A52 Shows How Just One Man can be Massive

Massive software is well known for its epic shots in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but with the release of Massive 2.0 – we asked just how practical is it to use Massive in a ‘normal’ TV Ad spot? In this week’s podcast we talk to A52’s 3D team leader Craig Xray Halperin, about what it took for A52 to go from not even having the software to creating 10,000 agents celebrating two Clydesdale horse teams meeting in St.Louis on the 4th of July.

To hear Craig Xray Halperin, explain it Massive is now a ‘brand’ name that agency creatives are both writing for and asking for. When the creative team behind the latest Bud spot needed to create a vast event before it happened, A52 were more than happy to get up to speed with Massive software and provide a “massive” set of end shots for the commerical.

The Anheuser-Buschs Clydesdales Across America Tour began in both New York City and San Francisco on April 22nd. The two hitches of the famous Clydesdales started a patriotic trek across the USA to meet under the St. Louis Gateway Arch on July 4th. The problem is the spot needed to show them meeting so it could go to air weeks before the real event.

The project involved a large amount of compositing, almost every shot required compositing of some type. For example, the Clydesdales shot in St. Louis had to be composited into footage of San Franciscos Golden Gate Bridge. A52s Patrick Murphy took the lead as on-set visual effects supervisor, and together with VFX producer Ron Cosentino, they joined the production team for their two-day shoot in St. Louis which wrapped some 20 days of location filming. Murphy and his fellow VFX artists Kirk Balden, Tim Bird, Justin Blaustein, Ben Looram and Scott Johnson used Discreet Flame and Inferno systems from Autodesk to complete vfx shots.

a52massive/budwhitecupThe projects creative called for a magical glimpse into the future to occur at the spots end, featuring a crowd of 15,000 celebrating the tours patriotic causes and the two Clydesdale teams coming together in St. Louis. To create that crowd, A52s 3D animator Craig Xray Halperin used Massive version 2.0 to generate a group of 10,000 animated people surging toward the Clydesdales. Using Massive allowed us to generate the crowds for these shots quickly and interactively, said Halperin, who learned to use the software over a period of weeks in support of this project. I showed the client placement and overall motion of the crowd in Massive and was able to instantly make adjustments based on their direction.


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a52massive/budwhiteExtensive work was done to finalize the end St. Louis celebration scenes. For the wide shot showing the cityscape, the Arch and the riverfront, the VFX team turned a scene filmed during the day into night by taking a flat telecine pass and grading it down to get the feeling of nighttime, resulting in the city looking like it was out of power. From there, Murphy said, I painted lights into the windows of the city buildings by hand then tracked those in. For all the street lamps on the bridge leading into St. Louis, we tracked lighting street lights to each light, then we put pools of light all the whole way across the bridge. While the animated elements made-up the crowd in the wide celebration shot at the end, for the tighter crowd shots, Murphy used Flame for 2D placement of crowd elements as well as some 2,000 animated people Halperin created using Massive. For the finishing touches, A52s team put stock footage fireworks in the end scenes, placed reflections in the water in front of the Arch and lit up the crowd


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While the shots produced are vast, according to Massive Software “a sequence of the complexity of Helm’s Deep could be created with 5 or 6 artists. The Mill created 146,000 people for the Mountain of People commercial with just one license”. We spoke to Craig Xray Halperin about just how complex the software is to learn, use and the sort of render times A52 experienced. Click the link at the top of this story to hear the podcast.

Massive 2

Massive 2.0 was recently released. It contains facial blend shape animation – to produce hero-quality animation using Massive with new blend shape animation for characters placed close to the camera. Agents now have a memory – Create more realistic behavior with Massive agents that now remember things and base their actions on what they’ve seen and experienced. Active motion tree technology – Improved workflow for controlling the actions of Massive agents using interactive motion trees. It also includes full Massive Smart Stunts functionality – to create dynamic digital stunts based on motion capture.

Interestingly Agents can now paint. Using a new agent painting tool Massive Agents can create foot prints, and trails, wakes of ships, etc. Massive agents have always been able to hear and make sounds. Now the users can hear the sounds they make, too, enabling better interaction when designing agents.

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