Award winning design studios turn to 3d printing

The art of creating set design, whether for a movie, TV show, or play, has always been a challenging one. Production designers and art directors for entertainment have large teams that go hunting for the perfect telephone or wardrobe to be featured on the set of your favorite movies and shows.

Other props or set pieces must be fabricated, often by hand sculpting or using a CNC machine. This is no small task, especially for fantasy and science fiction genres. Large teams need to design, construct, assemble, and manually adjust props.

This process is expensive and time-consuming, not to mention methods such as CNC machining can be extremely wasteful as extra material goes into the garbage bin. This is the case for any set design, but for large-scale productions that require expansive sets – the challenge is much bigger, and requires even larger amounts of manpower and time.

3D Printing Ushers in a New Era of Set Design Innovation

3D printed Paul Bunyan for IT Chapter 2

26ft Paul Bunyan prop for IT Chapter 2 feature film by Media Resources. Head, hands, and boots 3D printed on a Massivit 1800 3D printer.

The advent of 3D printing signaled a change in how things are done in many industries, and from the outset appeared tailor made for entertainment. The introduction of 3D printers for set design and props have changed how production teams manufacture their sets, their overall costs and, if using high speed 3D printers such as those from Massivit, you can even invaluably shorten turnaround time.

It has also unleashed limitless creative potential, by virtue of the complex geometries made possible by digital design, enabling film and TV studios the opportunity to wow both movie-goers and industry critics at the same time. Let’s check out a few examples of how set designers and producers are bringing their ideas to life with the innovative technology of 3D printing.

Game of Thrones Prints a Full-Scale Dragon!

Game of thrones dragon 3d printed

Photo Credit: Emiliano Cavolina/123RF

Almost from the day it debuted, Game of Thrones quickly found its way into the hearts of millions of fans. This iconic show was set in an immensely detailed fictional world, and producers were able to hook their audience in great part due to the incredible visual realism. While most of the series was filmed in stunning real-life locales, fans of the show were  surprised to learn that almost all of the props involved were actually 3D printed. How else would Daenerys Targarean and Jon Snow ready their troops to battle a gargantuan army of the undead?

The art department of the show was able to print props and costumes at a low cost, and with a level of precision that simply would not be possible with a team hand-making these items. This led to an influx of the most common 3D printed item on set – a “Sons of Harpy” mask. Yet, the most impressive item that was 3D-printed for Game of Thrones was also surely the largest – a full-scale dragon model!

Interstellar Gets Oscar Win with 3D-Printed Spacecraft

Interstellar ranger spacecraft 3D printed

Photo Credit:

Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar (2014) follows a team of astronauts headed by Matthew McConaughey who travel through a wormhole looking for habitable planets for humanity while Earth’s environment becomes increasingly hostile. The film includes mind bending concepts like black holes, time travel, and alternate dimensions. In the movie, the team of astronauts operate three different spacecraft. Paul Franklin, the visual effects supervisor at Double Negative, won his second academy award for his work on the film. He mentioned that their use of physical 3D models was part of the team’s intention to get as much as possible in front of the camera instead of creating effects in post production that the actors would not be aware of.

Likewise, director Christopher Nolan seemed committed to using “miniature” models of the spacecraft in order to minimize green screen use. However, the “miniatures” were actually very large: one 1/15th scale miniature of one of the crafts that was used in filming was 25 ft. The other crafts were 46ft long and 50ft long. These models were 3D printed and then further detailed by sculptors. This combined effort between technology and creatives brought this film to a new level in visual effects, which earned them an Oscar win in the category and five nominations in set design that year.

A Dream Come True for Weta Workshop CEO

Weta Workshop 3D Printer

Creative Director of Weta Workshop, Sir Richard Taylor with the Massivit 1800 large-scale 3D printer

Weta Workshop is the renowned New Zealand-based design studio behind projects like Lord of the Rings and Avatar. In 2018, the studio installed a large-scale 3D printer from Massivit. At the time of installation, a spokesperson from the studio mentioned how they are often tasked with building large sculptures for their work – up to 30 feet (9 meters) tall. Using standard size 3D printers would require them to print pieces separately, and then manually configure them to make a single prop. This approach is both time-consuming and costly.

Choosing a different route, Weta Workshop decided to use a large scale 3D printer that would save them these extra costs when building larger props. Large scale 3D printers from Massivit 3D offered them the ability to print pieces that were up to 6 feet (almost 2 meters). For CEO and Creative Director Sir Richard Taylor, this was a seminal moment. Taylor excitedly recalled that “For 15 years, we have dreamed of a day when a printer would provide super large scale, speed, and build strength at low print costs, in equal measure. The Massivit 1800 has delivered this for us.”

Is 3D Printing Taking Over The Entertainment Industry?

The truth is, there are many more examples of 3D printing in the entertainment industry than those explored above, and we’d need a great deal more space to fit them all. Once an ever-elusive dream, high quality 3D printing technology has now arrived – on a large scale. This is to say, 3D printing is quickly creating a large footprint in the entertainment industry, and newer technology can make those set pieces and props large too.

The fact that a machine can print an entire dragon for Game of Thrones, for instance, saves countless hours of manual labor and associated costs. Doing this efficiently can only be accomplished with large scale 3D printing, like the kind offered by Massivit. While some have long ago claimed that 3D printed props are revolutionizing the entertainment industry landscape, the toughest challenges lay in the largest of designs. This is where 3D printing can make the biggest mark, and why large scale 3D printing is positioned to eliminate the challenge of creating the biggest, most creative sets and props out there today.

Top image credit: 3D Printed Space Pod for The Orville by FOX. Produced on a Massivit 1800 by Dangling Carrot Creative.


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