hide anything. You can get under the table, you can flip it over, you can look around an object 360 degrees, you can feel what things are like way more efficiently than you can sitting in front of a weird box with a screen on it.

You’re essentially creating a set piece, so you can put a lot more love into a lot fewer objects.


Q: What are some of the differences you notice working in New Zealand vs. the Australian industry?

A: The Australian industry is small, it’s very young, there’s been a lot of success come from the Australian industry, and not to say that people had it easy. In the Melbourne industry, when you work in a small studio, you have to be a generalist. A lot of people say it’s best to specialize in things. I disagree, it depends on the industry you’re in. In Australia, I had to do everything from A to Z multiple times a day, multiple times a week whereas working in the larger global, there’s a lot more specialization that comes into play. Like at Weta Workshop, we rely on people like incredibly talented artists managers like Steve Lambert and Greg Broadmore, to recognize and understand what each artist is really good at, and give them those tasks.


Q: So, what’s your favorite part of your new role? Is it being a part of Weta, being a part of a new technology, is it the game?

A: My favorite part, is getting to meet and collaborate with fabulous, incredibly talented human beings every single day. It blows my mind how talented these people are. We’re in a revolution at the moment- as big if not bigger than the industrial revolution or the mechanic revolution- but people just aren’t aware of it yet. Being at the start of that technological evolution, being at the very, very beginning of that, gets me up in the morning and gets me going.


See more of Jesse’s work on his ArtStation profile!