Thursday, October 12, 2023 - 11:40

Louis Maëro and his team at MPC Paris just finished a bunch of 240 epic battle shots for "Astérix & Obélix: l’empire du milieu". We wanted to know more about his story, how he came to become Head of Crowd and what his vision is regarding the future of crowds.

How did you become a crowd artist?
I discovered Golaem for the first time 6 years ago during an internal training at MPC (when it was still called Mikros). This training was given by Michael Etienne (now Crowd Supervisor at Fortiche) to about ten people. At that time, there were relatively few projects involving crowds. Following this training, I was offered the opportunity to work on crowds for an upcoming project. It involved filling the Champs-Elysées with pedestrians and cars for the film "Santa et Cie" directed by Alain Chabat.
Afterwards, I was offered the opportunity to collaborate on every project involving crowds, and gradually gained experience with Golaem, becoming the main point of contact for any crowd-related requests. I was able to integrate Golaem and develop a crowd pipeline in MPC's pipeline along with the various needs. The increasing demand for crowd quality in projects allowed me to develop tools to overcome various challenges.

Could you share a few projects you have worked on?
My first crowd project was "Santa et Cie," but the biggest crowd project to date is undoubtedly "Astérix & Obélix: l’empire du milieu"! I also worked on the movies "The Last Duel" directed by Ridley Scott, "Adieu les cons" directed by Albert Dupontel, "Aline" directed by Valérie Lemercier, and the TV Shows "The Serpent Queen" by Starz. More recently, I worked on projects which have not been released yet, such as "L’empire", the Netflix show "Tapie," and "Marinette" for example. 
These recent projects gave me the opportunity to use Golaem to populate shots with non-human character assets, such as penguins or spaceships. It is interesting to be able to rely on the same tools to manage a large quantity of diverse and complex assets.

Santa & Cie VFX Breakdown by MPC Paris

Given your experience in crowds, which trends have you seen emerge over time, and how do you see the future for crowds?
Over the past few years, the number of projects requiring crowds has been continuously increasing! When I started working with crowds, there were only one or two projects per year. Now, I regularly have multiple projects running simultaneously. As a result, I am no longer alone, and we have had to assemble a team of crowd artists to meet the demand.
I believe that crowd effects will become even more prevalent! They are visually impressive on the screen, and the technologies used to create them are becoming more affordable and accessible. This includes simulation software like Golaem and the creation of third-party elements involved in crowd fabrication, such as motion capture systems.
Furthermore, in addition to being more frequent, crowd effects will move away from the classic stadium filling. Crowd characters will be closer to the camera and, therefore, necessarily more detailed. They will often be as detailed as main characters themselves.

How did the Covid crisis affected film production and the way you are working with crowds? Can you feel the difference now and before covid or is everything back to normal?
I believe the increase in crowd projects is no longer directly related to the Covid crisis. There was a surge in requests for real-time crowd effects, for example, filling football stadiums with reactive audience reactions based on what was happening on the field. However, these requests never went beyond a few preliminary tests.
For VFX, I don't think Covid has had a significant impact. Anyway, due to budget and technical constraints,  it is unrealistic to fill a stadium with extras for two shots in a film or gather tens of thousands of extras dressed as Romans. 
Moreover, creating crowds using CG allows for greater control over the appearance, actions, behaviors, and emotions of the crowd.
For me, crowd production has been quiet during the Covid period, but that was due to the global halt in shootings rather than a specific impact on the crowd sector.

Would you recommend CG artists to get in crowds? How? Which skills should they develop?
I definitely recommend CG artists to venture into the world of crowds!
I really enjoy working with crowds because it spans across an extremely wide and diverse range of areas. Creating a crowd shot involves asset creation, rigging, animation, simulations (both crowd simulations and sometimes post-simulations for cloth or particles), lighting, and even the basics of compositing, depending on the projects.
Therefore, I believe a crowd artist should be comfortable and skilled in all of these steps. These different steps are regularly performed on numerous elements. So, one essential skill for a crowd artist is the ability to automate tasks that can be automated. It's important to have scripting knowledge!

