Moscow-based visual effects studio Main Road|Post recently relied on iPi Soft’s markerless motion capture system to create numerous crowd simulation sequences for the recently released Russian film Stalingrad, which depicts one of the bloodiest battles of World War II.
An epic look at the battle that turned the tide of World War II, Stalingrad tells the story of a band of Russian soldiers determined to hold a strategic building in their devastated city against a ruthless German army. In the process, they become deeply connected to a Russian woman who’s been living there.
Main Road|Post’s visual effects supervisor Arman Yahin and his crew worked closely with director Fedor Bondarchuk on the 230 visual effects shots in Stalingrad, many of which were quite lengthy, filling approximately 30 minutes of screen time overall.
Among the many software tools used during the post process, including Maya, Houdini, MARI and Nuke, iPI Motion Capture proved essential for creation of the CG crowd simulation sequences.
“Most of the CG crowd simulation work was done using a combination of motion capture and keyframe animation,” said Alexander Lipilin, MainRoad|Post animation supervisor. “We used iPi Motion Capture with two Kinect cameras. I put them near my workstation, and played out all the movements I needed and immediately transferred them to the soldiers. The setup was fast and the program simple to use. It helped us to quickly react to changes, as well as create good mocap data on the fly.”
Lipilin noted that there were two specific crowd sequences – one in the beginning in which in an oil tank explodes as Soviet soldiers storm the rugged steep bank of the Volga River. The second is a bombing sequence of the house as it’s assaulted by German troops near the end of the film.
“In both cases using live-action stunts was impossible due to safety risks, so we had to create CG crowds,” Lipilin said. “The crowds themselves weren’t that big – between 40 and 100 people – but the complex layout of the ground and various behaviors of the characters required close attention to the quality of animation. We used all of our knowledge and technology available to pull this off and iPi Motion Capture helped us to finish the job on time with excellent quality.”
“Attempting to capture motion in a more traditional mocap session with greenscreens and sensor suits in many cases would have been too expensive, slow and inefficient,” Lipilin added.
Russia’s highest-grossing film ever, Stalingrad has brought in nearly $52 million at the box office worldwide. It was released in March in the U.S. exclusively on IMAX screens.