Using 3D printing to make film and TV props is a must for production crews. I’ve supported model and prop makers for many years and know 3D’s easy repeatability and design customisation open many new options to them. While some prop masters are fully embracing the technology, others are working out the best way to integrate it into their tooling methods.
Some of the most talked about 3D printed props of recent years include:
- The Iron Man suit in Iron Man 2
- The Demogorgon from Stranger Things
- 3D printed dinosaur skeletons from the Jurassic World franchise
- Sons of the Harpy masks from Game of Thrones
- James Bond’s iconic Aston Martin featured in Skyfall
There were in fact three versions of this DB 5 model to accommodate for the many action scenes the car was in, since some of these scenes included explosions. This furthermore highlights the importance of repeatability when it comes to prop making.
But what else persuades prop masters to include 3D printing technologies into their model making bag of tricks?
To help me get to the bottom of this, I had a chat with our model-maker, Lee Heath:
“Repeatability and design customisation are big benefits but one that many non-model-makers overlook is texturing. Being able to create the illusion of two or more materials on the same build saves both time and money, “
A new challenge
Our conversation continued and I set Lee the challenge to build and finish three film props which could demonstrate what a great skill professional texturing is. After exploring some options, we settled on showcasing contrasting materials: Wood, metal and stone.
“I built this tankard on our RSPro800 machine using Somos EvoLVe 128 material. I chose EvoLVe as it’s a strong material with a soft feel and it is easier to finish. It doesn’t need sanding down as much or prepping in general before painting.
I then used the grooves and metal notches of the design to create the shadows and highlights. The light and dark contrast of this piece brings it to life.
I built this as a single piece on the RSPro800 as I wanted to show how quickly, easily and conveniently a background prop like this can be made. This build can be used as a master for prop specialists to apply their own tooling and to make multiple versions of it, several 1000s if needed.” – Lee Heath.
“I wanted to show some customisation on this piece, so I modified the data and added the AME-3D logo to the blade. Like the tankard, this was built as a single piece in Somos EvoLVe 128. The axe is incredibly light, which makes transporting it easier and safer. And like the tankard, it can be used as a master to make multiple axes as required using vacuum casting.
The axe’s hilt doesn’t have any grooves like the tankard did, so I used several coats of paint to create a smooth and realistic wooden look.”
“There were two reasons I chose to build an axe. One was because weapons are frequently used in fantasy, action and even horror films. I decided to make this look like it belonged on an American movie set. The other reason was because I wanted to show a smooth metal finish and a strong wood-metal contrast.
The stone golem
“Stone is a fun texture to recreate in 3D, as most people are surprised how close to the real thing it can look. With this stone golem, I wanted to show how a creature could be 3D printed to then be used for stop-motion animation scenes or in combination with CGI effects.
CGI artists often use smaller, physical 3D models of their designs to review how to put the creature into a scene, to check if the colour schemes work and if the proportions are right. This helps them to ensure the creature looks as realistic as possible.”
“That’s why getting the intricate detail across was important for this build. I split the design up to get the details and realism across, as this is what will bring the golem to life.
I also printed it in clear resin, so I could add a set of LED lights to its innards. These lights serve as a great example of how far 3D printed models have come in supporting CGI artists.”
“The golem’s stone fist is particularly popular with our sales team, who like to show it off at open days and events. I’m taking that as a compliment.” – Lee Heath.
3D print without limits
What this internal project mainly shows is that if someone’s imagination can dream it up (like a stone golem fuelled by light), then we can build it.
By combing additive manufacturing technologies with our insight and skills in professional model-making, any UK creative studio can 3D print without limits. Prop masters can use 3D models as a master for their own tools and then create on mass if needed. There are several ways to integrate 3D into your current model-making set-up that goes beyond prototyping.
If this has piqued your interest, use our online contact form or call the office on 01909 550 999 to have a chat with me. And if you’d like to explore more about 3D printed props, review our TV and film page here and our blog on what makes a good prop.