History of revolutionizing the character creation process
How did you come interest For CG I was first introduced to programming as a kid in the early 1980s. I must have been about 12 years old when I built my first simple game in BASIC. It was a blend between Space Invaders and Missile Command, where the player had to crash into enemy ships as they dived towards the ground. In high school, I decided to dive a bit deeper and look for other creative tools. It wasn’t long until I started using Real 3D, Imagine and Lightwave to make creatures on my trusty Commodore Amiga.
What is the CG industry you like to join
The industry was much smaller than it is now. VFX was pretty limited and it was considered a fairly alternative career route. At that point, all professional hardware and software were extremely expensive and very slow by today’s sta11dards. In those days most people in the field, including myself, were generalists. It was common for artists to take care of all aspects of their shots, be that modeling, texturing, rigging, animating, lighting, rendering, compositing or programming. I’m actually quite thankful that I was able to work on so many elements, so early on. It gave me quite a hands-on and comprehensive understanding of the industry. That said, the work at the time was very much about learning how to cheat the software to make something look real within the confines of a limited budget, rather than simulate the physics of real things.
How to Spend your time at Weta Digital and the different roles that you undertook In Studio
I worked at Weta Digital from October 2004 to April 2013. Weta hired me into the Creatures Department as a creature TD. I worked on a number of productions, set up animation puppets, created final skin deformations, ran shot bakes and wrote a number of Maya plugins that were needed to solve specific production challenges. I moved onto the face team, where for two years I led the effort to develop the tooling needed to produce the face rigs for Avatar. After working on faces, my work brought me to collaborate with Simon Clutterbuck to design and implement a process to improve the body deformations through the use of simulation. The result of this effort is what became known as ‘Tissue’, Weta’s character simulation toolkit, which was used for the primary characters on Avatar, as well as animals in the Planet Of The Apes films, Tin tin, the Hobbit films and more. Simon Clutterbuck, Dr. Richard Dorling and I received a 2013 Science and Engineering Academy Award for the development of Tissue.
What was the thinking behind Ziva Dynamics and how did it get started
After two decades of working on characters and creatures, I noticed that projects were continually growing in complexity but the limited commercial rigging solutions remained relatively clunky and unchanged. I took it upon myself to, at the very least, try to fix the problem. I already knew there was a big demand for better tools and, based on my past experience, I had an informed hunch that simulation was a step in the right direction. The approach had already been proven successful for other aspects of VFX, like water and lighting, so it seemed only natural to venture into more complex use cases.
Ziva Dynamics changed the character creation process
Ziva VFX has removed the need for shot sculpting and corrective shapes for over 80 of the top VFX studios in the world. Rigging departments would frequently delegate over 50 percent of the asset production timeline to these steps; cleaning up what already exists and building workarounds to compensate for inflexible tools. Now, studios such as DNEG, Scanline VFX, Sony Pictures Imageworks, and Mr. X have made the switch to Ziva. More recently, the Ziva Anatomy Transfer tools from Ziva VFX vl.6 have enabled teams to simulate entire populations of hero-quality assets within minutes. The change that has been the greatest source of pride for me has been the clear democratization of these capabilities. It wasn’t long after the inception of Ziva that we saw boutique studios generating creature results that could genuinely rival those seen in seven-figure films. Ziva has changed the character creation process for small teams and independent creators, allowing them to succeed in an increasingly competitive industry.
predictions for the next two decades of CG
I predict that the application for CG characters will expand far beyond media and entertainment. In the coming years, audience during, photorealistic results like Captain Marvel’s Goose the Cat (made by Trixter), and Lucky the YES-nominated pig (made by Mackevision), will no longer be limited to films and TV. We can expect to see simulated characters being used in entirely new ways for brand-new applications. The assets can offer the unbounded potential for previsualization, manufacturing, health care, telecommunications, retail, design and more.