One of the jewels of the latest update to Character Creator 4 is the Optimize and Decimate tool that provides four levels of detail from 60K to .8K. Yes, less than 1k each at the most optimized preset level. There is also a powerful custom setting with lots of customizable areas.
Combine Optimize and Decimate with Motion Director and you can create a small to medium-sized crowd in little time, with little effort depending on the mix of the crowd. For this article I chose an astronaut model, from Sketchfab - "Cooper" (https://skfb.ly/JFSw) by Julien Hondaâ is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/) and blackened the visor so I wouldn’t have to deal with different faces variations.
Original Left at 9K, Middle has LOD 1 at 7K, Right LOD 2 at .798K
I exported it as FBX from Blender and dragged it into Character Creator 4 to rig it with AccuRIG. I didn’t need any facial expressions, so this gave me the leanest route. AccuRIG had it going with just a few clicks and no work on my part. All the astronauts are the same size but it’s just a learning experience so cinematic perfection is on the back burner.
From Character Creator 4, after removing the nametag in Photoshop, I sent the astronaut over to iClone 8.1 to create the crowd. These would be simple crowds that wandered around a select area like a primitive floor prop or followed a series of mouse clicks. Nothing complex or difficult. They would weigh out at .798K each so 20 astronauts are less than 20K.
With the updated Live Link, I was able to send the landing pads that I was going to populate directly from Unreal Engine to iClone with a right-click menu choice. No export or import. The models come over with no texture in one of three forms: as is, merged, and simplified. I used the simplified version.
For my setup, I turned off the textures and effects in iClone as I didn’t need them, and it really sped up the way Unreal reacted to timeline scrubs. This also sped up working in iClone in general as the props, though simplified, were still poly-heavy. One thing to remember is the render will be smooth from Unreal even if it appeared to stutter while recording the crowd motion during the Live Link session.
The Custom Choices show the Mesh Section. Lots of selections within the four categories for customization.
In iClone I use the right-click and drag method to duplicate three astronauts. Then selected all three and duplicated them in progressive steps until I had around 22 or so characters for the landing pad crowds. More than enough to fill the scene in one area.
Since they were duplicated, they all had the same walk but the random placement of using a floor prop for them to wander around took care of that problem and made it less obvious to the camera. All I did was run Motion Director and let them wander randomly. I controlled any collisions by making sure the floor mesh didn’t get near any obstacles like the landing gear.
I also used point and click to move one astronaut from a kiosk to the ship and then up the ramp as Motion Director respects mesh surfaces. The mechanics of creating the crowd are very simple. Setup one character in this instance, duplicate and give them a random area to roam then send them back to Unreal.
Live Link session with iClone to Unreal Engine
The main takeaway I have from a custom iClone crowd over an Anima crowd is how much better it runs than the Anima crowd and how easy it is to precisely place the crowd where you need it without any export and import between apps. The Live Link connection between iClone 8 and Unreal Engine is robust enough to transfer large crowds that are more easily animated, particularly customization, in iClone versus Unreal.
M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord, is an international award-winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director, and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. Now retired, M.D. is currently working part-time on writing and select character development projects. You can learn more about MD on his website.