Skip main navigation

Future film: Crowd Simulation

MPC give us a sneak preview behind their doors. In his first public interview we hear from Adam Davis, Head of Crowd Simulation and Motion Capture.

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!

This article is from the free online

Visual Effects for Guerrilla Filmmakers

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now