Ziva VFX: Approach to Realistic 3D Animations

James Jacobs, Co-founder and CEO of Ziva Dynamics, discussed the company's tool, Ziva VFX, talked about its capacities and shared the workflow in it. 


Ziva Dynamics was founded in early 2015 by Academy Award winner James Jacobs and Dr. Jernej Barbic with a mission to improve CG-asset creation for all artists by leveraging the prevailing methodologies from engineering and computer science.

Recently recognized as one of Hollywood’s “most outstanding innovations in technology” at the 2019 Infinity Festival, Ziva’s flagship software solution, Ziva VFX, gives users the power to rapidly simulate soft-tissue materials and embed real-world physics into every creation. By mirroring the fundamental properties of nature, users achieve CG-characters with life-like and precise dynamics, so everything moves, flexes and jiggles the way audiences expect. 

Ziva VFX is currently used by over 200 of the top VFX studios, creative boutiques, and academic institutions in the world including MPC, DNEG, Scanline VFX, Pixomondo, MPC, Image Engine, Rising Sun Pictures, Framestore, and Sony Pictures Imageworks. 

Challenges with Realistic 3D Animations in Film

Traditional 3D character workflows require extensive artisan shot sculpting and corrective shapes to achieve the look of life-like deformations and dynamics. Many of our studio customers describe their previous reliance on PSDs and non-physics-based simulations as clunky, slow and dependent on ‘brute force’. These obsolete processes left their artists wanting and needing much more to hit the realism and speed they require. As such, almost half of an asset’s production lifespan would be dedicated to corrective work on the rig, shots, and frames. This inevitably leads to inconsistencies in the art style and large quantities of slow, redundant or throw-away work. 

Ziva completely reimagines this workflow. With the soft-tissue simulation, the challenging and critical deformations happen automatically. The advanced-physics solver embeds every shape with highly performative and fully customizable physical properties, resulting in organic and accurate secondary animations like jiggling, wrinkling, and flexing. This makes it easy to achieve CGI-creatures and digidoubles that appear nearly indistinguishable from their live-action counterparts.

1 of 3

The Key Features of Ziva VFX

The Ziva VFX physics solver is built on the fundamental principles of the Finite Element Method to replicate the physics and natural motion of soft tissue. As such, we encourage our users to base their character rigs on the very properties found in reality because mother nature does it best. Users can simulate muscle, fat, and skin, and layer these biological elements together to make characters that move just as they would in real life. 

In addition to Ziva’s soft-tissue capabilities, Ziva VFX also includes a host of character tools uniquely developed to scale and accelerate the character authoring process. Our customers particularly love Ziva VFX’s Anatomy Transfer workflow, which makes it possible to copy and paste the anatomy of one character into countless additional assets of similar build. Sue Rowe, VFX Supervisor on “The Meg” (2018), and her team were one of the first to use it in production. This is what she said: 

"Once our the Megalodon sim was complete, we were able to leverage the Ziva Anatomy Transfer workflow tool to transfer the underlying anatomy to 8 other shark species. This reduced what might have taken 4-6 weeks down to 2 days apiece. As a result, we had a shiver of over 300 different sharks ready to animate and present to the director in weeks rather than months."

How Tools Work

In a typical workflow, the user begins by modeling the geometry of the bones, muscles, fat, and skin. Then, using the new Ziva menu tools, physical properties are applied to these objects using “materials.” Materials specify the attributes of a simulation object, such as its flexibility, volume conservation, and density. For active deformable objects like muscles, fiber directions and contractile forces can also be defined. These simulations are then connected with Ziva “attachments” so that they react and collide with each other in a realistic way. Essentially: users make shapes, give them anatomical properties and then make them work together just as they would in real life. The process is intuitive and informed by nature. To learn more about how Ziva VFX works, visit the website.

Future Plans

We’ve really enjoyed expanding the toolset of Maya users, but of course, we know there are hordes of artists who want access to physical simulation tools but are not accustomed to the Maya platform. We are eager to expand our reach so that any digital content creator can take advantage of our tools, even outside of the traditional media and entertainment space. Although we can’t give too much away right now, you can trust that we’re trying to solve the most critical character problems across the board – and that includes obstacles outside of rigging and simulation. There are so many other costly and challenging hurdles that are limiting the creative capacity of everyone involved in the creature pipeline, so you can expect to see us take on some new problems very soon. 

James Jacobs, Co-Founder & CEO of Ziva Dynamics

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

Join discussion

Comments 0

    You might also like

    We need your consent

    We use cookies on this website to make your browsing experience better. By using the site you agree to our use of cookies.Learn more