At the recent Autodesk University 2011 in Las Vegas we showed a Crowd Sourced AU Legal Disclaimer before the general session keynote. The first word crowd sourced was “Autodesk” by Ian Nies and was made up of a crowd of 3D walking characters. The crowd of characters was generated using the free Project Geppetto technology preview for 3ds Max/3ds Max Design 2012. It gives you 3D godlike power to create armies of characters for an animation sequence. Imagine if you have a new shopping center, campus, lobby in a 3D rendered animation proposal and want to add a more realistic context to the animation by having independent walking crowds. It sure beats those still life human characters in 3D animations.
Here is the video of Project Geppetto and the word “Autodesk”
See the behind the scenes of the Crowd Sourced Legal Disclaimer and the other entries: Crowd Sourced Edition Legal Disclaimer at Autodesk University 2011– Behind the Scenes
Autodesk Project Geppetto is the result of over 5 years of research called “People Power”. The basic idea is to try to assemble all the components you would need to create, manage, and control large crowds of characters. Imagine using several unique 3D characters that can avoid obstacles as well as each other in your rendering to add an additional level of realism to your animation. Project Geppetto is also quite fun to create crowds of people and may in the future be expanded to allow even more realistic bipeds, actions, and customization. This motion technology in the future might be applicable to other characters such as dogs, snakes, etc…Getting Started Video
Using Project Geppetto
Using Project Geppetto after installation is rather simple to create a 3D animated crowd especially when compared to what animators currently have to do in order to create an animated walking crowd.
Project Geppetto Ribbon tab
- You go to the new People tab on the ribbon and then select the “Create Crowd” which places a Orchestrator aka gizmo in the scene. You can only have one currently in the technology preview.
- Now select to create a freeform path or idle area crowds. You can create an intersection by making one Flow overlap another but currently this is limited to one intersection.
- When you set your paths and/or idle character areas select the number of frames you want the animation, the default is 300 frames which is about 10 seconds of animation at 30 frames per second (fps).
- You can preview the results and see red (female) and blue (male) indicators of the number of characters to be simulated as well as their direction of travel.
- You can modify the mix of male versus female and density by selecting the path or idle area then > Modify and adjust the sliders.
- Now bring them to life and set them free by selecting “Simulate”.
Here you can see my paths of freeform crowd characters. You can change the display on the ribbon tab to hide the paths.http://youtu.be/jpUwgVoje9I
Hacking Project Geppetto
The current technology preview has some limitations as it is an early version of the technology and will be evolved over time. I spent a great deal of time to go beyond the default functionality to not only satisfy my inner 3D geek but to see what could be done and answer others questions on this evolving and amazing technology. Some of the knowledge was gained by hacking and experimenting and some was confirmed or clues from the team like Ian Nies and others on the Area site.
Add textures to characters
There are two referenced characters a male and female without any textures in the installed default condition. Not a very good looking couple unless you like zombies or mannequins.
Each has a standard material placed on your system just not applied (not sure why). To add textures to the characters, open the MAX files located at:
C:\Program Files\3ds Max\plugcfg\Geppetto\Female\Character\
C:\Program Files\3ds Max\plugcfg\Geppetto\Male\Character\
Now you need to go get the textures for the characters and apply them to your male and female characters. Go to C:\Program Files\3ds Max\maps and then apply “female_color.jpg” or “male_color.jpg” to the characters using standard material methods or dragging and dropping the image file on the character.
Now you have applied the textures, and they look much better.
Customize the characters including their head and more.
Now lets customize the male character. Make sure to back up your original characters first.
C:\Program Files\3ds Max\plugcfg\Geppetto\Male\Character\Crowd_Male.max
Note the “cent” character is metric.
We can import a Santa hat and place it on the male character. This character will not automatically have the hat in any animations just by placing it in the file with the character as the hat is not attached to the character body. Lets hook it up to the head.
The character is hard wired with parts/element naming required to make it work so do not alter the parts of the character and instead simply select the head then select the modifier list>element.
Now you can right-click and select attach and select the Santa hat. This will join the head and the hat as the same element. Now save the file.
Now when you place characters in your scene the character will have the hat. Here are the characters in St Marks Square in the Venetian Hotel and Casino.
I created a very fast paced video showing the above steps.
To take the post one step further I drag an unidentified Autodesk VP into the Uncanny Valley.
I use the same technique as I did with attaching the hat to the head element, but with a twist. I created a 3D model of this persons head using 123D Catch formerly known as Project Photofly where I take photos with a digital camera and it created a 3D textured model in FBX or OBJ.
I imported this persons head into the scene with the base male character and then attach the new head to the old head using the object modifier>element then right-click attach. Now I have two heads attached as the character's head which could be odd. I now delete the original head element and am now left with this Autodesk VPs head on the character body.
Wow it is odd to see someone I know and report to looking like they want a hug and I can make them do what I want in a 3D environment. This might be a great stress reduction method, or perhaps career limiting one.
It would be wise to suck up at this point and add his alma mater Cornell University on his shirt by editing the texture map mentioned earlier in this post.
How about placing him in the Holiday spirit by adding the Santa hat.
Here is another scene where I show the characters in mesh as well as a high quality render.
If you use 3ds Max or 3ds Max Design 2012 please give Project Geppetto a try and let us know what you think. It will be evolving adding much more power and capabilities in future previews. It has been mentioned the future goals are the characters to avoid each other and objects as well as use objects for example place a chair in the scene and some of the characters could sit down on it.
There are so many possibilities with this powerful technology in its early stages to add more realism to your animation or just have some fun.