Stage Design Just Got Easier With 3D Printing

How many times have you thought of the perfect stage design or prop but didn’t have enough time to build it? Or you couldn’t locate the actual prop you had visualized for a particular scene? For stage and set designers, this is often a frustrating aspect of the work. It doesn’t have to be anymore.
Woman smiling, sitting in 3D printed , suspended vintage car at an opera performance

Florian Boje is a partner in the Italian stage design firm Giò Forma. They provide show architecture and production design for various entertainment venues, from rock ‘n roll to opera. They were commissioned to design the set for the upcoming performance of Don Pasquale by Donizetti at the famous opera house, La Scala.


Boje looked over the script and — Eureka! He was struck with a golden idea!


He recalled an iconic car scene from Italian cinema and wanted to bring it to the stage. In the 1962 Italian movie, Il Sorpasso, Vittorio Gassmann and Jean-Louis Trintignant fly around Rome in a convertible Lancia Aurelia B24.


Boje wanted the opera’s lead soprano to fly over Rome while seated in the same car. All he needed was a 1950s Lancia Aurelia B24. . .that could fly.


What Most Stage Design Experts Don’t Know


There was only one type of technology that would allow Boje to obtain this rare car in time and stay on budget.


He couldn’t purchase an actual 50s Lancia Aurelia B24. That would cost too much and be too dangerous to lift above the stage which is what Boje envisioned. (Plus, have you ever tried to locate a 1955 Lancia Aurelia B24 to purchase?)


He couldn’t use polystyrene. It would remain full and prevent the lead soprano, Rosa Feola, from sitting in the car. Director, Davide Livermore wanted her inside the car.
He couldn’t fabricate it from wood. That would take too much time.


The only real solution was 3D printing. Fortunately, La Scala worked with Milan-based print provider, Colorzenith, who owned the perfect 3D printer for this job.


Colorzenith is a wide format digital printing company that’s been in the printing and photography industry for 60 years. They offer billboards, displays, vehicle signage and more. In 2017, they expanded their service offering and capabilities by purchasing a Massivit 1800 3D printer. General Manager, Aldo Neri, heard that Giò Forma was looking for a life-size prop for their stage set and not having success. Neri spoke to Boje.


“We could quickly create that car for you with large format 3D printing.”


3D Printing a Life-Size Car in 85 Hours


When Boje saw that Colorzenith could achieve potentially anything imaginable with their giant Massivit 1800, he was sold. And he was relieved, because now his vision would come true, and he wouldn’t have to spend more time trying to obtain this difficult prop.


With an image of the vintage car, Colorzenith and Giò Forma collaborated to create the 3D file which they were able to print on the Massivit 1800. The car was 3D-printed to scale: 4.5 meters by 1.5m (14′ 9″ x 4′ 11″), the actual size. It took 85 hours printing time and four days to assemble. And just like that, Colorzenith was in the stage design business!
Everybody was hugely satisfied.


“It was impossible to hit the time frame with another technology.” -Florian Boje  


Next came the big test: How would it perform on stage?


Publicity. Publicity. Publicity.





When Colorzenith’s Lancia Aurelia B24 rolled onto the stage, it did everything it was intended to do. The door opened, allowing the performer to climb inside. The “engine” smoked. And the entire car took flight. This is exactly what Boje had imagined.


Towards the end of the first act, performers on the stage attached four wires to the corners of the car and then backed off the stage as the vehicle rose higher and higher in the air. The backdrop displayed a bird’s eye view video of Rome passing by below.


The audience loved it. Director Davide Livermore loved it. And the world loved it as images of the flying car spread around the globe.


What’s Next for Stage Designers and Prop Fabricators?


Florian Boje has been in stage design and set design with Giò Forma since 1998. After experiencing the freedom that large format 3D printing offers, Boje reflected:


“If I look back, there would have been several productions where life would have been easier with this new kind of technology.” -Boje


Boje sees 3D printing as a valuable tool for the future of stage and set design. According to him, the technology enables mass customization of specific designs, independent of outside factors like time constraints and availability.


Imagine that. Prop fabricators and stage and set designers could print any prop within hours instead of months? That deserves a standing ovation. Or at least a closer look.


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