Circus populates Lego City Adventures Series with Golaem

Discover how French VFX and Animation studio Circus used Golaem to populate cities with pedestrians and car traffic for entire seasons of Lego City Adventures Series.

Can you present yourself and the studio? 
My name is Johann Quere, Head of Vfx and Crowd Simulation at Circus.
Circus is a VFX and Animation studio based in the center Paris for 12 years.
We work on feature film projects, fiction documentaries, TV series, commercials, and theme park attractions. We are currently working on next season of Lego City Adventures Series (produced by Passion Paris) and an animated feature film “Around The world” (produced by Cottonwood Media). We have developed many in-house tools, a flexible and robust pipeline, and automation system to meet our needs.

What was the size of your crowd team and how long have you worked on crowds for this project? 
During the production of the show, that last for two years, it was a full time job for a TD. At some points, two or three people were involved in the layout process. These versatile artists from the Layout department, easily handled the Golaem Layout tools, and were rapidly able to layout different shots. 

Can you describe the shots you used Golaem for on Lego City Adventure? 
Golaem was used to populate the city, organize people in theater, public places or crowd rows of seats in the junkyard’s race. Early in the process of creating the city we anticipated the sidewalk population. This crowd is a part of big modular asset describing a part of the city. We create a big diversity in the population of the crowd (men, women, old, young, different clothes design and different behaviors and emotions...) 

What is the number of characters you had in a Golaem shot? How close are they from the camera? 
In the shots there were from one to a hundred agents, however we manage about 700 crowd shots on season 1 and again more on season 2. There was not any difference between agents and regular characters in terms of look and quality, so it was not a big deal to bring them close to the camera, like medium close-up or dirty single shot. 

Can you explain how you used Golaem Traffic Behaviors to animate cars? 
Once we build our vehicles agents which contain one or more Lego characters, and describe the city road with a network of line segments, the Golaem Traffic behaviors worked perfectly. The result is really cool and brings a lot of life to the streets of the city. This is a real added value for the series. 

How did the Layout help you making the shots faster? 
Creating the crowd in the streets was a combination of long range simulation (8000+ frames) for the people walking on the sidewalks, and layout of cache. Each time it was not necessary to simulate, we use Layout, it’s a faster way to set a shot or a sequence from an initial template of crowd. It is a great tool to adjust the generic crowd of the city in a particular shot. 

Is there something in this project you are most proud of or which prevented you from sleeping? 
First, we are super proud to have managed to keep pace with this serie while enriching our images with the crowds. we were able to integrate crowds into many shots of season 1. Goalem accompanies us again on Season 2 and we were able use the crowds on an even higher shot percentage. 

One of the challenges we had with Golaem, was the way the Lego agent faces are animated. The facial expression are driven by switching local textures which we drive using blind data. However Golaem being done to blend motions automatically, we have to kind of disable this when we deal with the face animation part so that the switch is instantaneous. 
Also we wanted to have a very long cache of people cycling around building blocks, but it the sidewalks being relatively narrow, the task was not so easy and we had to use vector fields to control them precisely. 

Anything else you would like to add? 
Thanks to the Golaem team for their responsive support. It is a precious help for our artists.