Monday, May 10, 2021 - 11:47

Dan Warom is a CG Supervisor with a long experience as Crowd TD. He has work in some of the best studios where he implemented crowd pipelines allowing him and his teams to create tons of crowd shots with an incredible productivity. Today, he shares his story and experience with us.

How did you become a crowd artist?
While I’d studied animation, I actually got my start in features as an FX TD. I was working at a company called Asylum when I was asked whether I had any Massive knowledge as that was the next project available to me. I figured how hard could it be so I replied “I’ll give it a shot!”, a paycheck is a paycheck.  So I guess I got into crowds because of cold hard cash!  As it happened, after my first Massive project, the main crowd TD left and it was just me and very much a trial by fire to get more skilled.  From that point on I was able to merge my animation training along with my FXTD experience to become a better crowd TD. Some 14 years later and here we are!

Could you share a few projects you have worked on? (if not mentioned in previous question)
There have been a few for sure, I have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with some great teams on some fantastic projects but the few that stand out to me are; 300 : Rise of An Empire, simply because this was my first supervisory role where I was able to help build the crowd pipeline my way.  World War Z because well, Zombies and experiencing a completely new way of approaching crowds through MPC’s ALICE. Kung Fu Panda 2 was an incredible opportunity to develop agents that had far more complexity than previous builds so they could be both procedural or “keyframed” in Massive. Finally I’d have to say that last years Run The Jewels music video was a genuinely fun project to be involved in, from concept through to execution with Golaem crowds playing a fundamental role in the aesthetic.

Given your experience in crowds, which trends have you seen emerge over time, and how do you see the future for crowds?
Well I’ll always have a soft spot for Massive, it truly is an incredible piece of software that achieved so much and its sad that over the years its userbase has dwindled to a trickle. But that has very much been born out of a re-evaluation of what crowd tools need to accommodate in our industry. We need less standalone software, less black boxes, more extendability and better cross renderer support, something that almost all the big crowd tools now have. USD has taken flight and its brilliant to see Golaem and others support that natively now, meaning our pipelines can be a little more nimble in how we organize and render our simulation data.  I think we’ll of course see far more ML influence on crowd simulation, motion capture cleanup and retargeting and even just data capture itself, some of the work that Ubisoft has been doing in this space has yielded incredible results. 

How did the Covid crisis affect film production and the way you are going to work with crowds?
I think there was a initial global impact of all production going on hold.  We saw a lot of studio’s explore new avenues for crowds in the realtime and broadcast space which yielded a variety of results.  I think as a discipline in realtime there’s still some work to do which is why ultimately those results were only used sparingly but it was exciting to see how the realtime crowd solutions developed.  Now we’re seeing more productions go live and with social distancing and rules to protect talent, there is a renewed interest in effective, photoreal crowd solutions in all areas of our industry.  Fortunately with a wealth of training materials and tools to choose from, being a crowd td is a pretty exciting role to be in these days!

Would you recommend CG artists to get in crowds? How? Which skills should they develop?
Its really a question of whether you aim to be X artist with crowd skills or a crowd TD since they’re both very different disciplines.  In my experience, a great crowd td is a generalist who has a robust set of skills in all cg disciplines from modelling to comp.  There’s optimisations at every step of the process that you’ll need to get the best looking crowds in the most efficient manner. Even with renderers being as fast as they are, you still need to have optimized crowd assets to get the best iterative results.  At the very least, you need to have a base understanding of animation, motion capture and ultimately crowd tools.  Animation and motion capture because you need motion to drive your characters and the crowd tools to complete the simulation.  Tertiary skills like rigid body simulation for ragdolls, cloth simulation and complex navigational logic will come with experience but most software contains initial tools to get you started.  Familiarise yourself with Motion Editing, you can save a lot of simulation time by creating the vignettes you need manually rather than trying to chain actions together in crowd tools.  Crowds for simulation, always – I learned that the hard way with a restaurant full of talking animals.

Would you have some advice for people wanting to create a demoreel in order to be hired as crowd td?
First of all, remember the whole reason to have a demo reel is to showcase your best work. Not all your work.  So keep it brief and containing your best shots.  There’s a bunch of typical biped crowd scenario’s you can pick from, the classic army face off, the army charge, stadiums, city life or flocking.  If your doing large scenes, make sure to include some ground level camera’s, you want to showcase individual behavior as well as large group behavior, these are crowds of “things” after all.  If you’re a generalist, it might be good to include some turntables of crowd characters you have been involved in developing, whether that be one step of the asset pipeline to all of it.  Research tools offered by TD’s or schools like CAVE Academy, they have lookdev templates that will enhance the look of your asset turntables, a Macbeth chart and shiny balls go a long way.  Run turntables of interesting motion clips you have created and show them in context with a crowd simulation. For the more technically oriented you can take your cues from rigging showreels, if you have developed some cool looking logic that reads better in viewport w/ paths and navigation visible, then show it, a showreel breakdown can provide context to this stuff. Finally, something I’ve done for a while now is put a brief description either of role or work done at the bottom of frame, it helps people understand what your contribution was.

