Thursday, June 11th, 2020 Posted by Jim Thacker

Toolchefs releases Atoms Crowd 3.4

Originally posted on 24 July 2019. Scroll down for news of the 3.4 update.

Toolchefs has unveiled Atoms Crowd 3.0, the next version of its software-agnostic crowd animation system, adding support for PhysX and ragdoll physics, and new workflows for editing crowd layouts.

The firm has also announced AtomsUnreal, a new plugin integrating its technology into Unreal Engine.

All of the new tools will be previewed at Siggraph 2019 next week.

A skeleton-based crowd system for Maya, Houdini and Katana
Created by former crowd tools developers at MPC and Framestore, and first released in 2017, Atoms Crowd is a cross-application skeleton-based crowd simulation system.

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.

New in Atoms Crowd 3.0: ragdoll and PhysX support, improved caching and crowd layout
Atoms Crowd 3.0 introduces a range of new way to apply forces to crowd actors, introducing support for ragdoll behaviour, force fields and PhysX, Nvidia’s recently open-sourced real-time multiphysics system.

The update will also introduce support for interactive caching, shown at 00:50 in the video above, and the option to cache the rig of a crowd actor rather than mesh geometry.

There are also improvements to crowd layout workflow, shown at 01:50 in the video, making it possible to move, reorient, scale or offset the animation for individual actors or groups of actors in the viewport.

The release also adds support for Houdini’s new Vellum multiphysics solver, added in Houdini 17, and for Gaffer, Image Engine’s open-source lighting and look dev toolset.

New AtomsUnreal plugin integrates the technology with Unreal Engine
Toolchefs has also announced AtomsUnreal, a new integration of its technology into Unreal Engine.

The plugin enables users to transfer simulation caches from Maya or Houdini for visualisation, or to create their own crowd simulations directly inside the game engine.

Users can create their own behaviours using UE4’s native Blueprint system or via C++ scripting.

Toolchefs describes the implementation as providing better real-time performance than typical particle-based crowd systems: the start of the demo shows 1,500 crowd actors displaying at 30fps.

The plugin will be available as part of a new Atoms Realtime licence type, separate to Atoms Crowd itself.

New free and low-cost Indie licences due with Atoms Crowd 3.0
In addition, ToolChefs tells us that it plans to change its licensing scheme to make Atoms Crowd more affordable for individuals.

Use of all of the products will be free for any project on which the crowd artist makes no money, and for artists earning less than $30,000/year.

There will also be a £500/year (around $620/year at current exchange rates) Indie licence, available for individuals or studios earning less than $100,000/year.

Both the free and Indie licences will be node-locked.

Company pricing remains unchanged, starting at £320/month (around $400/month) for one licence of Atoms Crowd and five of Atoms Procedurals, required for rendering or to use viewport proxies.

The new Atoms Realtime licences are priced on demand.

Updated 13 August 2019: Atoms Crowd 3.0 is now shipping. As well as the changes listed above, the update adds support for V-Ray Next, and a number of smaller features and bugfixes.

ToolChefs has also posted more information about Atoms Realtime on its website.

Updated 16 December 2019: Toolchefs has released Atoms Crowd 3.2. It’s a significant update, with one of the key changes being a new integration for Clarisse iFX, shown in the video above.

Houdini users get a new tool to convert Houdini’s native crowd simulations into Atoms Crowd caches, making it possible to create atoms proxy node pointing at the exported cache in other applications.

It is also now possible to export crowds as USD caches for use in other compatible software.

There is also a self-explanatory new Ragdoll Builder tool, and Agent Deleter, for filtering out crowd agents from agent groups. Since we last covered Atoms Crowd, Toolchefs has also added support for Redshift.

In separate news, Toolchefs has announced a new open-source integration of Atoms Crowd for Blender, being created in partnership with feature animation studio Tangent Animation, and due for release in 2020.

Updated 11 June 2020: Toolchefs has released Atoms Crowd 3.4, adding a games-style navmesh system.

Navigation meshes can be generated from scene geometry and define traversable regions of that geometry, enabling crowd agents to find appropriate paths to any accessible point in a scene automatically.

Other new features include Follow Mesh, which locks crowd agents to vertices of a mesh, making it possible to create the movement of a group of agents by animating the mesh itself.

There is also a new Velocity to State system, which automatically transitions agents between animation states – for example, between a walk and a run animation – at given velocity thresholds.

The update also improves simulation performance by “20-30%”, and adds a number of smaller features.

Pricing and system requirements
Atoms Crowd 3.4 is available for Windows 8.1+ and CentOS/RHEL 6.5+ Linux. Pricing is covered above.

The software integrates with Maya 2016+, Houdini 16.5+, Katana 2.6+ and Unreal Engine 4.22, and is compatible with Arnold 4+, Redshift 2.6+, RenderMan 20+ and V-Ray 3.5+. The integration plugins are free.

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

Read more about Atoms Crowd on Toolchefs’ website