ICE Crowds in "Now You See Me" (making-of/breakdown video)

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Alan Fregtman

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Sep 13, 2013, 12:59:56 PM9/13/13
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Rodeo FX has just put up a short reel of the crowds we did for "Now You See Me" to fill the MGM Grand stage with the help of ICE and Arnold...



It's not done with CrowdFX as SI|2013 was in beta while this was being made and they didn't need to be too intelligent, so we went with a bunch of nice cycle instancing tools and stationary particle instances. There were various variations of animation clips of various different variations of people.

Animation was mocap captured with iPiSoft's playstation-eye-based mocap software, then cleaned up in MotionBuilder, brought back into Softimage (thanks to the MotionBuilder template rig) and caches exported out.

The cycles were in one long timeline of one clip after another and we stored start & end frame numbers along with an array of ICE strings (of the cycle names.) We might have "clappingA", "clappingB", "clappingC" with different frame ranges and then we had a neat ICE compound where you could give it in a substring (eg. "clapping") and it would find all variations for that name and randomly assign those frame ranges and cycle.

If I recall correctly the general behaviours were: standing idle looking around, clapping normally, clapping hyperenthusiastically with bonus fistpumping, and grabbing money bills from the air. There were three or so variations of each.

Furthermore, the crowd on the floor near the stage is CG, but the one in the stadium seats is actually 2D cards of footage of real people -- Rodeo employees, in fact -- doing various motions, instanced in Nuke with some scripted magic. (I was not involved with the 2D crowd so that's as much as I know.)

The 3D crowd models are Rodeo folks too, by the way. I'm among them, as are most of my coworkers. We used some software with the Microsoft Kinect to get some general 3D scan meshes of us as a reference for volume/form, but they were modeled by hand as the scan wasn't quite perfect as-is. It was super helpful to have the scans though! Its pretty amazing how often you can tell people apart from their silhouette/stance alone.

I co-developed the ICE side of it together with Jonathan Laborde (who is in the list and probably reading this.) Hats off to my other fellow coworkers who modeled, textured, lit and comped everything so well. :) Teamwork!


Cheers,

   -- Alan

Alan Fregtman

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Sep 13, 2013, 1:07:38 PM9/13/13
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Forgot to add: The MGM Grand spinning shot is actually 3 different plates stitched together.

Michael Clarke

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Sep 13, 2013, 1:12:44 PM9/13/13
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Beautiful work, Alan. 



Michael Clarke Design
Blue C Studios

Mathieu Leclaire

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Sep 13, 2013, 2:00:59 PM9/13/13
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Funny... we did something very similar for Jappeloup here at Hybride. We had 404 crowds shots to do in 5 or 6 different locations with different clothing styles. Some agents where to be seen very close to camera so we created high resolution geometry for the agents with ICE logic to mix various textures, clothing items, hair styles, etc. and we pre-baked a ton of cloth and hair simulations. We lined them all up on the timeline like you did and then artists put probabilities for each cycle appearing and it would randomly chose depending on the probabilities. We had about 50 animations cycles pre-baked for each man and woman agents. We started developing our deep compositing pipeline for this show since we though Arnold wouldn't be handle to handle all that high res geometry (some crowds where over 80 000 high res agents) but Arnold chewed everything up so we only finished our deep compositing pipeline a few months later for use on White House Down. We used the actual Ubisoft mo-cap studio to do all our mocap. We also created a 2D cards agent system as well with a few tricks to allow us to actually relight the footage in the cards. Those also gave very good results, but sometimes, having full 3D agents made it easier to integrate. It depended on the situation really. And we reused the same techniques for the Opera House in Smurf 2 as well and a very similar approach for our White House Down crowds. We don't have any making-of yet (we've been crazy busy for the past 2 years), but once we do, I'll gladly share. It's funny how various studios use similar techniques with the same softwares.

-Mathieu


Guillaume Laforge

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Sep 13, 2013, 3:27:29 PM9/13/13
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It's funny how various studios use similar techniques with the same softwares.