Would you have some advice for people wanting to create a demoreel in order to be hired as Crowd TD?
As I mentioned before, demonstrating the ability to handle modifications in domains beyond just Golaem simulations can be highly appreciated!
I believe it's a good idea to showcase simulations using customized assets.
Unfortunately, I don't have a magic recipe because it all depends on the specific needs of projects at the time of recruitment.
However, the classic advice applies to crowd TDs as well. Instead of including all of your work, focus on showcasing your best and most relevant work that demonstrates your capabilities for the position you're aiming for.
It's better to have a short and effective demoreel than something that shows too much.

Anything else you would like to share?
I am excited to see the evolution of crowd simulation in the years to come. The increasingly powerful tools provide more flexibility and freedom in what we can create. I eagerly anticipate the introduction of AI to further enhance these tools! The future will bring improved motion capture with AI, animations generated based on behavioral indications, and characters that can be dressed in ways other than random rules!

Friday, February 11, 2022 - 17:33

Tristan Saindon trained himself as a crowd artist at L'Atelier Animation to help with the production of the recently released Fireheart animation movie. For a first try in crowds, this is a big success, as we have been astonished by the life in the streets of the movie.  Today, he shares his story and insights with us. 

How did you become a Crowd Artist?
Short answer, by necessity. To be more precise, I came in at l’Atelier animation with no experience in the industry with an opportunity as a wrangler. I did that for a while and at one point, my employer needed a crowd artist.  The show had already been in motion for some time and they had trouble finding someone. So I took a chance and said that I would be willing to step in as their crowd artist if they would let me learn to be one with them. This is how it started.

Could you share a few projects you have worked on?
For now, the only one that I can talk about is Fireheart. The story of a young woman in New York City who wished to be a firefighter in 1930, where women were not able to.  Very good movie, and really challenging to do. As a first challenge, it was a good one. The crowd was not implemented yet in the pipe at l’Atelier Animation so a dev had to first step up to help me in the process.  Julien Buisseret, was a key to the whole project, without him, I would not have been able to do so much. I then started my job and filled Times Square with thousands of characters walking on sidewalks, crossing the streets, waiting on the corner for the light to change, having to simulate traffic, trying to make the whole thing synergise. 

Given your experience in crowds, which trends have you seen emerge over time, and how do you see the future for crowds?
I think that all the movies or shows that are coming out right now try to beat each other in terms of wanting to leave an impression on the viewer so a way they go is to have more stuff. Either visual effects, bigger crowds, etc. So I think crowds actually have a bright future. I’m pretty sure the demand for crowd artists will go up even more then it is right now. 

How did the COVID crisis affect film production and the way you are going to work with crowds?
The experience I had was fine, doing the same job from a different place, that’s pretty much it. Right now, the crowd department doesn’t seem well established in the pipeline of a lot of studios and it feels like we are out of the loop sometimes. So working from home didn’t really change anything for me.

Would you recommend CG artists to get in crowds? How? Which skills should they develop?
Yes, come and have fun with us. I can’t speak for other programs since my experience is limited to Golaem, but it's easy to learn and to use, they have some great tutorials to learn by yourself as I did and there is a good community that helps each other. I know that when we had issues or questions regarding Golaem, their team was quick to help us.  

The best skill you should develop is logic and creativity. And this one is more important to me, but not necessary, try to be clean and precise with your work. It’s easy with the Layout tool to get messy and if something is wrong in your graph, it will be easier to find it if everything is well labeled. 

Would you have some advice for people wanting to create a demo reel in order to be hired as Crowd TD?
Don’t waste too much time on something grandiose with dynamic camera movement, gorgeous lighting and hyper realistic animation, show that you can use Golaem, try all their tools to get used to them. Studios right now are hiring and the more time you spend on your demo, the less you’ll get working in the industry. You can spend 6 month full time and put out an incredible shot, but in reality you don’t get that much time to do that when you work.

Anything else you would like to share?
I want to thank Golaem for the good times they provide me through their program every time I work. It’s a lot of fun every day and it let’s me push myself and try new things to get some amazing simulation. If you are interested in learning how to use the program, you can join their discord, they are pretty active there and there are a ton of artists helping each other and if you have any questions for them, reach out, they will help you if they can with whatever you need.

