3-D printing has been making an impact everywhere from toys to medical devices to aerospace, but it is increasingly getting into the most visible industry of all: Hollywood.
Stop-motion animation, which has long been used in movie-making and seen in films like Jason and the Argonauts and Chicken Run, is the process of taking still frames of a series of slightly changed models until the desired movements and actions are achieved when run on film. As you can imagine, the process is time-consuming — especially since every time a character moves its face or speaks, a new model is required to display the change.
In August, Engadget published a feature story about 3-D printed character faces for the stop-motion-animated children’s film ParaNorman. 3-D printing enabled ParaNorman‘s animators to quickly mass-produce character faces — each subtly different and featuring precise painting and decorating (done in computer software) to eliminate inconsistencies between shots.
Peter Jackson’s upcoming big-budget adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit will also feature 3-D printed props, as did his Lord of the Rings trilogy, reports Fabbaloo. Helmets, swords, armor and other props are coming out of the New Zealand visual effects house Weta Digital, as you can see in the video below. 3-D printing allows Jackson to quickly put weaponry in the hands of his armies of extras, but it also lets his production crew rapidly design prototypes so that the director can decide between different looks for the movie.
Check out the video below for a behind-the-scenes look at a major movie studio’s 3-D printing workshop.