Learn more

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Thursday, April 29, 2021 - 11:01

Loganathan Perumal is a Senior FX artist, with a crowd flavor. He is among the first users of Golaem in production, having done some shots with Golaem 2, back in 2012! Today, he shares his experience about being a Crowd Artist and the evolution of crowds in VFX & Animation. 

How did you become a crowd artist?
It was a long journey from computer faculty to graphic designer to crowd artist. First, I worked for Technicolor A&G as a FX artist. I had the opportunity to work on swarming bots crowds for a Marvel Super Heroes 4D film for Madame Tussauds, London. It was my first crowd work using Maya particle instancer. I found it fascinating to use Maya particles and control the crowd cycles and movement using expression. Most of my work was related to particle based FX as well as technical support like workflow, setups, scripts, and render troubleshooting in Maya. Then, I got to work on the fireflies crowds for the Legends of Oz - 3d animation movie within Prana Studios. Later, Sachin Shrestha, our Technology Head suggested to try Golaem. I was so excited when I discovered Golaem relied on the Maya particle system. We used Golaem 2 in the Underdogs movie to create stadium crowds. In Prana studios, I also had the opportunity to work across all the departments from Modeling to Lighting & Rendering in order to set the Golaem crowd workflow.

Could you share a few projects you have worked on?
GOT S5E9 Dragon Arena, King Kong - Skull Island RIDE for Universal, The Boss Baby, Baahubali-2, Thor Ragnarok, Commercials : Nissan Nivara, NIKE-Dream Further, Facebook Oculus-2...

Given your experience in crowds, which trends have you seen emerge over time, and how do you see the future for crowds?
I think, crowd will be unstoppable elements for vfx & 3d animation movies. With the current hardware support and crowd software available on the market, crowds elements become affordable and production friendly to any small scale studios too. We are likely to have an industry standard crowd cache output with USD, which can be used in the different crowd packages and for rendering the crowd. Also real time crowd simulation for VFX movies are becoming a thing.

AI could have more impact on solving complex crowd simulation, understanding environment better, not just only for ground adaption & obstacles but also detecting the environment properties and how to react to it, better interaction with other crowd agents and main fx elements. Also maybe it would be able to generate the FX data within crowd simulation for example volumetric.

How did the Covid crisis affect film production and the way you are going to work with crowds?
Initially, we had some down time for a few months when global lockdown happened and shooting stopped due to Covid. But now, it is back to the same amount of work that we are usually getting on commercials. On the other side, the work has increased a lot for film & episodic. There are way more job opportunities for crowd artists now.

Would you recommend CG artists to get in crowds? How? Which skills should they develop?
Yes! Most of the studios are having crowd TDs to do the whole setup. Starting as a shot artist to know how to populate the crowds & simulate on the software will be a good way to get into crowds and will help them to understand the full crowd workflow. Later, they can learn more on the crowd software by preparing the crowd setups. Having additional skills like Character Effects (cloth & hair), Rigging, Mocap, or Lookdev would be an advantage and make the profile stronger for all things related to crowd render, tools development & scripting.

Would you have some advice for people wanting to create a demoreel in order to be hired as crowd td?
I think, for beginners, have one or two shots which are really good, rendered and comped. Playblasts would also be good to show your skills on the software. Have more RnD shots showing how you achieved the different crowd behaviors, but present it the best way, with explanation of what you did. If you have technical background, showing tools you created to automate the crowd work, adding cloth simulation on crowds and crowds with fx interactions would be good too.

Anything else you would like to share?
When I was working on GOT5 with Golaem 3, we didn't have Golaem Layout Tool yet, no Apex cloth simulation yet and nCloth simulation was too expensive. I still remember the days, how we did the project with the insane idea of using Maya blendshapes for cloth simulation on the locomotion crowds of 12 noble & slaves characters. It is really great to see the development of the Golaem Plugin now. Please keep going. By the way, as a crowd artist, I enjoy working with multiple crowd softwares but Golaem is my favourite one. Happy to see the number of people interested to learn Golaem plugin through the Golaem Academy. I really appreciate the Golaem team for taking the initiative to grow more crowd artist.

