Tessa’s Designer Pick – Laika Studios and 3D Printing

2020-02-07

Tessa Blokland  

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Although Laika Studios is a stop-motion animation studio specializing in feature films, I would like to start this month’s Designer Pick with a special focus on the amazing 3D printing work the studio does for their feature films. And maybe, also because I have a soft spot for films. With each image, I have found a video explaining more about the process of 3D printing for that specific film. I would recommend watching each of them to get an idea of how 3D printing has helped their industry innovate: the amount of time producing the film decreased, while the preciseness of the colors and facial expressions increased. In animation, each second is comprised of 24 frames, so imagine how many different facial expressions are needed per second and scene, and the system of thousands of 3D printed parts forming the right combination. I will look at all of these films with even more admiration.

3D printed facial expressions of Mr. Link, the main character from Missing Link (2019). Listen to Brian McLean, Director of Rapid Prototyping, explaining their challenges of creating these 3D printed facial expressions. The seam between the two parts is blended away with the use of the computer so that the face becomes one part. Nice 3D printing facts: 102,000 3D printed faces, use of a PolyJet (J750) for faces, and a PolyJet (Connex3) for internal head components.

Examples of 3D printed faces of Monkey (pink and purple colored faces) and Beetle (red faces), two characters from the stop-motion feature film, Kubo and the Two Strings (2016). Here is a short video of how the face of Monkey comes to life. Nice 3D printing facts: 64,000 3D printed faces, use of a Z Print for the human faces, and a PolyJet for the creature faces and internal head components for all.

A variety of 3D printed faces from The Boxtrolls (2014). In the video here McLean and Georgina Hayns, Character Fabrication Supervisor, explains how they used 3D printing to create an elaborate replacement animation of characters’ faces in the feature film. Nice 3D printing facts: 56,000 3D printed faces, use of a Z Print for the faces, and a PolyJet for internal head components.

It was in the feature film ParaNorman (2012), that Laika used a color 3D printer for the first time. In the photo below you can have a glance at how a face is built and the top photo shows diverse facial expressions. In the video, the creative team explains how replacement animation works. Nice 3D printing facts: 40,000 3D printed faces, use of a Z Print for the faces, and a PolyJet for internal head components.

It is hard to believe but all the 3D printed faces in Coraline (2009) are hand-painted. In this shot, you can actually see an artist hand-painting a 3D printed white head. In the same video the two guys responsible for what they call the Rapid Prototyping Department, explain how they used 3D printing to animate running water out of a shower. Nice 3D printing facts: 20,000 3D printed faces, use of a PolyJet, and mostly hand painting for color.

The logo of Laika.

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Each of Tessa’s designer pick is a curated group of 3D printed designs or projects from one designer or design studio. If you would like to offer a designer or design studio for Tessa, or if you have your own 3D printed designs or projects you would like to see featured, please let us know by commenting below. Subscribe to the newsletter to get the latest picks every week in your mailbox.

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