Friday, January 14, 2022 - 15:51

We know Yannick Cibin for a long time, and he has kind of accompanied, and sometimes driven the evolution of Golaem, using it on more and more advanced shots, the peak so far being the incredible bees shot he did for Holmes & Watson, marking the start of 3D terrains usage in Golaem. Today, he shares his story with us. 

How did you become a Crowd Artist?
I started as a runner and then 3d generalist in a small company, which was a great way to start in the industry. I loved the variety it offered and the opportunity it gave me to dive into different aspects of 3d.

I really enjoyed programming in python, texturing, modelling; everything to be honest. But one thing that really got me was when we worked on War and Peace and I had create our first crowd shots. We had a visit from the golaem team to show us the software. At first I wasn't too taken by it, but as soon as I started using it I fell in love with the whole thing. Since then, anytime I got a Golaem project I got the biggest smile on my face.

Could you share a few projects you have worked on?
I have worked on War and peace, The Last Kingdom,  Holmes and Watson, Batman amongst others. My two favorite shows to date were War And Peace and Holmes and Watson as we had to develop lots of new skills and do a lot of R&D. I love it when we have to do something that isn't integrated or possible yet and we have to find a way to get there. 

Given your experience in crowds, which trends have you seen emerge over time, and how do you see the future for crowds?
I feel like crowds is still a very niche part of the industry. It's hard to find artists, and there is quite a bit of demand. I feel like, as I'm sure everyone is saying, AI will surely take over and help improve crowds. In my experience, what still requires a lot of effort in any crowd software I've used is to create realistic and smooth avoidance in tight quarters. I selfishly hope AI could help with this the future.

How did the COVID crisis affect film production and the way you are going to work with crowds?
Currently there is a lot of crowd work, due to the devastating consequences of Covid. Unfortunately large groups of people can't be filmed together, so using cg crowds can be a safe way of achieving this. I assume this will bring more awareness to the possibility of using cg crowds as an alternative.

Would you recommend CG artists to get in crowds? How? Which skills should they develop?
I would absolutely recommend it. To be honest, I would recommend playing with a crowd software of their choice and seeing if they like it. The chances are the first few weeks/months will be painful, so don't be scared to reach out to the community. Golaem Crowd support has been incredibly approachable and friendly with me and the many questions I have had for them.

In terms of skills, I personally love scripting for anything VFX. But just go for it and see how it feels and what you enjoy. When I decided to join the industry I was pretty scared that I would need to be both an artist/programming genius. Don't be intimidated by what you think you'll need to know coming in. This is generally a welcoming industry and as long as you come in with a good attitude and motivation to learn, people are likely to want to teach and support you. 

Would you have some advice for people wanting to create a demo reel in order to be hired as Crowd TD?
I'm going to be honest here. There isn't too much competition right now, as it's still quite niche. I think just set yourself a goal and try and achieve it. When I needed to learn flocking for Holmes and Watson, I created a pretty tight obstacle course and I kept learning and tweaking until I managed to make the bees follow it perfectly. You could try that. Otherwise if you can show that you can make agents go from standing to walking and back to standing without sliding feet, that would be a good start.

Anything else you would like to share?
Try things out. Don't be intimidated by the amount of options and steps available and ask for help when you need it. It's not always easy to get into the industry, but once your in things get easier. Crowds is currently a good way in as there is a lot of demand.

Thursday, October 28, 2021 - 14:15

Golaem releases Golaem 8, making its crowd simulation engine available in Unreal Engine, and enhancing its already advanced Previs/Layout capabilities.

Recently awarded with an Engineering Emmy Award® acknowledging its contribution to the Television industry (among other productions Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Lovecraft Country, Love Death & Robots...), Golaem stays at the bleeding edge of innovation and makes its crowd simulation features available within Unreal Engine in real-time, facilitating interactive usage and Unreal Engine based creation workflows.

