Hi there, my name is Artur Szóstakowski. I am a CG artist and architect based in Poland. In the past, I often used static people to display human activities in my architectural design. Recently I was introduced to 3D character animation so I decided to integrate animated 3D people to my work.
My first task was to find a viable solution, including fully controllable rigged characters, realistic 3D motions, and a tool which can put everything together nicely. I was so happy to find all I needed in one company, Reallusion with their well-integrated workflow that was ready for the Blender pipeline.
So this is my first attempt to migrate from static to animated visualization, using 3D content from ActorCore, iClone and Blender software. This article demonstrates my workflow so that everyone in archviz can easily understand how I have achieved it and get their hands on it quickly.
Riverside is an architectural animation project which I’ve developed with an intent to work on a solution for adding animated 3D people to my pipeline. I created an urban environment that would reflect some possibilities for daily interactions of pedestrians and I made use of 3D characters and 3D motions from the ActorCore store together with the iClone animation software.
Here you can watch how I have populated my project with animated 3D people:
I started with gathering ideas and references for the project and I made use of PureRef software for that. It is really a simple tool for organizing images into a collage which is very useful when looking for some inspirations.
I decided that I wanted to explore an urban environment with a river that would reflect the architecture. I thought that would be a nice setup for pedestrians, as usually similar places in cities are popular destinations for outdoor activities and meetings.
Working on the Scene
First, I built a basic architectural model together with the site which I could experiment with. For modeling and rendering, I used Blender together with some useful add-ons like E-Cycles, scatter, vegetation and Poliigon plug-in for textures.
I made sure all the elements which I planned from the beginning were in the project. I added some green areas between the river and the building and I worked on the background to give it a solid urban feel.
Adding 3D People
Now it was time to add 3D people in the scene and see how they could interact with the project. Here I would like to show how I did this for the first part of the animation which is a shot of a moving camera with jogging people.
I went to the ActorCore website and picked the right model for the scene. There are hundreds of 3D people for all kinds of scenarios. I clicked the Actor tab and then the Sportswear category to look for a good asset. I could view my selected model in the 3D preview window and check it with sample motions and lighting.
When I got the right model, it was time to find motions. Again I clicked the Motion tab on the website. There are even more motions — thousands of them! The contents are well organized by category and theme. I could also use keywords or tags to narrow down my search and find the relevant motions. I looked specifically for jogging motions and chose the one I wanted. By clicking on that motion, once again, I could see a preview of the motion together with the model I picked earlier. In this way, I was able to confirm the model and animation were exactly what I was looking for before purchasing them.
After selecting my jogger and the motion, I went to the checkout and then opened iClone. In iClone, I loaded up my model together with the motion and I checked to make sure they were compatible.
One of the useful features of iClone is motion blending. I was amazed how easily I could blend motion clips together with perfect motion alignment. I also used animation layer editing to alter some sequences on top of those mocap clips.
I was happy with the results so I exported everything as FBX for use in Blender.
Getting Started in Blender
For fast and easy importing of characters and motions, I used the Auto Setup for Blender add-on offered by Reallusion to bring my FBX model to Blender. It automatically converted the materials and shaders of the model with a correct look in Blender, saving me time and effort for all the material settings.
In Blender I could place the model wherever I wanted and for that I designed a nice path along the river and the main building so everything played out in the center of the animation.
As for the animation, I wanted to add a slow camera movement revealing the main building from within some vegetation models. I added keyframes to the camera and moved it around 3 meters from first to the last 400th frame. Lastly, to push the visual side of the animation, I added vegetation like grass, animated trees and bushes from the vegetation addon which has pre-generated keyframed motions that you can adjust for your scene.
It is also good to check if the motions on the 3D people play out nicely within the timeline. I thought that revealing the jogging person midway into the animation is the best way to showcase it since at the beginning viewers will need a few seconds to familiarize themselves with the building, and just before they lose their attention, a person would be jogging into the camera – that will definitely help keeping viewers’ attention and in that way we won’t show all the interesting aspects at the same time.
Overall, it was an exciting exploration for me to break the barrier from static archviz presentations. Now I can easily build a simulation with lively people, making my projects much more interesting and realistic.
And this is a very simple process of adding 3D people to an architecture project which I would recommend to any archviz artist, especially if you are familiar with Blender. I learned a lot about animation and managing a heavy architectural 3D scene to work properly for the animation.
ActorCore assets turned out to be really useful. You can simply choose models and animations in the store, and apply them to Blender without any trouble. Using iClone, you can edit motions even if you are new to animation. I fully encourage you to give ActorCore and iClone a try and work on 3D character animations for your next archviz project.
Artur Szóstakowski’s ArtStation: https://www.artstation.com/megatecture