Coming Soon to a 3D Printer Near You

clay_3D_printer_3Photo Credit

One of the newest technologies to transform the lives of both men and women in the media (among other industries) has been 3D printing, which can be used for anything from downloading and printing your own make-up to creating replacement body parts. Within the realm of media specifically, 3D printers (which kind of feel like something straight out of the classic cartoon, The Jetsons) have been used for an innovative purpose: set, prop, and character design.Many popular movies have utilized 3D printing in this way, including Paranorman, Iron Man 2, and The Hobbit. This video explores how 3D printing was used in The Hobbit, specifically:

Versions of the intricate props and weaponry used in The Hobbit can even be downloaded by fans, who can now print their own memorabilia through the use of online “blueprints.”

These movies represent genres that especially benefit from this new technology. Paranorman and other movies like it (such as Coraline) depend heavily on a stop-motion type computer animation that is incredibly detailed and time-consuming from a production standpoint. 3D printing has revolutionized the way these movies get made, saving countless hours of creative labor while allowing for an infinitely larger amount of variation in design, particularly in terms of facial expressions (see the gallery below for pictures).

On the other end of the spectrum, big-budget action and sci-fi thrillers have also benefited enormously from this new technology. In Iron Man 2, members of the design team and production crew were able to print life-size, wearable versions of Stark’s iconic armor as well as a wearable mask of actor Robert Downey Jr.’s face for stunt doubles (again, see the gallery below). These innovations have virtually erased many of the limitations faced in producing such movies, where prop design has always been very labor-intensive:

With more and more effects-heavy blockbusters being produced than ever before, it is clear that 3D printing’s role in Hollywood will only continue to grow in the coming years.


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  1. Pingback: ‘Authenticity has replaced Authority’ | Digital Disruption

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