Golaem 8 also increases the crowd previsualization quality inside the Maya viewport while keeping Golaem great performances. Nicolas Chaverou, Product Manager explains: “Golaem is used by more and more animation studios for all kinds of TV Shows and Feature Films, for example The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run, Invincibles, Jurassic Park Camp Cretaceous, or  My Little Pony: A New Generation…. They need to match a precise ambiance for their shots, and have more advanced needs in terms of character previsualization. I think they will be delighted with the previsualization novelties in Golaem 8. Coupled with the new Layout layers, this will really make it even easier for them to validate their crowds before rendering, and iterate faster.”

Real-Time Simulation in Unreal Engine

Real-Time Simulation Engine

Golaem simulations can now be executed in real-time within Unreal Engine, reacting to player actions, or taking into account changes in the environment.

This new workflow speeds up scene creations in Unreal Engine and makes it possible to use Golaem character simulation capabilities for interactive use.

Interaction with Unreal Engine Blueprints

The new Golaem execution engine integrated into Unreal Engine includes Golaem Blueprint nodes, making it possible to create interactions between Golaem and Unreal Engine.

This Blueprint integration can be used to trigger events in the Golaem Simulation, or to override placement or simulation parameters.

Unreal Engine Character Pack

To facilitate the use of Golaem into Unreal Engine, all characters from the Golaem Character Pack are available as ready-to-use Unreal Engine characters, complete with shaders diversity.

It literally just takes one minute to setup a Golaem scene in Unreal Engine with fully diverse characters.

Viewport Previsualization Improvements

Visual Diversity in the Viewport

Golaem 8 implements shading diversity for all characters, directly in the Maya viewport, while keeping the same performances which made its reputation.

Artists will be able to validate the look of their crowd characters directly at simulation step, and use the Golaem Layout layers to override it if needed.

Shading Diversity Weights Control

To make shading repartition more controllable for artists, shading diversity has been made controllable thanks to weight sliders similar to the ones used asset repartition.

It will help artists come even closer to the final look they desire for their crowd, which can always be 100% artistically controlled thanks to the Golaem Layout shader overrides nodes.

Mesh Drive Display Mode

Golaem features a new Mesh Drive display mode, generating real Maya geometry for all characters, including all deformations.

Artists can check the final look of their scenes before even rendering. Cherry on the cake, thanks to the Mesh Drive display mode, Golaem characters are now renderable with any renderer!

DOF / Fog Support in the viewport

Golaem 8 adds support for Maya viewport depth of field and fog features with Golaem characters display in order to enhance previsualization quality.

Triggers Visual Feedback

Enhancing Golaem visual debug capabilities, Golaem 8 can now display in real-time the behavior triggers status in the Behavior Editor.

Artists can click on any character in the crowd and follow how their behavior is executed, check when events trigger a behavior or not, and debug blocked behaviors.

New Layout Layers

Group Trajectory Edit Layer

The Trajectory Edit layer is back! Golaem characters trajectories can be edited after simulation based on director's feedback, or to adapt to changes in the environment. 

The Trajectory Edit layer features two modes: mesh based and curve based. The mesh based mode enables deforming trajectories with tools like the Lattice Deformer. Curve based mode will be used to draw trajectories with curves, with the added advantage of being able to preserve characters speed while deforming their trajectory.

Group Snap-to Layer

Golaem Snap-To Layer enables to re-populate a scene with the Golaem Layout Tool. With the Group Snap-To layer artists can place a group of people on each user-defined position.

As in the example video, it is particularly useful to populate a battle scene with groups of soldiers!

Mirror Layout Layer

The Mirror Layer will mirror a simulation cache geometry and animation. 

It can be used to adapt an existing cache to a new environment or script, but also on random characters in your scene to generate even more diversity.

New Keyframable Attributes

Golaem 8 Layout Tool can take keyframes into account on two new layers: Kill and SetMeshAssets.

Thanks to the keyframable Kill layer, characters visibility can be animated during the shot in order to make the population evolve.

With the SetMeshAssets Layer, characters' equipment or garments can also evolve during the shot.

Custom LOD Layers

Golaem provides some rules for automatic LOD, but when dealing with LOD, isn’t it more comfortable to set them by directly selecting characters in the viewport?

This is what the new LOD layers are about! Just select some characters, add a Layout node, set the desired LOD level, and you are done.

