SyFlex in "King Kong"

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Clips courtesy of Weta Digital. 2005 Universal Studios


Feature film


Visual Effects: Weta Digital
Lead Creature TD: Andrea Merlo
Creature TDs: Christine Arboit, Micheal Corcoran, Dugan Beach, Fernando Borges, Briana Hamilton, Jens Schwarz, Adam Sidwell, and Lars Johansson.


Weta Digital used SyFlex in the production of Oscar winning and grand film, King Kong, for all digital double shots and a range of other effects, including cloth, fur, flesh and skin...


We were very excited to get some materials from the film, and to have Andrea Merlo, a veteran SyFlex user and Lead Creature TD on King Kong answer some of our questions:

Syflex: How many artists worked with SyFlex in the production of King Kong?

Andrea: During the production we had a fairly big group of talented artists that used SyFlex for dynamic solves. The team responsible for the Kong fur dynamics and digital double cloth solves was composed of the Creature TDs mentioned above. During the course of the production, additional people jumped on board to help out with the solves.

SyFlex is currently used by several artists at Weta Digital; I would like to apologize to the artists I did not mention.

Syflex: How are you using SyFlex over at Weta?

Andrea: SyFlex has been used at Weta Digital in many different situations, not only for digital cloth simulations but also for hair and fur dynamic simulations, and skin/fat simulations along side our in-house tools developed during King Kong and other projects.

Syflex: Can you go into more details regarding the production of King Kong?

Andrea: SyFlex is our main cloth solver package and it was used for all the digital double clothing. We had several digital doubles throughout the movie with different costumes, from the most common trousers and jackets to elaborate night gowns. We also used syCloth in a more creative way; it was used not only for clothing but also to add secondary motion to props and machinery, in addition to solving nets, ropes and hair.

SyCloth is not the only module of SyFlex that was used in production; we used SySkin to add secondary motion to the skin on top of our in-house skinning tools for digital creatures. For example, we used SySkin extensively for the T-Rexes' secondary dynamics.

We also used SyFlex to simulate some of the fur dynamics on Kong himself. With SySkin in mind we modeled cages around several sections of Kong's body. For example, for the arms, we modeled a cage that included the arm's geo and fur volume. We then converted the cages into a three-layer sySkin element and using a standard Maya Wrap Deformer, we deformed the guide curves that were created with Weta Digital's in-house tools for fur. This allowed us to have fast and reliable dynamic solves for secondary motion in Kong's fur. SyFlex proved once more to be a very flexible tool for our needs.

Syflex: What was the most complicated effect you used SyFlex for?

Andrea: King Kong was a very challenging project and SyFlex was used in many different situations. It would be too hard to single out one shot or effect in particular... We had about 20 digital doubles with SyFlex elements (clothing and hair), one of which was Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts), who is in approximately 400 shots, wearing one of six costumes. With SyFlex, we could get relatively quick results for each shot and get the simulated elements through the pipeline rapidly.

Syflex: Weta Digital used SyFlex technologies in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and I, Robot. What made you choose to work with SyFlex again?

Andrea:We had used SyFlex in the past and always had good feedback to our requests and "pronto" answers to our problems and needs. The willingness to improve the software and the constant support during the whole production have proven to be key advantages in using SyFlex during King Kong and other previous projects.

Syflex: Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

Andrea: Sorry I can't talk about any upcoming projects or how we are planning to use SyFlex.

Syflex: Anything else you would like to say about your working experience with SyFlex?

Andrea: SyFlex has always been great, easy to use and predictable. We have been able to simulate digital clothing, hair, fur and many other "strange" elements using one single piece of software. This is quite an achievement.

One of the greatest advantages of using SyFlex in production is the ability to solve our digital doubles automatically on the renderwall and tweak the simulation only if it is needed. This allows the Lighting TDs to prepare their own elements without having a Creature TD dedicated to the shot. We know we can rely on SyFlex's great collision detection system and, most of all, its stability.


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