Want to follow Loganathan's steps and become a Crowd Artist?
Download Golaem PLE & start training yourself with our Youtube Channel

Wednesday, April 7, 2021 - 18:26

David Raymond is the Crowd Department Supervisor at Rodeo FX, where he has worked on legendary shots like the attack of The Wall in Game of Thrones, the biggest Golaem scene ever done to our knowledge. Today, he shares his experience about being a Crowd Artist. 

How did you become a crowd artist?
My very first crowd shot was in 2006, on a small movie named The Covenant. It was a swarm of spiders crawling on a bed and walls. It was quite fun to do. At the time it was done in Softimage Behavior. And it went on from there. I've worked most of my career in small companies so I basically was the only crowd artist in the team for a very long time. It gave me plenty of opportunities to work on various crowd shots when needed. Crowds demand being sporadic, it gave me opportunities to do a lot of other things too in the last 15 years that relates to crowds like rigging, cloth sim and various FX and animations.

Could you share a few projects you have worked on?
The Covenant ( 2006 ) - spider crowd, Black Swarm ( 2007 ) - killer bees swarms, Flood ( 2007 ) - city streets, Doomsday ( 2008 ) - riots, Ben Hur ( 2010 ) - Various gathering & naval battles, Stonewall ( 2015 ) - parade, Arrival ( 2016 ) - various gatherings, Game of Thrones S07 ( 2017 ) - The whitewalkers attack at the Wall, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms ( 2018 ) - Intro sequence, Zombieland : Double Tap ( 2019 ) - Monster truck sequence zombies, Stranger things S03 ( 2019 ) - rats : crowd, rat bubbling and explosion, Lovecraft Country ( 2020 ) - War with Aliens, funeral scene, various city street

Given your experience in crowds, which trends have you seen emerge over time, and how do you see the future for crowds?
Well the covid situation temporarily boosted the demand for crowds right now, until the situation stabilizes and extras are once again able to be hired to fill sets. It gives us the opportunity to shine and show what can be achieved in cg, and improve our tools to better match what can be done live and more. With the rise in power of AI, machine learning and powerful gpus, I'm fairly confident a lot of our jobs as crowd artists will shift from being technically involved to something more like a choreographer focused on performance and flows.

Would you recommend CG artists to get in crowds? How? Which skills should they develop?
I would say that the most important skill to have is to be able to focus on the ensemble rather than the detail first. The eye will always try to find patterns and flows first, then it will seek details. It doesn't matter how much detail is in there, if the big picture doesn't work, people won't see it or understand it. It's a choreographer job at its core. That's the one thing that is common no matter which tool is used, the rest is just technicalities. Golaem, Houdini, Massive etc. They all have their technicalities specific to themselves that will have to be learned to make the shot work. But it's not that big of a deal if you know where you want to go with this particular tool. That being said, other skills that will facilitate the use of the tools would include maybe a bit of coding skills, nothing impressive, just general knowledge, enough to write basic expression statements. Animation skills also would help if you want to go in a small enough company where you might have to do some yourself or at least guide the animators to do what you really need. Basics in rigging would also be fun to have for the same reasons. The rest, like cloth sim, hair grooming etc. It's so software specific, don't bother that much if you are just starting. You will learn that on the job when you get there.

Anything else you would like to share?
Not really I think I babbled long enough to put you all to sleep. And I got shots to work on!

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Wednesday, April 7, 2021 - 18:05

William Bobant is the Crowd Lead at Method Studios, currently working with Golaem on daunting projects. We love his story as we have been supporting him since he was a student at ISART in Paris and we always have been astonished by his work. Today, he shares his experience about being a Crowd Artist. 

How did you become a crowd artist?
Everything started back in 2014 during my 3D school when we had a course about Golaem by Nicolas Chaverou; I immediately liked the plugin for its versatility, ease of use and how fun it was to play with, and it convinced me crowds were something I'd love to do for a living. A couple months later, I found a job as a FX and crowd artist soon after, I dropped the FX part of the job to become a fully-fledge crowd artist and never did anything else since.

Could you share a few projects you have worked on?
I worked on TV shows for kids (The Owl & Co and Grizzy and the Lemmings), adult-oriented animation show and cinematics for Riot Games (Arcane and RISE), commercials (for Caisse d'Epargne, Diesel, Total Excellium) and animation feature films (The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run and Paw Patrol: The Movie).

