3D printing is taking over Hollywood. The way movies, television shows, and even advertisements are produced is evolving. 3D printing is making movies much more real, not only to watch as a viewer but also to act for artists with the use of real 3D printed props and prosthetics.
Hollywood studios have also begun to embrace new production technologies such as 3D printing, which can incorporate AR, VR, and video game development. In addition, game engines and LED walls have replaced the widely used green-screen. All of this is part of a new approach to filmmaking, but there are many more puzzle pieces to be discovered.
“Even props aren’t made the way they used to be anymore.”– Jaco Snyman, Founder, Dreamsmith Studio
Because of the business’s cyclical nature, he’s had plenty of downtime over the years to teach himself new skills, such as animation and CGI.
Snyman told Protocol that he had long wished to use 3D printers to design props digitally rather than with clay and wire mesh. For the longest time, the tech was unprepared, in part because the printers he could afford couldn’t produce large enough props.
However, with the proliferation of the technology, wider adoption, and increasing competition, 3D printers are becoming cheaper, better, and larger.
Raised by Wolves
3D printing has finally arrived in Hollywood, thanks to a new generation of larger 3D printers produced by companies such as Formlabs that are still affordable for shops such as Dreamsmith. Snyman has used Formlabs 3D printers for a variety of projects, including both seasons of the HBO Max sci-fi series “Raised by Wolves.”
Snyman created a number of moulds for season two, which were then used to create silicone masks.
Traditionally, this would have been a multi-week process involving close collaboration with the actor. Actors can now simply visit a 3D capture studio anywhere in the world, and Snyman’s team can use those files to create highly accurate moulds.
Snyman added, “You had to actually see the actor in person, put silicone all over their face. We can make prosthetics for an actor now before they’re on set or even before they travel to South Africa for their shoot.”
3D Printed Props and its Impact
Snyman was also able to create large props, such as an intricate, life-sized biomechanical skeleton, which would have been nearly impossible to create without the use of 3D printing. “There are certain techniques available for digital sculpting that are really difficult to achieve with clay,” Snyman said.
3D printing is more than just a tool. Sure, getting better-looking props faster is great news for studios, especially those trying to produce more and more shows for their expanding streaming empires.
However, something as insignificant as a prop that appears in a split-second scene is part of a much larger trend in Hollywood toward creating large libraries of digital assets that can then be re-used in a variety of contexts — whether on set, in future sequels, or even in game or VR offshoots.
This could eventually become a two-way street, with studios sending raw assets to companies like Dreamsmith, which then returns designed physical props and digital copies.
Many of Hollywood’s cutting-edge technologies are actually making filmmaking feel more real; it’s less about adding visual effects after the fact. Actors now stand in front of LED walls that show the actual background of a scene, rather than performing in the void of a green-screen environment.
“In the future, actors may wear physical prosthetics that have been designed digitally and hold physical 3D-printed props that are being tracked to add visual effects in real time. You can imagine that everything created digitally has a physical representation.”– Max Lobovsky, CEO Formlabs
Virtual cameras allow directors to preview effects on set. And, thanks to 3D printing, objects that would have been rendered by VFX artists after filming are now being used as real props. This change is having a profound impact on the way films are made and will be made going forward.
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