One of the major flaws to a lot of animated scenes is the lack of people present in the scene. While this is improving there are still a lot of good scenes out there that have less than a half dozen actors in them with some only having one or two characters. While this works for some setups it does not work for creating a busy office or hotel lobby, restaurant, or other public place.
A hotel lobby may be mostly empty at certain times of the day and night but not all the time. In a lot of cases, it comes down to a lack of resources to make a crowd. Even a small one. Crowd solutions are not cheap and low poly characters, while becoming more plentiful are still not widely available.
It’s difficult to give a sense of a busy office or lobby without a lot of people but one thing to remember in animation is that a few can look can a lot in the right situation with the right character assets. That being said, it still takes upwards of twenty to thirty or more characters to make a convincing outdoor scene in a busy public area.
The demonstration video of this pack is at the bottom of this article including details on the project used for review testing.
This can be different in an office-type situation, or part of a hotel lobby like the main desk or elevator area. They don’t need a huge crowd, but they do need people. Even if you only look at a half dozen to a dozen people you are still talking about having to create or acquire significant resources so paying attention to the versatility of those resources becomes very important.
If you lay out some hard-earned dollars on ten to twelve or more characters, then they need to be able to be easily duplicated and colors changed from hair and skin down to the clothing and shoes so you can use them in a lot of situations going forward, not just the project in hand.
Reallusion has provided just such a pack with its Business Crowd Set. This set is not only low poly with pro-grade clothing and 3D scans but also contains some very important maps like an RGB mask for skin, hair, and teeth and a Color ID Mask for outfits, accessories, and eyes.
As you can see from the image above these maps cover specific areas like the skin, clothing, and other parts of the character. There is one hitch though: you must drag and drop a tool, proved by Reallusion, onto the character to access the Substance texture layers. It’s just a simple drag and drop then, by the digital magic of the Reallusion engineers, you have sliders available within the texture menu that were not visible previously.
DRAG AND DROP TOOL
The drag and drop tool will activate the Substance tool allowing us to alter the newly available sliders for Color, Roughness, Metallic, Ambient Occlusion, Glow, and Mask.
This modifier is supplied by Reallusion and must be dragged and dropped onto the character directly otherwise you will not see the sliders necessary to make easy edits like color changes. If iClone is up to date this modifier should already be in your Substance folder in the materials section.
This is a great feature of these actorSCAN characters. The Substance tool can be a time saver in diversifying the characters into a much larger crowd with different color clothing and skin tones. If, like this pack, you use fifteen characters, you can drag and drop the material modifier on the first set of characters and duplicate them for additional crowd or background characters quickly creating a larger crowd than just the initial set of characters.
DRAG AND DROP PROCESS
Initially, you notice the Substance section of the Modify Material Menu is blank and inaccessible. After activation with the modifier, the section will become active, and the sliders will be available after checking the appropriate boxes to make them visible.
DRILLING DOWN TO THE SLIDERS
Clicking the available checkboxes will bring up the RGB Mask and Color ID Mask making their subsections available, and you can click your way down through the Tweak RGB and Tweak Color ID menu.
Experimentation is highly encouraged in this area. If you are not sure what each slider does, then use them, as you can always reload the character if it gets away from you. Experimenting is part of 3D animation. No matter how many tools we are given there always be something not covered by an available tool or method that you must solve by other means.
It can also lead to undocumented methods never envisioned by the development team which might even lead to further development of the discovery. Such was the case many years ago when I first brought destructible props into iClone after physics was introduced. They would run, for a bit, then crash. Before long a Reallusion dev had stabilized the procedure and Reallusion issued a patch.
This is just one example of how Reallusion pays attention to its user base. Don’t get “married” to a few or a certain set of sliders in iClone or Character Creator. When time allows, experiment, play around, and push iClone to the limits of what can and cannot be done.
HUE AND OTHER SLIDERS
I like the Hue slider as it is a time-saving tool just like the Adjust Color popup. It gives you many color variations in a short time. While there are input boxes, it is very quick to go through the sliders just to see their effects.
HAIR COLOR EXAMPLE
In this case, I just wanted an older-looking man and extras like these are usually not in close-ups. A simple hair desaturation and lightning would do the trick quickly and painlessly and, in this case, would pass in a closeup as well.
It only takes a few times using the modifying sliders to see what they can do and how they can help save you a lot of work in building up a business crowd or even a bar crowd after work.
The test scene was set up in a high poly design studio environment with simple lighting that utilizes HDR, Tone, and IBL lighting. This project had 25 avatars that can be used from closeup on out with good results in a final render. This, of course, depends on the lighting like any render.
As you can see the scene contains 25 avatars and 149 props as the major assets. I built this scene on an older 2017 Intel i7 HP Omen instead of my newer XPS i9 to see how it would handle it.
It was a pleasant scene build without any thought given to the fact that it was a five-plus-year-old HP system. It did start to react a little sluggishly towards the end but could have held more avatars if needed.
I worked in the minimal view mode when it started to drag a bit and had no problem working with the test scene in either minimal or full mode.
This type of scene would have been very hard to work with just a few years ago but the old Omen breezed through building out the scene, animating, and testing the characters.
To be honest, my Intel i9 is not that much faster or quicker to respond than the older Intel i7 and this scene presented no issues. I could work in full mode at any time.
TIP: You can use Depth of Field (DOF) to blur characters into the background to further disguise the usage of duplicated characters.
These characters are lower poly than most standard characters, so they won’t tax the engine as much and are multitudes lower than many competing character solutions. While a high poly character makes for a great image render, running several low poly characters in the same poly budget is a real plus for animated renders.
Oh, by the way, I got this far and haven’t even mentioned another great feature. You can edit these characters in Character Creator. Since they are actorSCAN the morph sliders are not available but other tools like Optimize and Decimate, Edit Mesh, Adjust Bones and Proportion are available.
The next time you need a business crowd, the Business–Crowd Set – Vol. 1 can go a long way towards filling out a conference room, staff meeting or even a small auditorium.
MD McCallum – WarLord
Digital Artist MD “Mike” McCallum, aka WarLord, is a longtime iClone user. Having authored free tutorials for iClone in its early years and selected to write the iClone Beginners Guide from Packt Publishing in 2011, he was fortunate enough to meet and exchange tricks and tips with users from all over the world and loves to share this information with other users. He has authored hundreds of articles on iClone and digital art in general while reviewing some of the most popular software and hardware in the world. He has been published in many of the leading 3D online and print magazines while staying true to his biggest passion, 3D animation. For more information click here.