More freedom in the creative processes of yours and others

Interview with course leader Niels Keetels

Niels Keetels has worked in the games industry as a game engine programmer for years and is now the course leader for HKU Games & Interaction. September will see the start of the new minor Tech Art, focused on one the fastest-growing disciplines in the sector.
More freedom in the creative processes of yours and others
Tech artists create new possibilities with commercially available digital technologies, or develop their own. Examples are real-time visual effects (VFX), filters based on machine learning for social media, and procedurally generated worlds in video games, where the contents are generated on the spot by an algorithm, instead of manually in advance.


‘The more we make ourselves dependent on tools such as Houdini or Unity, the more we pay in terms of autonomy and independence’, Keetles states. ‘Developing games is easier than ever, technologically speaking. But because all their possibilities are defined by the developer, there are limits to what you can do with them.’ Keetels hopes that there will eventually be open-source tools as well, developed by students themselves, that will allow for more freedom in the creative processes of themselves and others.


This minor is right for you if you desire to create results for which there are no proven means yet to achieve the desired end. ‘Or if you want to discover new possibilities for online filters and game effects.’ Game environments must look as realistic as possible. But movies and series are also relying more and more on Tech Art, such as the live-action series set in the Stars Wars universe: The Mandalorian. ‘The actors are standing in a 360-degree dome on which a game environment is projected’, Keetels explains. ‘The OLED screens that the dome is built with, are used to project the movie light. All the light you see is coming from those screens, creating realistic ambient lights and reflections.’


This minor offers you enough time and support to let you work on your own. You are expected to have mastered one scripting or programming language. Experience with one of the software packages of Unity, Unreal Engine of Houdini is a plus. Guidance is offered in making the right decisions and in finding out how the software is best applied. Additionally, you inspire each other through multiple sessions, meet professionals from the industry and learn about their methods. ‘We teach you which building blocks there are, and together we combine these in ways that generate new and interesting results. While each student is focusing on their own personal project. We look at professionals and each other to see how they tackle the technological challenges, to learn from each other.


Thanks to his history as game engine programmer, Niels has many contacts in the (inter)national games industry. ‘At HKU, I am now primarily focused on promoting and enabling the advancement of new talent. I’m excited to see how this minor can lead to the birth of a Tech Art community. One that serves as a network, both now and later in the work field, of people who keep supporting and inspiring each other.’