Russian Epic 'Stalingrad' Features Mocap and Crowd Sim Created with iPi System
April 24, 2014

Russian Epic 'Stalingrad' Features Mocap and Crowd Sim Created with iPi System

The Battle of Stalingrad, among the bloodiest and arguably one of the most strategically decisive battles in all of World War II, is vividly brought to life in the film “Stalingrad” with some digital assistance.

The recently released Russian-produced epic film used iPi Soft’s iPi Motion Capturemarkerless motion-capture solution on numerous crowd simulation sequences created by the Moscow-based visual effects studio Main Road|Post. 

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 US exclusively on IMAX screens). 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, and in the process, become deeply connected to a Russian woman who’s been living there.

Bringing the action to visual life fell to Moscow-based visual effects studio Main Road|Post. Visual effects supervisor Arman Yahin and his crew worked closely with director Fedor Bondarchukon the 230 visual effects shots in “Stalingrad,” many of which were quite lengthy, filling approximately 30 minutes of overall screen time.

Many software tools were 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,” Alexander Lipilin, MainRoad|Post animation supervisor, says. “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 notes that there were two specific crowd sequences – one in the beginning in which an oil tank explodes as Soviet soldiers storm the rugged steep bank of the Volga River. The second, a bombing sequence of the house as it is assaulted by German troops, occurred 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 says. “The crowds themselves weren't that big – between 40 and 100 people – but the complex lie of the ground and various behaviors of the characters required close attention to the quality of animation. We used all our knowledge and technology available to pull this off, and iPi Motion Capture helped us finish the job on time with excellent quality.”

Lipilin adds, “Attempting to do capture motion in a more ‘traditional’ mocap session with greenscreens and sensor suits, in many cases, would have been too expensive, slow, and inefficient.”