I have been an Anima Crowd user for a few years now. Most of that time it sits on the hard drive, forgotten until the need for a crowd comes along. Being retired from full-time work those needs are fewer and further between. It’s a shame too as the program does just what it says it will do… create animated crowds for scene filler.
There are a lot of things to like about Anima as it takes the tedious task of adding people with random motions to a scene while remaining an easy-to-use application. It can be used in many other applications like 3DS Max, Maya, C4D, and so forth. I use it for iClone as much as anything else. When combined with iClone and Anima’s ease of use you can fill a scene with stock or commercial motions. You can also import your own custom characters and motions.
Mixamo rigging is detected upon import, and you are given the option of using that profile to get an animated version imported quickly. If you are importing a custom character with a bone structure that is unrecognized by Anima you are presented a simple left and right popup with a character figure in the middle. Match bones from one side to the other… at least the minimum amount… then you can use the character and that profile is stored away for future use should you import another character with similar rigging.
A popup appears when importing an unknown skeletal rig. Match up the minimum shaded bones from left to right for functional character.
It’s important to note that I’m speaking of the standalone version of Anima Pro software, not the subscription-based Anima All that is currently offered at a discounted price of €486.75 per year versus the usual pricing of €649 per year. Anima Pro software, used for this article, is currently priced at €209.25 discounted from €279.00. Anima Lite is offered free with no limits if used with Metropoly Ready-Posed models but requires the Pro version if used with animated assets.
Even at the €279 regular price, Anima Pro is a good crowd tool that doesn’t break the bank or requires software that does. Add in the fact that you can import your own assets and you have a tool that can populate many different scenes.
The characters that come with Anima Pro are contemporary, modern characters of mixed business and casual dress. This doesn’t fit all scenarios, but period-specific characters can be imported, with which you create period piece crowds such as 17th century or futuristic crowds.
Scene rendered from title graphic. Very quick setup for simple scenes like above.
The workflow into iClone is easy enough and Character Creator can be used to create different characters and then exported out with the Insta-LOD Remesher for multiple LODS or low poly versions for larger armies or crowds. As mentioned earlier, once you’ve matched up one character Anima will ask if you wish to use that profile for other similar Reallusion characters.
This makes crowd-making an easy task, but it still takes its toll on the target software if you use too high a polycount or too many characters, including low poly. In iClone specifically, I notice a major hit in performance if the crowd is extremely varied with lots of different clothing and colors whereas an army of Storm Troopers that is uniform, based on one character, can be much larger.
An Older Showreel Demonstrating Architectural Usage
While your FPS may only hit 7 to 10 in playback, the rendered version will be smoother and produce usable results. If you are looking for 30 fps, a lot of small crowds can deliver that but if you want 60 plus then good luck with that as software like iClone bogs down with diverse crowds or very large simple crowds. The key is not peppering the scene with sheer numbers so much as it is strategically placing the crowds within the camera view.
If you are looking to add more people to an animated or static scene then Anima crowd is a budget worthy contender for small to medium scenes. Particularly in scenes that only need 20 to 100 people or so. As mentioned, larger scenes are possible, you just have to get creative like layering and compositing in POST video edit if you want a lot of diversity and sheer numbers.
Anima crowd is a simple-to-use application with a small learning curve. No graphs or nodes… just plain old characters that can be laid out on point and click walkways, escalators, static areas, avoid areas, and tables (sitting) tools among others.
M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord, is an international award-winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director, and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. Now retired, M.D. is currently working part-time on writing and select character development projects. You can learn more about MD on his website.