L'Atelier Animation populates New York streets with Golaem

Fireheart is L'Atelier Animation's second animated feature film about the story of a young woman New York firefighter. L'Atelier Animation populated Broadway with cars and pedestrians. Akie Prapas, Layout Supervisor, tell us about their workflow.

Can you present yourself and the studio?
My name is Akie Prapas - I’m a Layout Supervisor at L'Atelier Animation, which is a 3D Animation Studio located in Montreal. We work on Feature, Series and Special Projects. I was also the layout supervisor of Fireheart our previous movie.

What was the size of your team and how long have you worked on this project?
The crowd team was limited in size: a handful of TDs and artists. Our work spanned over a few months, which was just enough for us to be able to complete all tasks.

Can you describe how many shots you did and which kind of shots?
We did 182 shots using Golaem for our production - Mainly city and sidewalk crowds, including some car traffic.

How many characters are there in the shot? How close are they from the camera?
There could have been up to 50,000 characters at a time, especially on some larger/wider shots. In addition, we also had to do a few hundred cars to better represent the city traffic of Manhattan, which is where our main story takes place.

Layout master shot from which other shots could be built/completed

Could you give a bit of details about the challenges or features used in the shots? Did you use Golaem traffic features?
We used the Golaem traffic and stop lights feature extensively. 

We began with a city-street grid, which was arranged to create continuous traffic. The shots would then be tweaked per shot, using the Golaem Layout tools. 

In terms of challenges, we sometimes felt that to get a more natural simulation giving the feeling of 1920's Manhattan. we would have need more interactions between characters (bumping, avoiding, walking/running around each other...).  Because of our limited animation library, time/budget constraint and our beginner level of Golaem, we sometime had to simplify things a bit.

How did the Layout help you make the shots faster?
Golaem Layout was a key tool for us. 

It allowed us to be more efficient with our workflow on the master simulation, simply thanks to the adaptability of the software : We were able to tweak, add or reduce crowd, adjust speeds and so on, as per the Director’s notes, and on a shot by shot basis.

Detail of a shot layout in progress

Is there a part of the project you are most proud of or which prevented you from sleeping?
I remember being very proud and happy with the master simulation.

We were unsure whether crowd running and crossing the streets and/or traffic was going to be part of the simulation planning at all, because it was more complex to setup. Therefore, we had to come up with a custom simulation, just in case it was needed. While we didn’t have much chance to explore more of the features available, the Layout tools and customization per shot proved to be of valuable for this.

Anything else you would like to add?
Golaem is an awesome software - I am looking forward to using it again on our next projects and exploring more of all the tools available.

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