Physics / Cloth Simulation

Torque on Force Behavior

A Torque attribute was added on the Force Behavior. It brings more realism in the physics simulation and allows artists to control how your characters react to an explosion or other kind of physics events.

GPU Real-Time Simulation for Windows/Linux

Thanks to its NVidia Apex integration Golaem can simulate clothes in real-time with many characters.

Through a partnership with NVidia & Autodesk, Golaem is maintaining the Physx/Apex plugin code and hosts builds for Windows & Linux and for new versions of Maya.

And still...

Morphology Variations

Golaem provides morphology variations thanks to the Skeleton Overrides feature.

Several kinds of morphologies (small, tall, thin, fat...) can be added on a character definition by setting scale ranges for every bone. Users can then control their repartition the same way as other assets, and they can even be mixed to obtain the maximum of variations inside a population.

The generated characters definitely look more diverse and natural.

Fur Workflow

Golaem includes an advanced procedural fur workflow with skinned fur which can be deformed along the character animation and bone chains.

This workflow is compatible with most of the major fur simulation solutions (Xgen, Yeti, Ornatrix,…) and proprietary engines provided they can be imported within Maya as curves (or Alembic curves).

Houdini Workflow

Golaem simulations can be brought into Houdini with a dedicated plugin expanding them to real Houdini geometry. The Golaem for Houdini plugin comes with the Golaem Cache Library and Layout Tool for easy imports and modifications directly in Houdini.

Look! Golaem characters can even be rendered with Mantra!

USD Procedural

Golaem includes a procedural plugin for Pixar’s USD, efficiently loading Golaem characters in the USD pipeline, therefore making them directly usable in many digital content creation tools supporting USD.

The Golaem for USD procedural plugin is available for USD Standalone, Houdini and Katana. The procedural code is open source for studios who need to build it themselves.

Golaem 8 is compatible with all Maya versions from 2018 to 2022 and provides integrations with 3dsMax, Houdini, Katana, Unreal Engine, and all USD-compatible platforms, like Unity or NVidia Omniverse.

The Golaem Crowd Simulation Real-Time simulation engine is available through Golaem for Unreal Engine or as a standalone C++ SDK.


Want to try Golaem for free??!
Download Golaem PLE version

Thursday, October 7, 2021 - 14:52

Golaem is honored to announce that it has been awarded an Engineering Emmy® Award by the Television Academy.

From its first usage in Pan Am and Once Upon a Time TV Shows by Zoic Studio to The Walking Dead, Game Of Thrones and more recently Lovecraft Country, Golaem has accompanied the rise of visual effects and especially crowds creation in TV Shows. Golaem products have been recognized as having enabled creators to deliver their vision at best while respecting budgets and deadlines.

Golaem Crowd gives artists the power to generate and animate a large number of characters with various styles and morphologies thanks to advanced behavior building blocks such as procedural animation, path-planning and navigation as well as physics, hair/fur and cloth simulation.

Golaem Layout enables our users to easily retake or layout a scene just by moving characters on the fly with the help of procedural tools adapting their feet to the ground or adding variety in their appearance and animation. With Golaem Layout, artists always get the last word as they can choose any time a custom appearance for a character or manually retake the animation.

Stéphane Donikian, Golaem CEO, reacts: “Receiving this Engineering Emmy Award is a great honor, as it acknowledges once again the contribution Golaem made for the Television industry.  2021 was a very special year for Golaem, and not only because of Covid. We recently celebrated Golaem Crowd’s 10 year anniversary, and we have the Golaem 8 release coming, which is the foundation for a whole new terrain of application for Golaem tools. I am thrilled to see creators delivering even more spectacular and immersive experiences with the help of Golaem tools”.

The Golaem Team will be accepting the Emmy Award during the 73rd Engineering Emmy Awards ceremony on Thursday, October 21st, 2021.

Learn more:

About Golaem
Golaem products help artists to populate TV shows, films and game cinematics in minutes by procedurally animating thousands of characters with advanced behaviors, in real-time and with complete artistic control.
Golaem tools are used on all kinds of projects from the smallest to most ambitious ones and have been widely acclaimed as an enabler to reach director’s creative vision on a really competitive time and production budget.