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 Stalingrad. The recently released Russian-produced epic film effectively used iPi Soft iPi Motion Capture on numerous crowd simulation sequences created by the Moscow-based visual effects studio Main RoadIPost.
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 U.S. 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.
“iPi Soft is committed to developing the most reliable and powerful markerless motion capture solutions to help filmmakers, animators and video game developers address their production challenges efficiently and affordably,” said Michael Nikonov, iPi Soft founder and chief technology architect. “We’re thrilled our iPi Motion Capture technology is being used by the Main Road|Post creative team here in our own back yard to achieve the motion capture challenges and accelerate workflow proficiency on this epic film.”
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 Bondarchuk on the 230 visual effects shots in Stalingrad, many of which were quite lengthy, filling approximately 30 minutes of overall screen time overall.
Among the many software tools 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,” said Alexander Lipilin, MainRoad|Post animation supervisor. “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 noted that there were two specific crowd sequences – one in the beginning in which in 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’s assaulted by German troops, 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 said. “The crowds themselves weren't that big – between 40 and 100 people – but the complex lie of the ground and various behavior 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 to finish the job on time with excellent quality.”
Lipilin said, “Attempting to capture motion in a more traditional mocap session with green screens and sensor suits in many cases would have been too expensive, slow and inefficient. There really is no equivalent to iPi Soft’s technology.”