Should be "the same game oriented software". ;-P

Eric Thivierge

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Sep 13, 2013, 3:32:59 PM9/13/13
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You think this is a GAME!?!?!?! :P

Marc-Andre Carbonneau

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Sep 13, 2013, 4:20:04 PM9/13/13
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Hey we do crowds no problem here...you should know! ;)

Alan Fregtman

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Sep 13, 2013, 4:22:35 PM9/13/13
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Hey guys,

Rodeo has put up a full breakdown reel of this and other work for the film:

Enjoy! :)

Alan Fregtman

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Sep 27, 2013, 4:53:09 PM9/27/13
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If anyone's interested, Rodeo's put up a few more nice making-of videos:

http://vimeo.com/74730094 (this is my fav)
http://vimeo.com/74729133
http://vimeo.com/75252736

ICE used for the MGM ground crowds, the falling money (and some of the bills being sucked into the vents) and the fancy motiongraphic'y "projection" animated cubey stuff on the walls of the building shot.

Sebastien Sterling

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Sep 27, 2013, 6:41:01 PM9/27/13
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Crowd sym's are like a game and there are rules and you have to follow them CAUSE ITS NOT A GAME !

Baffling work Rodeo people, for a film about magic tricks, looks like there was a lot more magic on screen then the average viewer would expect :)


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Jens Lindgren

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Sep 28, 2013, 11:02:05 AM9/28/13
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This is just awesome work Alan!
Really like the making offs. It's probably the most in-depth making offs I've ever seen.
 
/Jens
--
Jens Lindgren
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Lead Technical Director

Rob Chapman

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Sep 28, 2013, 11:15:53 AM9/28/13
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Am insisting on lidar scans for every job from now onwards! :)

Adam Seeley

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Sep 28, 2013, 11:25:10 AM9/28/13
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It's a good one to show clients who assume you just press the "make stadium" & "populate stadium"  buttons.

Adam.


From: Rob Chapman <tekan...@gmail.com>
To: soft...@listproc.autodesk.com
Sent: Saturday, 28 September 2013, 16:15
Subject: Re: ICE Crowds in "Now You See Me" (making-of/breakdown video)

olivier jeannel

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Sep 28, 2013, 12:34:25 PM9/28/13
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Very instructive !
Even the 2d crowd could have be generated with ice.

How long did you work on this project ?

Alan Fregtman

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Sep 29, 2013, 1:02:19 PM9/29/13
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I don't remember exactly. I feel like it was something like 4 to 6 months or thereabouts. Obviously it didn't take all that time to get the crowd going, but there was tweaking here and there for a while through towards the end. Same goes for the ICE money, where we met some motionblur issues. (Protip: Don't emit new particles and turn that to geometry expecting to get motionblur, because the point count changes and 

I spent a few weeks in the beginning putting together a Softimage integration/plugin of http://www.mit.edu/~ibaran/autorig/ that would produce motionbuilder-mocap-ready rigs (enveloped skeleton) in seconds after minutes of minor human guidance. I'd like to release it if Rodeo will let me; don't know if or when it'll happen. The Pinocchio thingy can make a very good guess of a humanoid skeleton given a sealed mesh, and it produces heatmap-based automatic weighting for the produced skeleton that is like 90% awesome. You can crank out a ton of humanoids really quickly and refine a bit after you see some mocap on it.

As for the 2D crowd, yes, it could've totally been in ICE, but doing them in Nuke's very powerful 3D-capable compositing engine allowed for faster iterations and more control in post. That's the beauty of importing matchmoved cg cams into Nuke!

Furthermore, to echo Rob's sentiment, HELL YEAH!! LIDAR scans are SO goddamn helpful. In matchmoving and to get modeling perfect, they're awesome to have. You can even import the geo into Nuke, import the cg camera and you can get started before CG is even started. Need a lens flare in one spot? Just match it to the LIDAR vertex up there in the corner and BAM! It's tracked almost perfectly.

Tim Crowson

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Sep 30, 2013, 9:56:17 AM9/30/13
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Cool stuff! It's great to see what kinds of solutions people come up with in Nuke, too!

-Tim
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