Speeding up the creation of digital crowd scenes

Domestos after 1

Outpost VFX claims to have dramatically reduced the time it takes to render digital crowd scenes by combining a crowd simulator with a GPU renderer.

The breakthrough came while the firm was working on several recent productions, with the research and development resulting in the Outpost team being able to make the GPU renderer Redshift and the crowd simulation tool Golaem Crowd “talk to each other”.

This resulted in huge speed enhancements when rendering crowd scenes. “Using the GPU-based render farm we have on site, we were achieving render times as low as 15 minutes per frame for a crowd of 20,000 CG characters,” said marketing manager Steve Holmes.

By way of comparison, the same scene with a CPU renderer would have taken two to three hours to render, he added.

Outpost used the renderer on a production for the first time during its work on a recent commercial for Domestos (pictured), for which it created ‘crowds’ of animated germs.

“We now have an established render pipeline to achieve these incredible speeds, which means it can be implemented across all genres of work,” said Holmes. “We can enable movie-quality VFX in crowd scenes at a fraction of the time, which would ideally suit centre-piece TV such as high-end dramas.”