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Skip to 0 minutes and 13 secondsIt's probably best described as mass animation. So whenever we have large-scale armies or big schools of fish or flocks of birds or herds of mammoth or even waves of zombies and things like that, that's the kind of work that we traditionally do. At a basic level, we're essentially taking a whole bunch of animations of a creature's motion.

Skip to 0 minutes and 42 secondsWe're then replicating that many hundreds slash or thousands of times. And what we're doing then is we're adding little bits of behaviour to these guys so that they understand that, OK, when I reach this point here, I maybe have to change my animation clips so I start waving or if I'm a hit with a boulder or something, I have to fall over. It's a lot easier than it used to be nowadays. There are off-the-shelf packages that offer training packages. There's such things as Golaem and Miarmy. I think even Massive now has like training courses which are traditional software packages have been used for crowd in the past.

Skip to 1 minute and 21 secondsThe main thing that you generally look for in crowd TDs is good logic and reasoning, and then definitely a good understanding of computer graphics at quite a technical level, so algebra, programming, that kind of stuff. Some of the stuff that we did lately on World War Z is probably some of the more challenging stuff we had. We did a lot of stuff, I mean, kind of like this shot over here, like really, really in your face hero stuff, which for us is-- it doesn't come around that often. Generally we're the guys looking after the small things in the background. But on this one, we were like full-screen, in your face. And then there's a few examples of that stuff.

Skip to 2 minutes and 5 secondsI mean, we had a whole range of different challenges on that one, from the pyramids through to zombies crashing into each other. Probably in terms of interesting-wise, probably some of the work that we actually ended up doing on Fantastic Four, just due to its complexity. So something that not traditionally we would ever even really have thought about doing in crowd would be trees and things. And that was a request that came in. They were like, OK, do you think you guys can do anything with this? And we had a bit of sit-down and a think. It's kind of like, um, possibly. So in the end, it panned out pretty well.

Skip to 2 minutes and 42 secondsBut yeah, I think that one was most enjoyable in a way. Very last minute, bit of a change, and something completely off the wall from anything we'd ever done before.

Future film: Crowd Simulation

MPC is a global creative studio famed for crafting spectacular visual experiences in any space, on any screen.

They have been one of the global leaders in VFX for over 25 years (and counting), with industry-leading facilities in London, Vancouver, Montréal, Los Angeles, New York, Amsterdam, Paris, Bangalore, Shanghai and Mexico City. Some of their most famous projects include blockbuster movies such as Godzilla, the Harry Potter franchise, X-Men, Prometheus and Life of Pi, and famous advertising campaigns for brands such as Samsung, Coca Cola, Sony, Three Mobile and Channel 4.

As demand for VFX spectacles grow, MPC must keep innovating, and that’s what the Crowd Simulation department led by Adam Davis does.

In this video, Adam describes what a Crowd TD (technical director) does, and how you get into ‘Crowd Sim’ in the first place. Adam points out that this kind of software is now “off the shelf” and so freely available, rather than the property of just the big companies. You may also have noticed that it works using AI or Artificial Intelligence that allows some individual behaviours or actions to be dialled in to the crowds, thus making the masses more believable, with the appearance of individual behaviours.

It’s said that one of the hardest things to do in small low budget films is get lots of actors, and therefore think about big scenes. Well, later in this course we’ll be showing you how you can use guerrilla style VFX to make your own crowds without specialist software. We might not be able to do MPC quality digital crowd simulation, but we will be showing you a low-budget, simple technique for creating crowds later!

Often large crowds in movies denote battles or some kind of chaos. Can you think of any scenario where you could use crowds which weren’t about violence and panic? As Adam says Crowd Sim needn’t be about people- anything could be made into a crowd, a swarm, a flock or a herd. What kind of crowds might you like to see in a movie? Are there any circumstances where you’d need a multiple of something for your plans? The technology is no good without ideas, so let’s hear some ideas in the Comments below!

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This video is from the free online course:

Visual Effects for Guerrilla Filmmakers

Norwich University of the Arts (NUA)

Get a taste of this course

Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join:

  • Storyboards are only one way to communicate. Lets look at some VFX definitions.
    Visual effects or special effects?

    Like any creative subject it helps to share definitions about what things mean -this can be confusing for newcomers; it'll help us communicate better.

  • Tracking and layers: a gentle start
    Tracking and layers: a gentle start

    HitFilm guru Simon Jones shows us how to build a dramatic shot in HitFilm using layers of stock footage we provide on the course. Enjoy your 'comping'

  • The Blaine Brothers guide to using VFX
    The Blaine Brothers guide to using VFX

    The Blaine Brothers have a positive can-do attitude to VFX, and see it as a tool that should be used in the service of a story, not as decoration.

  • Still from Georges Méliès' "India Rubber Head" (1901)
    A short history of keying

    Keying isnt just a digital invention. From the early days of cinema in the 19th century film makers had used 'mattes' to amaze their audiences.

  • Insider tips on shooting green screen
    Insider tips on shooting green screen

    Justin Hunt, our long suffering director of photography for our HitFilm footage has years of experience of green screen to share with you here.

  • Cab Calloway (1932) Minnie the Moocher
    What is Rotoscoping?

    Rotoscoping is probably the most time-consuming of VFX techniques. It's often a last resort when you can't pull a key. Let's find out more about it.

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