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Populating a futuristic Kitbash3D City with iClone Crowd Simulation



I’m Onur Erdurak, a director, writer, and 3D artist from Turkey. I earned my bachelor’s degree in Cinema from Izmir University of Economics and studied Cinema in Slovenia through the Erasmus Program.

While studying, I made my first short film with no budget, one location, and one actor—my uncle Kemal Erdurak, a professional actor. Using my VFX and writing skills, we created “STRANDED,” which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival Short Film Corner in 2018.

I am currently a Fulbright grantee pursuing an MFA at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. After several failed attempts, I learned Blender during the COVID-19 pandemic, inspired by Ian Hubert’s “World Building in Blender” video.

A few months later, I started @blendreams to share my renders and animations. This passion project now has over 100,000 followers on Instagram, and I also share tutorials on YouTube.

“The crowd simulation tools in iClone 8 are incredibly efficient at populating scenes with high-quality 3D actors featuring facial expressions. This capability allows me to quickly fill out my scenes, enabling me to focus on the finer details of my scene.” — Onur Erdurak, Director / Write / 3D Generalist

First the location with Kitbash3D

I needed a location for my futuristic dystopian scene, so I used KitBash3D Cargo. This software holds the entire KitBash3D asset library, allowing easy import into popular 3D software. They offer free assets, including the "Mission to Minerva" kit, which I used to build the environment in Unreal Engine. We did virtual production tests at home on a TV, with Melis Caner as the actress.

For our Metal City, I used KitBash3D CARGO to get building models from the “Heavy Metal” and “Steam Punk” kits. Importing the models felt like playing with toys, as I blocked the buildings together to create the city center. For wide shots, I used geometry nodes to distribute some buildings on a plane using a basic setup.

Using iClone to simulate crowds

Reallusion recently introduced crowd simulations inside iClone, which can be exported to any 3D software, in a super-fast way.

First, when I open iClone, I go to Edit -> Preference -> change the preset to Blender so the navigation buttons are familiar. This preference is saved..

Change iClone preset to Blender.

Then, go to edit again, project settings, and change the frame rate. I set it to 24 frames per second.

Change iClone frame rate to 24 frames per second.

These are the crowd simulation types inside iClone:

  1. Actor Group
  2. Volume Blocks
  3. Walkways
  4. Navigation Meshes

All types can be used together. First, the Actor Groups; my favorite and quickest way to populate. I pick out the crowd interaction I like, drag and drop it into the scene, adjust their animation length.

Drag and drop Actor Groups into iClone for crowd simulations.

Unless you choose the “Expressionless” option, these actors come in with facial animations.

iClone crowd simulation lets you add expressions to crowd actors.

To create the other types of crowds, we go to: Create -> Scatter -> Generate Crowd

Generate crowds in iClone

This opens the dialogue box and makes things a little more complicated and exciting. With it we can create the area to scatter crowds. With the “Create Volume” checked, I click and drag for a volume. This can be moved and scaled. The number of characters changes with the volume.

With “Pick Object”, I can choose a surface to scatter the crowd. This surface can be a custom-modelled surface.

Adding construction worker crowds

I want to put a crowd of workers on this ship. I modeled the surface from a plane in Blender. Then exported it out as “FBX”. Import it into iClone, and choose that as the surface. Back to dialogue box.

We have several options. I go for random, but “Formation” can be used for stadiums, theaters or for army formations.

After adjusting settings, we bring actors into the Actor Pool and animation into the motion pool.

Mixing animation and actor packs; many types of combinations become possible for any use. I used “Construction Workers Volume 1″ , “Factory Workers Vol.2” and animations from the “Motions for Construction”, “City Life” packs.

Clicking on “Generate Placement” is changes the seed value, randomizing the people placement. Clicking on “Deploy Actors” throws the actors into the scene, choosing animations from the motion pool with the fitting tag.

We can also manually add custom tags to actors/ animations. Once assigned, they will move around. Their animations, however, will end and freeze at their final frame. But, if we click on Loop (Expressionless), their animations will continue.

Click drag and box select all of our actors animated.

Go to FILE-> Export-> Export FBX. Make sure it is set to Blender and 24 FPS. Click Range and adjust animation length. Max texture size 1K is enough. Convert image to -> JPEG.

Create a folder and export it.

Inside Blender, you can import as FBX. I prefer using CC Blender tools add-on to import anything that is coming out of Character Creator or iClone. But, importing as “FBX '' worked fine.

Walkways and Crowds for the City Center

For the city center, I create different walkways and crowds, using all crowd sim types available inside iClone. I model a basic surface with a plane where I want to have the crowds. Export it as “FBX” and import it into iClone. Go to create and choose path, to create the first walkway. Click to create a walkway, then press “escape” when you are done.

Under the Motion Director (MD) panel, I can adjust the width of the walkway. Create, scatter, generate crowd, pick object, then click the walkway. This time I will choose the “iMD” option here, instead of “motion”. Having selected a walkway as the object, I can click on this and get all the iMD walking animations in here.

With deploy actors, the actors get in position but there are no animations. For that, we have to click the “play” on the Motion designer play button here. This takes us to the Motion Director workspace.

Choose “Record Selected” from this drop-down menu, select all the actors in the scene and play to the desired length. With iMD animations the actors are smarter as they will avoid each other, and walk back on the path once they reach the end. After the playback is at about 200 frames, I stop it.

Then I used some actor groups then, created volume for more crowds. Export them out to a folder, import them into Blender and we have our city center.

Creating Custom Crowd for Dune Inspired Scene

Inspired after watching Dune: Part Two I wanted to see if I could create a similar scene of this shot with the iClone crowd simulation.

Dune: Part 2 courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

I first started in Blender, creating the environment and the atmosphere. I suggest this video for a detailed explanation of my process.

Using a character from the pack “Sci-Fi Figures Vol. 1” I used the character “HAAS – M”. I hand placed the 3 in the foreground and the rest of the actors were scattered using the “Create Volume” in iClone.

I worked on its textures for like a day, mixing in different types of sand textures and texture painting blood on them.

Dune scene recreated with iClone.

To create the knife from the film I imported a Viking Sword model from KB3D Cargo and changed it in blender to look like the “Crysknife” from the film.

I downloaded some animations from ActorCore, searching things like “victory”, “celebration”, “Keeling”, “praying”. Then I threw those animations with the character, and I was almost done. I checked random start frame and loop check boxes.

Deploy actors, import them into Blender. Swap their textures with the custom one I worked on in Blender.

Then to increase the numbers even more, I used a little bit of geometry nodes. You can find the set up I used in this video.

I placed some more Crysknifes into their hands, render it out, a little bit of color grading and we have the final shot.

Hope you enjoy the walkthrough of this work, if you are interested in learning more details, please see the original post.

About the Author

Avatar image for Bart Veldhuizen
Bart Veldhuizen

I have a LONG history with Blender - I wrote some of the earliest Blender tutorials, worked for Not a Number and helped run the crowdfunding campaign that open sourced Blender (the first one on the internet!). I founded BlenderNation in 2006 and have been editing it every single day since then ;-) I also run the Blender Artists forum and I'm Head of Community at Sketchfab.

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