Yup. Basicaly works that 1-3hrs before the flight leaves the Dispatcher will pull how much cargo & how many passengers have been booked on the flight and use that to get the complicator (computer) to crunch out a flight plan & dispatch release.
When the check in closes out and boarding is complete, these two numbers are compred by the magic frustrator (computer) to see if everybody that checked in got on. Load control send the cargo weight from the rampers which goes into, again, the frustrator and it frustrates out a zero fuel weight.
That's ACARS'd off to the pilots which as Ed say, is where they get ZFW for Vspeeds/MAC & trim, pax count etc
If you would like a copy of what some frustrated numbers (computer printout) look like I can scan one.