While the use of computer graphics technologies in cinematography is no longer surprising, 3D printing in this area is rarely mentioned. But this doesn’t mean that 3D printers are not used in movies at all.
One of the most challenging tasks in filmmaking is the production of objects that are important to the plot, be it weapons, figurines for animation, complex mechanisms, and futuristic costumes. While some create objects by hand, which takes a lot of time and funds, others optimize processes using 3D printing.
So how is this technology changing the industry?
How are 3D printers used in cinema?
Every day the choice in favor of 3D printing is made by various well-known studios and directors as this tech is changing industries. In particular, 3D printers were used to create such famous films as Iron Man, Harry Potter, The Wolf of Wall Street, and many others. And this list is constantly growing. Why? Because 3D printing has many advantages.
- Firstly, the production of objects is fast and efficient.
- Secondly, this technology helps in the production of very complex objects, which eliminates extra assembly steps and gives more freedom to designers.
- Another advantage of additive manufacturing is the variety of 3D printing materials. Printer manufacturers offer a set of sources, but the producer always has the opportunity to mix different substances and even simulate ceramics or metal.
Let’s move on to the practical application of three-dimensional techniques and tell you how 3D printers are used in cinema. So, here are the main areas of their use:
- Creation of layouts. Often, when working on a project, you need to make a realistic model of a certain scale. For example, to simulate a shipwreck. Making products of this kind by hand is very difficult and time-consuming. So it’s much easier and faster to produce the required layout on a 3D printer.
- Stop-motion animation. Another popular application for 3D printers is frame-by-frame puppet animation. This technology has brought it to a completely new level, which can be verified by watching at least the animated films of the Laika studio, which gave us the cartoon Coraline. By the way, it was this studio that pioneered the full-scale application of technology in cinema.
- Manufacturing of full-size models. Three-dimensional graphics, of course, are very helpful in difficult situations. But some directors prefer to work with real models, only slightly editing them. And here, 3D printing software also helps filmmakers: making a full-size sculpture of, say, a dinosaur is much easier and faster using a 3D printer rather than manually. This is exactly what the filmmakers of Jurassic Park: Origins did.
- Creation of props and decorations. As you already understood, 3D technologies provide a versatile way to make a wide variety of things. Scenery, housing, and props for films, which quickly and easily “come to life” thanks to 3D printers, are no exception. For example, using rapid prototyping for the movie Skyfall, they created an Aston Martin DB5 car and a third-size helicopter specifically for the explosion scene: it turned out to be a much cheaper option than any other method. The Apollo 11 spacecraft for Man on the Moon was also recreated using large-scale printers like the BigRep ONE V3.
- Making costumes. Of course, 3D printers in cinematography are used to create character costumes. Disney pioneered the use of 3D printing ideas in feature films – Jason Lopes (a Legacy Effects specialist who has worked with Marvel Studios) has used this technology to significantly speed up the creation of the Iron Man suit. First, experts scanned the body of Robert Downey Jr. – this was necessary to make wearing the suit more comfortable – and then printed fragments of armor on Objet Geometries from various materials. For action scenes and fast movements, rubber was used, for close-ups – metal.
For Thor: Ragnarok, using this technology, Jose Fernandez, costume designer at Ironhead Studios, designed Hela’s helmet. They used laser powder sintering of nylon powder with the addition of reinforced carbon fiber so that the headgear was not heavy.
3D printing is developing rapidly, and each time its use becomes cheaper, especially in comparison with traditional methods or the use of computer graphics. Perhaps the day is not far off when handmade props and decorations will almost cease to be used in films – they will be replaced by cheaper and faster-to-produce “printed” counterparts.
What other technologies will lead the movie industry revolution?
When it comes to new technologies, the topic of neural networks and artificial intelligence seems to be especially popular lately. Over the past year, we’ve read a lot of news stories about incredible progress in this area. During this short period of time, neural networks have learned to replace the background in any photo, recognize people by their gait, make them dance on video, and much, much more. As for the field of cinema, the capabilities of neural networks in face replacement, simplification of editing and scriptwriting are especially interesting.
Some of you may remember a short film called Sunspring. The plot of the picture tells the story of three characters who live in the near future. It would seem that the film is nothing special. However, the fact is that the entire script was written by artificial intelligence, a bot named Benjamin. In just 48 hours, it processed about 200 different Sci-fi movie scripts and created its own: with all the characters and dialogues. Then the “raw” version of the script was processed – this is how the movie Sunspring was born.
Moreover, different deep learning models can be applied to enhance types of video content. And neural networks can also be combined: sometimes it gives amazing results.
In addition to the usual processing in professional video editing software such as Lightworks and Blender, filmmakers use extra processing using artificial intelligence to remove noise and restore details that are not clear enough in the original image.
Surprisingly, some of the changes that affect the rapid development of cinema go unnoticed. For sure, many of them are not as spectacular and exciting as artificial intelligence, but still, their impact shouldn’t be underestimated. Cloud computing is one example of “shadow” innovations that are changing filmmaking right now.
Cloud technologies are especially interesting in the field of post-production. With high-speed cloud services, multiple teams from around the world can simultaneously tackle editing and visual effects. Professionals get the opportunity to solve all the necessary tasks in the network and at the same time significantly reduce costs.
Still, if you are just starting to delve into the film industry, you shouldn’t immediately grab onto complex technologies like smart algorithms. Master amateur editing software like WeVideo to perfect your sketches and explore how to add a voice-over to video. This will be enough.
3D printing is already widely used in the film industry, from stop motion films to big blockbusters and advertisements. 3D printing is often used to create decorative items and props, but not only there. At the development stages, new individual projects and conceptual solutions are promoted with its help. However, this technology will have its strength in a mix with other methods: traditional with innovative and progressive ones.