Igor Zanić is freelance FX artist from Serbia who worked on a lot of commercials and a few movies, mainly doing liquid effects.
If I say the word “Naiad”, it must be said also “Igor Zanic”. You are well known for your fluid simulations. How did it all start and why are You interested in simulations?
At first I was a freelance artist that post simulations online. With my tests I just show what you can do with this amazing software. I like to challenge myself and fluid simulations are something that realy like. I love to swim and jumping off cliffs, so maybe because of that I love liquid simulations. In past you could see amazing water effects that were made only by big FX studios, but if You have great software and fast computer, you also can do something interesting. I always try to make diffrent tests, and be better than the last time.
Can You tell us about software that You use every day and explain why did You chose it?
Last 5 years I was working on projects and RnD stuff. Before that I was learning and collecting stuff but didn’t had chance to work on any projects. I use Naiad and Houdini for most of my works and tests. I use Naiad for fluid simulations and Houdini for rendering and other effects. As you already know, Naiad is really fast fluid solver and gives you great amount of details in simulations. You can do very easy things that you dream of. Houdini gives me great control of stuff that I want to test, render or post-process. You can build your own shaders, small tools, render setups, fx. It is hard for me to work in another program, because I need some custom plugins, or shaders and for this you need a programmer, so I decided to stay with Houdini.
What are advantages of such narrow specialization?
I can focus on one thing that I am good at. Fluid simulations are the big field – you have fire, smoke, explosions, water… For example: when we think about water FX, we deal with questions: „how to simulate it”, „what parameters to use”, „what attributes are need for rendering”, „how to render them”, etc. There is a lot of stuff that you need to think about, and it is the same with simulating smoke or fire. You can’t master everyting, because there are too many things that change every day, new software, new tech…
Privately you told me that You like to share Your knowledge. That is very rare. Your website with materials for learning the Naiad is very popular. Few people share this kind of knowledge absolutely for free.
When I started learning Naiad 2010, there were only a few Naiad tutorials. Houdini helped me a lot to understand some stuff, because both of them use more or less the same terms. Learning this path was very interesting. Guys from Exotic Matter (makers of Naiad, Ed.) helped me a lot to learn and understand Naiad, so I decided to help them to make demo scenes, so people can familiarize with Naiad and understand its basic workflow. Often artists really want to help community with free demo scenes or tutorials, which is good, but sometimes can lead to troubles, because some people take your scenes and videos and use them to apply for jobs.
A few months ago Autodesk ended the life of the Naiad. What will You do?
I am still using Naiad for my projects, but I also test other soft, like Realflow or Houdini. Our market changes really fast – as a freelance artist You have to know how to use different soft. Sometimes I take one r’n’d shot and try to recreate it in every software I use to see how they work, and what results can I get. Then I can tell my clients, which software is the best for their projects – Naiad, Realflow or Houdini.
Simulations are quite different than modeling / texturing or composition. It often happens that You have to wait hours or even days for the end result. How do you spend that time?
Yes, sometimes calculations of simulation can last long. I use this time to find new ideas, test new workflow. Optimization also takes a big part of simulation time. So I am trying to optimize as much as I can.
Let’s continue with the fluid simulation. What project was the most difficult for you?
SharkNight3D – this was my first Naiad project, I had only two months of experience with Naiad at that time and everything was very hard because at that time I only had 1-2 simple scenes. Project was very demanding: big shark model and slow motion – that combination reveals every mistake in simulation. But the final result was amazing, entire team did amazing job.
Where do You find inspirations for your work?
Just take a look around – everything is there. Just watch the nature. You can also learn by watching movies and works of big studios, reading interviews, watching „making of’s” and breakdowns. Then you try to apply these ideas to your tests, sometimes even smallest details make shots amazing.
Is there anything else in CG that interests you besides fluids?
There is a lot of it – I like to know how stuff works, so I study light and renders setups, and also compositing. Fluids simulation is only 30 percent of work, you need to light and shade and comp. At the moment I am on small vacations, focusing on RnD stuff. I consider working on personal short.
Do you have a dream project which you would like to do?
I would like to participate in project with big water effects, like Pacific Rim, Battleship, Hereafter, 2012 or Life of Pi.
More and more young artists specialize in the FX field. Is there something special you’d like to tell them on the basis of your experience?
Most important thing – never, (ever!) stop, learn every day, test new software and new workflows, push Yourself forward. Help others if you can. It’s sometimes hard, but there is always light at the end 🙂
Now get ready for really difficult questions! Your favorite color?
Cat or dog?
Dog, i have Akita Inu and 3 small German Spitz’s
Jurassic Park, King Kong (Weta).
Do you play video games?
Yes a lot, when i have time.
More RAM or faster processor?
Everything! But at first – more RAM and couple of fast hard drives.
Thank You for an interview!