Given your experience in crowds, which trends have you seen emerge over time, and how do you see the future for crowds?
I don't really know if it's a trend or if current bigger budgets allow directors to have crazier things in their projects, but I see more and more ambitious battles and wide city shots since a few years, especially in TV shows. In the near future, I think crowds will tend toward a heavy use of deep learning to have better and more advanced behaviors, and getting better deformations for the characters as well, allowing our crowds to blend more easily with hero and secondary hand-animated characters. The amazing progress made in real-time engines and technologies will also permanently change how we do crowds in the years to come, and it will be the opportunity to build crowd systems for other projects than VFX, which is really exciting.  

How did the Covid crisis affect film production and the way you are going to work with crowds?
Many shootings were halted for nearly a year because of the Covid; it was tough for a lot of people in the industry, but fortunately there are now loads of projects coming in. Covid has changed a lot of things in our daily life, but it also has changed how films are made: whereas before crowds were mainly used for large-scale simulations, they have now a major role in the current productions with the new on-set regulations demanding virtual rather than physical crowds or gatherings, and I think this role will be even more important in the coming months and years. The way I'm working hasn't changed that much to be honest, the only difference now is the amount of projects with crowd needs, which is far greater than what it used to be before the Covid. A ton of new nice challenges to wrap my head around!

Would you recommend CG artists to get in crowds? How? Which skills should they develop?
I'd definitely recommend it, yes! An easy way to start learning crowds would be to follow the video tutorials Golaem did during the first months of the pandemic; they're thorough, easy to follow and perfect for everyone, from beginners to more advanced levels. Grab a PLE license and experiment with Golaem! For me, one of the most important skill to have is a proper eye for crowd - be curious and take a look at how people move and react in the streets; if you manage to have a good sense of how a crowd reacts as a whole, you'll be on the right path. Also, one of the things I like the most in this job is that you're responsible for the whole crowd, from the asset to the final render steps, so having a bit knowledge in rig, anim, cloth, dev, lighting or rendering is definitely something good to have. 

Anything else you would like to share?
Stay safe!

Note from Golaem: William was too modest to mention it, but he has a super nice personal project where he is also doing crowds. Check VRAKS Youtube Channel

Want to follow William's steps and become a Crowd Artist?
We are running a FREE training program. Join the Golaem Academy!

Friday, April 2, 2021 - 15:18

Sallu Kazi is the Crowd Department Supervisor at Scanline VFX where he works with Golaem on several top notch projects. He has worked in many countries, for various studios, with almost all commercial crowd software which ever existed. Today, he shares his experience about being a Crowd Artist. 

How did you become a crowd artist?
It all started when I was working as a pipeline td in a studio, I got an opportunity to evaluate massive software for a project, though we never got to use it, I had got a good hang of it. Then on the first day of my next job as a lighting td, I was assigned to evaluate massive software again for a project after they knew I had evaluated it before. This time it went well and we started using it on the project and a few more. After that I moved on to other roles as lighting td and lighter. I completely got involved in crowds when I got an offer from Animal Logic, Sydney as crowd td. Since then there has been no looking back and one opportunity led to another. It’s almost been 11 years that I have been working in crowds at various studios with different pipeline and crowd software. 

Could you share a few projects you have worked on?
Zack Snyder’s Justice League, Mandalorian (Season 2), Bloodshot, Addams Family, Black Panther, Thor: Ragnarok, King Arthur: Legend of Sword, Now You See Me 2, Dracula Untold, Walking with Dinosaurs 3D, Happy Feet Two, Sucker Punch.

Given your experience in crowds, which trends have you seen emerge over time, and how do you see the future for crowds?
Lately there has been an increase in crowd requirement. Before there would be one show requiring crowds per studio and per year,. Now there is so much demand for crowds, almost 3-5 shows per year per studio. Also not to mention the tools are enabling the crowds to be more up close to the camera with facial expression, cloth and hair. 

I think the future would be more towards getting the crowds into realtime engines, not only for virtual production and movies but also for drive simulations used for self driving cars & robots. With more and more machine learning models being presented every year, we can definitely see the crowd tools aligning towards these models for deformations, smart facial animations, automatic locomotion leading to meta crowds!! 

How did the Covid crisis affect film production and the way you are going to work with crowds?
Nothing much has changed in terms of working in crowds, what has changed is the demand for crowd across many projects since covid restrictions affected the film productions. 

Would you recommend CG artists to get in crowds? How? Which skills should they develop?
Working in Crowds is almost like it’s own mini production, it deals with models, lookdev, rigs, animation, layout, simulation, cfx, lighting and rendering. So having a complete understanding and/or experience in any of the production process would definitely help in becoming a good crowd artist. Good problem solving skills is always a big plus. 

Anything else you would like to share?
Avoid Real Crowds and Stay Safe :)

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