The Path of the 3D artist – an interview with Ivan Ivanov (a sneak peek of our 3D Simulation course)

Photo by: Milena Radeva

 My name is Ivan Ivanov and I’m Head of the 3D Simulation Department at Worldwide FX. I’m doing my job with great pleasure because it’s full of creativity and different challenges. One of them is the realistic recreation of natural phenomena in CG environment that are otherwise impossible to be recreated in real life. And of course, this is followed by amazing visual effects.






1. How did you start your career and how did you end up in the 3D Simulation department?

It happened by chance. I graduated in Economics but I was doing Web design and computer technologies. Then a friend of mine told me that Worldwide FX is launching a 3D animation course. It was back in 2006. At that time the 3D course was about the basic 3D related stuff like modeling, animation, lighting. Simulation wasn’t covered. Since then, I fell in love with the 3D animation and the creative opportunities it gives. went further into simulations. And as I was gaining experience I decided to engage mainly with 3D simulation. Eventually, we established the 3D Simulation Department at Worldwide FX

2. How would you define your job?

We recreate real physical phenomena, dynamics and the properties of different objects and natural forces. In other words, explosions, fluid simulation, destructions, characteristics such as flexibility, elasticity, friction. This includes all kinds of disasters – volcanoes, earthquakes and many others.

3. What are the advantages of your job?

We are working with the elements of nature – fire, air, earth, water. This brings huge variety in our tasks. There isn’t such thing as monotony in our department. Each new task requires a different approach, different kind of interference in nature and atmosphere. You should be resourceful and to be aware of the basic principles of physics and dynamics. Of course, you have to constantly keep learning new stuff.

4. What are the most serious challenges in the 3D Simulations department?

The biggest challenge is to achieve complete realism in the dynamics of the product you’re offering. That includes overcoming many technical difficulties. Sometimes even the software itself does not allow you to create the effect. Therefore, we seek further solutions such as new approaches and new methods of creating the respective effect. The technology itself is also evolving quite fast and there are frequent updates.

5. What’s your day in the 3D Simulation Department like?

Doing a test, after that one more test, followed by one more test. Checking of files and renders set the previous day, then working on the effect assigned for the day, doing work tests, seeing visualization at a review session, analysis of the work along with the supervisor and at the end of the day the new simulations are set for rendering.

6. How long does it take to create a specific simulation such as an earthquake?

To achieve the required level of realism – about 2 months. The work is divided in different stages. The first stage is all about the so-called rough work – we show the VFX in lo-res to the director to get an approval before doing any further development and to avoid wasting time in late stages. It really depends a lot on the director’s vision about the visual effect.

7. How many people work on the development of an effect like this one?

Not more than 2 people. Involving too many people on only one task isn’t a good approach due to the different point of view of each artist. Of course, there are various types of assignments that can be assigned to different people – for example one artist works on the geometry and another on the explosions.

 8. What’s your favorite project?

Rambo (2008), no doubt. It was one of my first big projects and one of the biggest challenges until then. Meeting Sylvester Stallone in person is another reason for this to be my favorite project.

9. What’s was the most challenging bit in that project?

Creating the blood as a visual effect for the whole movie. There are also all kinds of FX and dynamics like explosions and destruction. However, Stallone required very special type of blood for the whole movie, as expected in a movie that included a shooting in almost every frame. After that a lot of big projects followed such as Olympus Has Fallen (2013) and London Has Fallen (2015) in which we blew up The White House and Chelsey Bridge, also The Expendables franchise. Still, I find “Rambo” very dear to me.

10. What are the possibilities for a career for the newcomers from FilmForge?

They will have the opportunity to work in two huge industries – the film and the video game ones. Even in commercials. Nowadays, everything that includes visual effects requires dynamics and simulation. In practice, a good shot cannot exist without simulation because real life is full of dynamics and natural or manmade phenomena, that require such kind of visual effects. And let’s not forget the fact that the 3D Simulation is getting more and more attention these days.

11. Is it mandatory for the potential candidates to have a previous experience?

A serious advantage is an education in Arts, Architecture or Engineering because they are related to the building of a 3D environment, dependent on the laws of nature. But the main requirement actually is a constant interest and hunger for knowledge and self-development in terms of this direction.

12. What’s your advice to people who are yet to get acquainted and have interest in that profession?

To go deeper. Our work is very fascinating and full of challenges. And there is nothing better than the satisfaction to see your work on the big screen, your name in the credits, and why not in the foreseeable future – an Oscar.