Story of a Crowd Artist: William Bobant

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?
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