BlueBolt brings armies to life with Golaem

BlueBolt delivered amazing battle shots for Carnival Films’ The Last Kingdom and BBC’s War and Peace. 3D Generalist, Yannick Cibin and Animator, Juan Gill give us some details about these projects and explain how Golaem helped their armies come to life!



The team

Cibin and Gill teamed with CG Generalist, Michael Strathearn, to deliver a dozen of CG crowd shots for each show over a 4 months period. Each shot includes from 500 to 10,000 characters.
Cibin explains: “We are a relatively small company, which makes high-end visual effects for TV and Film. It's a fantastic environment to work in, as it gives us the opportunity to work in many parts of the 3D pipeline.”
Cibin assisted the 3D Supervisor, Nic Birmingham, during the initial pipeline setup and wrote tools to integrate Golaem deeper in the BlueBolt workflow. He then worked as a layout, crowd and lighting TD on the shows. 
Gill oversaw all character animations, rig creation using Maya's HIK, motion capture direction, and cleanup, as well as Golaem character setup, animation conversion. He then alternated between creating crowd simulations with Golaem and crafting more animation variations when they were needed.
The team created two kinds of crowd shots:  marching armies, and battle sequences. Although they look very nice, the marching shots were very straightforward in terms of crowd setup according to Cibin. They had more fun with the battle ones, which let more space with creativity, involving physics simulation, more animation combination and of course more complex interactions.

Image from The Last Kingdom

Letting armies come to life

This kind of shots is like the holy grail of crowd simulation, and as Cibin states, require a bit of planning and organization. However whatever was planned before starting, the VFX industry is well known for last minutes changes, something Golaem handles particularly well thanks to the combination of procedural simulation and post-simulation Layout tools.  
Cibin explains: “I did have one very satisfying moment. We had to make some last minute adjustments to a very animated battle shot with many explosions and specific reactions. We had the choice between baking the movement into the crowd system or creating a more intelligent system where the soldiers automatically react according their distance to any situation around them, such as deaths, explosions and cannon balls. The Golaem nodal system, meant that I could create a very complex system with a minimal amount of nodes.”
He adds ”After a tough day of refining the node network, I remember clicking play to simulate the new system and the resulting army looked like it had come to life and had started taking its own initiatives. It was full of unexpected motions and reactions, that were triggered by their environments and surrounding soldiers, which made the shot look very natural. This was definitely the biggest moment of satisfaction during the show.”

Image from War and Peace

Golaem leaves no man behind

Although the production was not without challenges, involving not only complex behaviors, but also advanced animation handling, or cloth simulation, the team got up to speed very quickly and managed to meet tight deadlines. Cibin and Gill are kind enough to mention the Golaem team’s help in this process: “Firstly, the Golaem documentation is excellent and is a great way of getting you introduced to the workflow. Their support was also extremely helpful as they were always quick with replies and working solutions. Thank you Golaem!”
Gill concludes “Both projects have been rewarding and look amazing. It's been a massive achievement delivering some incredible shots with in a very tight deadline. The whole process has been a big learning curve, but looking at the finished result, it's been worth the efforts from all departments. Golaem has been a great tool in aiding BlueBolt to help meet the client's vision.” 

About BlueBolt

BlueBolt is a London-based, award winning VFX facility offering high-end 2D, CG and Digital Matte Painting to the international film and television industry.
The BlueBolt team has extensive experience on productions of all scales and pride itself on delivering the very best quality and service from concept and pre-production, through shoot supervision to final delivery.
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