Excerpt from an interesting interview with the LUMA animation studio that includes details about how they are using desktop printrbot 3D printers to do their work better.
Cinematic special effects have come a long way since Jason and the Argonauts. What once required dedicated and labor-intensive filming sessions can now easily be generated in near-lifelike quality by modern CGI. But Luma Pictures, an animation studio responsible for some of the biggest blockbuster movie effects of the last decade, has come full circle and incorporated 3D printed analog modeling into its design process.
We sat down recently with Luma Pictures’ VP/Exec Visual Effects Supervisor, Vince Cirelli, to discuss how 3D printing is making better movie monsters….
Giz: And how does your new 3D printer help you make better blockbusters?
VC: It’s really interesting. I didn’t initially understand quite how this was going to help us until we actually started printing. We’re using printrbots, they’re fantastic printers based on open source so you can rely on a community of experts. They’re doing it right. It allows us to sit in a room and get tactile feedback and not just have a model on the screen that we’re tumbling around. You’ve got to remember that we’re human and we have other senses, other ways to perceive things, and I found it incredibly valuable printing out some of these models. I should point out that nothing was printed for Marvel, only for other shows.
Having that tactile feedback is incredible. Understanding how it moves, moving it around in your hands gives you a better idea of things like anatomy, for example, changes we may want to make but missed when the model was only tumbling around on a computer. It’s incredibly valuable for clients, directors, and others who might be a little less tech-savvy to come into a meeting or presentation and be able to interact with the model.
I think being able to draw on the model without having to use a computer is a huge win for costume design and that sort of thing. Also being able to put the model in various lighting environments without having to render anything is fantastic—understanding the form and silhouette of it is really nice and you get a feeling that’s intangible and hard to describe when you’re holding a glass than seeing a glass rendered on a computer screen. You understand the physics of that glass, the light transmission through it, and physical traits intrinsically because that’s how we’re wired. So feeding that back into the computer after having that experience provides us with more information for making decisions. And although you can complete a digital character without ever going out to an analog form, I personally believe that doing so—having that intermediate stage where you’re actually looking at it as a physical reality will only enhance what you’re doing when you go back to the computer.
The other huge thing is that, there’s a reality and a constraint to what things can and cannot do in terms of how they move and you discover that very quickly when you print out objects. Inside the computer, you can do anything and everything is cheated. But there is no cheating in analog, you have to understand how an arm’s going to move and rotate as constrained by the clothing and armor around it, how it fits into its socket, and I find that very interesting in that it’s the cheating (a lot of the time) that makes animation feel unnatural to an audience. It’s the the fact that things seem too perfect. But if you add imperfection back into organisms that you understand it and it feels more real. You may not know why it feels more real but that’s the reason. That’s why we add a lot of imperfection to what we do, we add a lot of what we call “dirt” into the animation.
When you’re holding something and looking at it, it’s easier to spot issues than when it is tumbling around inside the computer. I feel like its a huge advantage personally. I can’t speak for all of the visual effects community but I love it and have become incredibly addicted to using it—not only as a tool but also as an art form. It’s gratifying to have spent a decade working inside computers and now be able to realize it in the physical world.
Every Thursday is #3dthursday here at Adafruit! The DIY 3D printing community has passion and dedication for making solid objects from digital models. Recently, we have noticed electronics projects integrated with 3D printed enclosures, brackets, and sculptures, so each Thursday we celebrate and highlight these bold pioneers!
Have you considered building a 3D project around an Arduino or other microcontroller? How about printing a bracket to mount your Raspberry Pi to the back of your HD monitor? And don’t forget the countless LED projects that are possible when you are modeling your projects in 3D!
The Adafruit Learning System has dozens of great tools to get you well on your way to creating incredible works of engineering, interactive art, and design with your 3D printer! We also offer the LulzBot TAZ – Open source 3D Printer and the Printrbot Simple Metal 3D Printer in our store. If you’ve made a cool project that combines 3D printing and electronics, be sure to let us know, and we’ll feature it here!