3D Printing In The Film and TV Industry

January 31, 2020

Hollywood: Where 3D Printed Imaginations Come Alive

This is how 3D printing is affecting the multi-billion dollar industry of Hollywood, where the wildest imaginations come true in special effects. Here are the 3 biggest ways 3D printing is hitting the big screen.

3D Printing Props

Almost all practical effects were made by hand using clay, plaster, foam, chicken wire, fabric, wood, and bits of consumer goods combined in creative ways. Then digital effects took over.

Today, designers are adopting 3D printing to produce many of their props and makeup effects. The reasons? 3D printing is more affordable; doesn’t use many materials – just one is sufficient. 3D printing is faster -just takes a few hours. 3D printing is repeatable – all props, even multiple, can be printed at high quality without them costing more to produce. There’s also durability – 3D printing props are tough enough to survive filming, and easily replaceable if they break. Also, 3D printing produces licensed replicas so that they can be reprinted or resold after being commissioned.

The most printed objects in Hollywood right now are fantasy and sci-fi props. ‘Game of Thrones’ utilized 3D printing with most of its armor, masks, jewelry, and weapons. The props are lightweight and realistic and are more cost-effective than teams of digital effects artists. Examples are the enormous 3D printed dragons in ‘Jurassic Park’, likewise dinosaur remains and species’ skeletons. They have realistic textures, details, even their gender and age. They also 3D scan real fossils to recreate the printed props.

3D Printed Costumes

Costumes are a major part of sci-fi movies like Marvel’s ‘Black Panther.’ Crowns and collars were 3D printed that would have been difficult and time-intensive to stitch or mold. Another is the headdress that actress Angela Bassett in the Queen Ramonda movie. The ‘Iron Man’ armor in multiple movies was 3D printed, scanning the body of Robert Downey Jr. There are also the costumes of ‘Captain America’ and ‘Thor’ using selective laser sintering + carbon fiber reinforced material.

Stop motion 3D Printed Miniatures

These are poseable and customizable dolls required to be precisely placed to move incrementally with each frame, so 3D printing helps create as many variations of facial expressions, props, and characters as possible to make the animation as smooth as possible. Animation studio LAIKA has become famous for their use of 3D printing in their stop motion animated features. 2019 film ‘Missing Link’ currently holds the record at 106,000.

3D Printed Set Design

Production designers can now produce enormous set pieces – overnight. An example is the set design in the space travel biopic ‘First Man’, where a scale replica of the legendary Apollo 11 was built in one go.