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CIS Taps Massive To Fill Stands For Leatherheads

Massive, the premier Artificial Intelligence -driven 3D animation software, was used by CIS Hollywood to fill football stadiums with virtual crowds for Universal Pictures' LEATHERHEADS.

Directed by George Clooney, and starring Clooney, Renee Zellweger and John Krasinski, the romantic comedy launched in the U.S. on April 4, 2008.

"Massive is solving a host of problems on several productions, where we need to round out sequences with anywhere from a few scattered groups to huge crowds of people. Achieving believable large-scale crowd sequences was extremely difficult both for filmmakers and effects artists before the availability of Massive," said Tom Smith, vfx Supervisor, CIS Hollywood.

A mainstay of the facility's vfx pipeline, Massive was employed on approximately 180 crowd shots throughout the film, filling three separate 1920s-era stadiums with a wide assortment of spectators. CIS Hollywood's Massive team developed its own agent for the project, programming the agent's brain with 150 separate movements, including clapping, standing, sitting, fist pumping, gesturing and more.

"The only thing we've ever used for crowds is Massive-there's nothing else that's nearly as comprehensive," said Eric Pender, Massive Lead, CIS Hollywood. "The thing we like the most about using Massive is its ability to mix separate motions and generate random behaviors. If you build your brain properly, you can play with a bunch of different people and watch some very cool things happen."

The LEATHERHEADS script called for an assortment of stadium spectators in three separate 1920s-era stadiums, some with crowds of 30,000. LEATHERHEADS is CIS Hollywood's second of three football-themed films in which Massive was used to fill stadiums, following the Warner Bros. film WE ARE MARSHALL and the upcoming Universal drama THE EXPRESS.

"All three films are set in different time periods, so it really gave us a chance to develop and improve upon our Massive pipeline," Pender said. "With each show, the quality of the agents improved and our pipeline became more robust."

CIS was the only vfx vendor for the film, completing more than 200 shots for the project. The Massive team built models using Autodesk Maya and Pixologic Z-Brush, and used Pixar's Renderman for rendering.

The team spent more than seven months on the project, both building the Massive agent and brain, and implementing the Massive characters into approximately 180 scenes. CIS has employed Massive on numerous other vfx projects for feature films, most recently on CIS Vancouver's (formerly Rainmaker Visual Effects) VANTAGE POINT from Columbia Pictures, and Paramount's BLADES OF GLORY.