Wednesday, August 8th, 2018 Posted by Jim Thacker

Toolchefs releases Atoms Crowd 2.0

Toolchefs has released Atoms Crowd 2.0, the latest update to its cross-platform crowd simulation system, adding a “state of the art” OpenGL draw system with support for LODs, and big render speed boosts.

The release also adds a helper tool for assigning animations to crowd agents; new modules for killing off agents, making them follow one another or fire weapons; and a new Python plugins system.

The software will be on show at Siggraph 2018 next week.

A pipeline-ready, cross-platform crowd simulator aimed at VFX and feature animation
Created by former crowd tools developers at MPC and Framestore, and released late last year, Atoms Crowd is a skeleton-based simulation system that works across a range of key visual effects tools.

As well as integrating with Maya, Houdini and Katana, it supports the Arnold, RenderMan and V-Ray renderers, and workflows based around the FBX and Alembic file formats.

The software is currently in use at Emmy Award-winning VFX facilities Cinesite and Base FX.

Improved OpenGL draw and render performance
One key focus in Atoms Crowd 2.0 is improving performance when rendering to screen, with a “state of the art” OpenGL draw system with automated support for LOD meshes for crowd agents.

The update also introduces automatic instancing and frustum culling to speed up renders: in the 2,500-agent scene in the video above, they make rendering to Maya’s Render View just under 15x faster.

New tools for assigning animation clips to agents; more modules for crowd behaviours
New artist tools include an Agents Helper for assigning animation clips or variations to agents selected in the viewport, and a graph view for editing foot down data within animation clips.

The release also adds new modules for killing off crowd agents, making them follow one another, and Arrow Emitter, which creates new agents based on the animation states of others, as when firing weapons.

Support for Python plugins, new Alembic mesh loader, better Maya integration
Pipeline changes include a new Python plugins system, making it possible for TDs to customise Atoms Crowd’s functionality, or create their own custom tools.

The update also introduces support for the Alembic format when loading meshes, as well as when exporting animation data; plus the option to script in support for custom mesh and skeleton formats.

Integration with Maya has also been extended: cloth setup now supports Maya’s Wrap deformer, and the CFX exporter for cloth and fur simulation caches, added in Atoms Crowd 1.15, now supports blendshapes.

There is also a handy-looking new workflow for dragging and dropping attributes from Maya’s Outliner directly into Atoms Crowd modules, which you can see at 03:35 in the video.

Pricing and Availability
Atoms Crowd 2.0 is available for Windows and Linux. The software is rental-only.

Prices start at $450/month for one licence of Atoms Crowd and five of Atoms Procedurals, required for rendering or to use viewport proxies.

The core software integrates with Maya 2016+, Houdini 15+ and Katana 2.6+, and is compatible with Arnold 4+, RenderMan 20+ and V-Ray 3.5+. The integration plugins are free.

There is also a free, feature-limited PLE edition intended for non-commercial use.

Read a full list of new features in Atoms Crowd 2.0 in the online changelog

Read more about Atoms Crowd on Toolchefs’ website