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Golaem Crowd review


By Jahirul Amin


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Date Added: 7th March 2014
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Golaem Crowd helps artists perfect everything from zombie hoards to packed stadiums effortlessly. Our expert, Jahirul Amin, takes a look to discover the features of the latest iteration for Maya


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Product: Golaem Crowd

Company: Golaem

Website: www.golaem.com


Star Rating: 4.5 / 5


Key features:


• Fully integrated into Maya
• Node-based Editor for behavior management
• Advanced animation engine for motion retargeting and motion mixing
• Handles bipeds, quadrupeds, flocks, swarms etc

Since Peter Jackson's seminal work in Lord of the Rings, demands placed on artists to build bigger, faster, more directable crowds has increased steadily. Golaem Crowd Simulation for Maya has been around since 2011 and is widely used in the industry by companies such as Framestore, Mikros Image and Stargate Studios. I was asked to review Golaem's recently released Version 3, and as 3 (in)famously makes a crowd, my hopes were high.

"You can get a crowd up and running (or walking) in next to no time,
which is very satisfying"


I was not disappointed. Golaem is fully integrated into Maya and works off the backbone of Maya's native particle system. So if you are a Maya user, you basically load up Golaem and away you go, taking full advantage of the same fields and expressions you're used to. You can get a crowd up and running (or walking) in next to no time, which is very satisfying.

The node-based Behavior Editor is very visual and therefore is easily workable by both arty and techy types. It enables you to very swiftly give different members of the crowd varying behaviors: you can alter the locomotion of the crowd, get them to follow, collide with or avoid targets, and so on. It really gives the megalomaniac in you a fun day out.

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Using the Crowd Behavior Editor to add motions to the crowd

Different iterations of crowd scenes are also quick to produce. And the speed of your progress is now accentuated by Version 3's updated GPU, which enables clear previsualizations. Additionally, with this new version, if you are afraid of crowds, why not diversify into herds, flocks, schools or even gaggles?

"A very important tool is the newly revamped Crowd Character Maker. This allows you to retarget, blend and mix movement from one skeleton to another"


The same technology can now be applied to sea, sky or land creatures. A third and equally valuable function with this update enables you to mix key frame animation with the simulated behavior Golaem has created for you. This allows the addition of greater detail, variety, subtlety and therefore believability to your final results.

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The Character Maker allows you to retarget, blend and mix motions from one skeleton to another or even characters
with a different kind of morphology

A very important tool is the newly revamped Crowd Character Maker. This allows you to retarget, blend and mix movement from one skeleton to another. So animation can be reused despite differences in body type, enabling you, for instance, to give a human walk cycle to a creature. The interface for this feature is very neat; the drag-and-drop function is especially simple and enjoyable. You can also create loops from your animation, so Golaem is in fact more than a crowd system: it can handle animation data too.

Rendering your crowds is also a simple matter. Golaem allows you to send your crowds to all the big render packages such as mental ray, V-Ray, Arnold and Renderman. And using the Asset Manager you can create hundreds, if not thousands of unique characters.

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Retargeting the motion from one skeleton to another couldn't be simpler

While, as I said, Maya users will find Golaem very simple to navigate around, to find out everything this package has to offer, there is a very thorough manual and there is also an excellent blog with up-to-date tips, tricks and how-tos. The blog includes some very generous information-sharing, with guidance on taking Golaem out of Maya into other packages.

There are a lot of online tutorials too, which are easily accessed through YouTube. However, the fact that many of these relate to earlier versions can be a little irksome.

A final big plus point concerns the Golaem Crowd Character Pack. This little party bag contains all the goodies you need to get some great results within a very short space of time. It's a very nice touch.

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The sample files give you a clear indication of what is possible and they can be deconstructed easily to learn from

To bring this all together, Golaem's Crowd System gets better and better with every update. Thanks to the usability of their software, something so seemingly technical as creating crowds, can now be handled easily by artists. Peter Jackson's legacy need no longer be feared. Orcs? Schmorks.

Platforms:

• Microsoft Windows XP SP3, Microsoft Windows 7 SP1 or Microsoft Windows 8, 64-bit
• Red Hat 5.5 WS (Maya 2012), Red Hat 6 WS (Maya 2013/Maya2014), Fedora 14 and openSUSE 11.2, 64-bit

Maya Versions:

• Maya 2012, 64-bit
• Maya 2013, 64-bit
• Maya 2014, 64-bit

Rendering Engines:

• mental ray for Maya (any version)
• V-Ray for Maya 2.3
• Arnold 4.0.16 & 0.25.1
• 3Delight Studio Pro 10.0.50
• Renderman Studio 4.0

Related links

Download Golaem
For more info, and to see it in action in The Walking Dead, click here
Check out Golaem's crowdblog
Golaem Crowd 3 Demo, Alien Invasion
Golaem's YouTube site

 
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