Crowd control with Golaem 9

Includes updated animation engine for improved quality of crowd characters.

Karen Moltenbrey

Golaem, maker of crowd simulation software of the same name for Maya, has recently announced Version 9 of its tool. With a new animation engine that makes character mapping easier, Golaem 9 features a number of new tools and capabilities including Crowd Level for building shots incrementally, track locator navigation for shaping crowds along the directed path, foot locking for foot-to-ground contact, and Create Entity and PlayMotion Layout nodes for populating characters from scratch and animating them. There are also UI improvements to facilitate ease of use.

(Source: Golaem)

The gripping Arc De Triomphe scene in John Wick 4 has the lead character fighting for his life as he dodges baddies while a plethora of vehicles whiz past in the multiple lanes of heavy traffic around the monument. The animated feature Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, set in New York City, integrates recognizable environments as the superheroes battle foes in their quest to for public acceptance, and a major element of those locations are the throngs of people—as many as 500 in a scene. In one film, VFX artists generated hundreds of realistic vehicles; in the other, hundreds of stylized cartoon characters. In both of those 2023 films, those crowds were generated using an early version of Golaem 9.

Controlling crowds—in this case, digital crowds—is never easy, but it can be. Studios have been using Golaem Crowd simulation software for well over a decade to simulate crowds of characters, traffic simulations, and flocking simulations for everything from birds to fish to spaceships. In addition, Golaem has GPU cloth simulation and skinned fur support.

This latest version, which was recently announced, elevates the quality level of crowd characters to hero characters, according to the company. Golaem 9 provides universal joint rig animation support and direct animation replay. Also, users can add secondary simulations on top of selected characters following the main simulation pass. A beta ML Deformer node for reproducing advanced character deformations on top of crowds has been added as well.

A new animation engine further makes the character mapping process easier. The engine alleviates some previous input constraints, so artists can animate any type of character.

The new version also introduces the ability for artists to build shots incrementally, starting with an initial crowd sim and then add additional passes. The new Crowd Levels paradigm blurs the lines between simulation and layout, enabling artists to take advantage of the best of both worlds to create a shot.

Golaem 9 also supports:

  • Native motion format inputs (FBX, USD, BVH), enabling artists to play animations directly on their crowd characters. 
  • 9 DOF animation rig support, giving riggers and animators more flexibility to create advanced characters and motion.
  • Modular rig support without relying on secondary skeleton mapping, allowing animators to work with the same structure as they do with hero characters. (The company says this the first commercial crowd software to offer this support.)

The company has added new features for additional control of crowds, including track locator navigation for shaping the crowds along the directed path, and foot locking for foot-to-ground contact.  With the Create Entity and PlayMotion Layout nodes, users can populate characters from scratch and animate them. Golaem 9 also boasts UI and workflow improvements such as a custom skeleton display, new mesh-level LOD workflow, and new Chops nodes.

Golaem 9 is compatible with all Maya versions from 2020 to 2024 and provides integrations with SideFX’s Houdini, Epic’s Unreal Engine, Foundry’s Katana, Autodesk’s 3ds Max, and all USD-compatible platforms like Unity or Nvidia Omniverse.

The new Crowd Levels paradigm lets artists build a shot incrementally. (Source: Golaem)