Animating Urbanscapes with NVIDIA Omniverse

NVIDIA Omniverse is new to me, and I haven’t explored it much (yet). This is where Pekka Varis comes in with his how-to video and writeup about populating a pedestrian street using ActorCore, iClone, and NVIDIA’s Omniverse platform. Enjoy the ride!

Reading time 8 min 23 sec
Image by Pekka Varis


Pekka Varis is a cinematographer, 3D animator from Finland, and the official NVIDIA Omniverse Ambassador. He is also the CEO of an NVIDIA Omniverse-based startup called Cineshare.

In this tutorial, Pekka Varis shares his ways of enlivening large-scale exterior settings by filling a 3D park with animated people using iClone and NVIDIA Omniverse Machinima with ActorCore 3D characters and mocap animations.

NVIDIA Omniverse is new (at least to me) and a free (no cost) platform, with little testing done so far. Still, the combination of real-time raytracing technology, online collaboration, bringing in assets from various platforms, and connecting the various designers and stakeholders in a project packs an enormous punch for the architectural visualization process. This is a move towards a “Single Source of Truth” and a “One stop shop” for teams to sync, consolidating design work on various apps into a single one for visualization purposes. More testing is needed, but let’s learn from Pekka’s work today.

Before we dive into Pekka’s, I’ll note that creating a believable streetscape for architectural visualization is not an easy task, even more so when it comes to crowds. The broader the scope of view, the more people variation is needed, and more motions too. That is not a trivial task to get right excellent and fast. I hope you’ll find the ActorCore approach presented here beneficial in that context.

So let’s start diving into the process itself!

" I am a cinematographer and video designer but since I have found NVIDIA Omniverse, my connections to Architectural design world has expanded. "

Table of Contents

Pekka's Process

Hi, my name is Pekka. I started this journey with Brownstone City (a free asset from NVIDIA Omniverse). I actively browsed the ActorCore website to download all kinds of character and motion packs to fill a busy commonplace street with kids, workers, police officers, and citizens.

3D-Ready Content on ActorCore Asset Store

The ActorCore asset store is the secret to my success with 3D works. The motion library is super inspirational and helpful for all sorts of projects and genres, most certainly in ArchViz, where the variation offering of 3d people is limited. With ActorCore, you get more options multiplied by the amount of unique motion captures you can assign to each model so that the result looks less repeatable and natural.

I begin by building my storyboards based on stock motions. Then I fine-tune them if needed. In addition, the provided lightweight content for 3D people and mocap animations are essential⁠—even more so because they come fully rigged from head to toe!

Import to iClone for Animation

After selectively exporting the crude street geometry of Brownstone City from Omniverse to iClone in FBX format, I deployed all the 3D characters and dropped their idle motions, then applied some paired motions, e.g., people having a conversation.

The Digital Souls content pack is crafted to meet real-world needs, especially for jack-of-all-trades like myself, or what I like to call “modern-day Da Vincis,” who don’t have ample time to animate facial expressions manually. Digital Souls has distilled the process down to simple drag-and-drops! I can easily apply believable facial animations to all digital actors with subtle and natural facial performances that can truly engage the audience.

The Pedestrian Actions content pack is ideal for populating any 3D scene with busy streets that call for various natural, autonomous background characters. Pedestrian Actions is a genius concept with fourteen walking styles and eleven idle poses, and I had fun directing all the city people around the park.

" Omniverse is excellent tool for AEC, cos it brings together all creators from Archicad, Revit, Sketchfab, etc. So many and new connectors are coming in all the time! It gives us a power of real-time collaborations at cloud, fast and realistic rendering and new free asset library. Collaboration is superb: Two SketchUp users can work in the same world, Rhino user and split a project with 3DS Max user, for example. "

Walking Around with Motion Director

With idle motions setting the mood and the city as the staging area, I began directing all the pedestrians while ensuring they didn’t cross paths and crash into one another. The entire process was a game-like experience for me, and, in the end, I had over fifty people walking about.

Using alt+click in Motion Director gave me all I needed to move characters around—a method I applied to every pedestrian until the streets were roused with activity. I enjoyed building the look and feel of my city, which resembled an assortment of ’80s fashion mixed with present-day aesthetics. Finally, exporting the scene in USD format from iClone took a bit of time, so naturally, I fetched another cup of tea.

Prop & Camera Movements inside NVIDIA Omniverse

In NVIDIA Omniverse Machinima, I animated my camera and added free props found in NVIDIA’s massive asset store. Following the camera’s Path, I focused on decorating parts of the street that needed some extra characters to keep the entire scene reasonably light. As a finishing step, I added flowing water and rendered everything in Path Traced mode, giving the movie the final touch I wanted.

Best 3D Content and Tools for Crowd Simulation

I have been making videos all my life, starting from twelve years old—back in the days of Commodore 64. Lights, camerawork, and timing are my most vital skills, but now with tools like iClone and NVIDIA Omniverse Machinima, I can perform miracles!

In a nutshell, the combination of iClone and NVIDIA Omniverse offers a powerful, fast, and intuitive way to create large-scale outdoor renders. Combining characters, natural motions from ActorCore’s asset store, and content from Pedestrian Actions is a powerful way to “colorize” and customize your cityscapes.

For free ActorCore 3D characters and mocap animations, visit here.

For a free trial version of iClone, visit here

For more info about Pekka Varis and Cineshare, visit here.

" Nesting USD's, different parts of building can be easily managed. The roof, lobby, and apartments can be separate USD files that together make a full building. With layers, you can have different looks & variations of objects for live work-flows. "

What to do next?

ActorCore has already been adopted in many digital twin projects, including NVIDIA drive simulations, BMW’s manufacturing visualization, and Bentley Systems’ AEC simulations, all using NVIDIA Omniverse.

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