3D-Printed Animation

I am going to explore the developing world of 3D-printed animation by modelling and animating a character in 3D (Maya/Zbrush) and then 3D-printing each frame of animation and then photographing it in the real world, with real world elements interacting with the 3D printed pieces. That’s the plan anyway. This will give me the chance to develop my 3D animating skills and character animation in general, but then take the digital animation and situate it in the real world.

It’s not a very practical idea. If you were to do this at 24 fps for a mere 1 minute animation you would have to 3D print 1440 individual pieces. You may be able to use some frames more than once, but that opens you up to a whole host of new issues. For most any kind of production it would be extremely costly and difficult to manage all those different pieces. Although i would like to explore in my research if there are any instances in which 3D-printing your 3D animation would be not only an aesthetic choice, but a practical one. You could number the pieces to keep them organised, which would be fine, but you would need enough real estate to contain them. And most 3D printers are not yet in colour, the ones which are only have limited colours and are extremely expensive, which means if you want colour you are going to have to paint each 3D-printed object, which is a lot of work, especially when considering things like consistency. Also the quality differs from printer to printer, although i think that the quality can add to the charm, it is something to consider. I also learnt last year that 3D-printed objects can be pretty delicate things, as they often hollow inside to save on material, and supported by a mesh-like structure.

Even with all these perceived issues i think there is huge scope for this kind of process to be really interesting.

How 3D printing has changed Stop-motion animation

This video takes a look at how 3D printing is being utilised more in stop-motion animation, to switch out mouths and faces on characters when they are talking. It is still easier for filmmakers to manipulate the wire-frame characters rather than 3D printing thousands upon thousands of different characters for each frame of movement. This process actually reduced production costs and streamlines the process for animators and filmmakers. Animating with stop motion characters takes a lot of skill and patience, and is a niche industry compared to other forms of animation. Whereas animating a character in 3D allows the animator to make adjustments and see the animation immediately and then review them before printing those pieces ready for animators to begin animating.

“It was amazing because the animation was better, but also we were getting it done in (like) a fraction of the time it would normally take.”

The filmmakers are using a 3D printer which does print in colour, and is production quality, which shows just how far 3D-printing has come in such a short amount of time.  They are able to cut costs of production, which is a huge gain for smaller studios especially, by utilising 3D-printing in the stop-motion film-making process. Ultimately it still makes more sense for stop-motion film-makers to use puppet armatures to manipulate the characters

Hello Play! promo video

Hello play! is an online platform for connecting all of your music player accounts in one single place.  This promo video, directed by Greg Barth, features a lot of awesome 3D printing elements as well as practical effects.

“This surreal and retro interpretation of electronic music was driven by a concept to create a beat using instruments that glitch and deform according to the sound they produce, creating a visual landscape that reflects the audio.” 

Making of:

This promotional video incorporates practical effects with stop-motion and 3D-printed elements to create this amazing visual spectacle. The behind the scenes video takes a look at how the artist was able to create these effects using multiple different processes and technology. Why not simply animate these things in a 3D program? I think there is a certain charm to creating these things as real-world objects and then photographing them using stop-motion techniques that is otherwise perhaps missing or just different from 3D-modelled and animated productions.


RUN BABY RUN is a 3d printed animation, created by filmmaker Eran Amir, 100% in camera, on location, with no green-screen or digital trickery. It took over 2,500 unique photos to create the final video.

It looks like he 3D printed 22 separate babies to create the smooth run cycle, and i would assume some kind of device which attached to his camera to situate the babies consistently in frame.

The finished product is a great proof of concept, but the pole would have to be removed in post, which is not totally ideal, unless it is an aesthetic choice by the filmmaker. But the camera can not move around the subject to give the audience another view of the running baby which is also something to consider.

I really like the part of the sequence when the baby is running through the town and people are in the shots in this jumpy timelapse, while the baby character is smoothly running through it all.

Unbox Yourself

Unbox yourself is a fully 3D printed commercial for Zihua Creative, China’s first online learning platform focused on the creative industries.

The team behind the advertisement 3D printed more than 600 “Boxman” figurines in order to complete the project.

The character is not attached to the camera, and will be animated using some kind of ghosting software to ensure it is in the correct place for each frame. This gives the filmmakers the freedom to move the camera around, and makes a big different to the final animation.

Something like this really highlights the possibilities of this kind of process. This film was made by a large team of people working together over a long period of time. So i have to be realistic with the sort of animation i can create in the time i have.

Bears on stairs

Created by DBLG, an ideas agency, who teamed up with Blue Zoo animation to create this adorable little walk cycle.

This is a really simple animation cycle but consists of nearly 50 individually printed bears on stairs to make it appear as smoothly as it does. it looks like the filmmakers have a mark on the floor which they line up with one corner of the stairs to ensure each one is consistently in the correct place for photographing. The low-poly geometric style reminds us that the bear is a computer generated character being brought to life.

Analogue Loaders

A film by Raphael Vangelis on the well known digital symbols we collectively spend our time watching when we spend time on our computers waiting for things to load.

“I tend to use quite slow computers because I am too lazy to upgrade them,” said Vangelis in his “Behind the Scenes” video. “So I noticed that I look at loading screens quite a lot in my daily life. At some point I just thought, why not actually use these loading screens and make an animation out of it, make something fun out of it, because looking at loading screens isn’t very fun, but everybody does it.”

This film is a series of short animations using 3D-printed pieces, among other components. This film shows how 3D-printing a 3D-animation could well make sense in some scenarios. Although i’m sure there is an argument to be made that some of these animations could have been achieved just as easily or easier in other ways, this process allowed the film-maker to visualise the final animation in the computer first before making them real-world objects. Again this is something that could have been achieved entirely using 3D animation and rendering it out on the computer, but there is something really brilliant about the charm of stop-motion animation and finding a balance between the two.

Making of:

The 2D effects which appear in the film are a really great way of making the animation come to life and enhancing the action on screen. This film utilises many different animation techniques; 3D animation, stop-motion elements and 2D animation.

“I wanted to start making something fun out of something boring,” he said. “But now it feels like I looked at loading screens even more, so it’s quite ironic.”

3D Printing Industry. 2018. 3D Printing Industry. [ONLINE] Available at: https://3dprintingindustry.com/news/hello-play-3d-print-animation-39014/. [Accessed 25 September 2018].

3DR Holdings, LLC. 2018. 3DPrint.com. [ONLINE] Available at: https://3dprint.com/165358/3d-print-stop-motion-autobiography/. [Accessed 25 September 2018].

DBLG. (2018). Bears on Stairs. [Online Video]. 11 April 2014. Available from: https://vimeo.com/91711011. [Accessed: 25 September 2018].

Eran Amir. (2016). RUN BABY RUN. [Online Video]. 9 February 2016. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9e8qB2uJ2PY. [Accessed: 25 September 2018].

GoEngineer. (2017). How 3D Printing Has Changed Stop Motion Animation. [Online Video]. 14 June 2017. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMRMufXca1s. [Accessed: 25 September 2018].

Greg Barth. (2014). Hello Play NYE promo. [Online Video]. 31 December 2014. Available from: https://vimeo.com/115735583. [Accessed: 25 September 2018].

Raphael Vangelis. (2018). Analogue Loaders. [Online Video]. 12 February 2017. Available from: https://vimeo.com/203671501. [Accessed: 25 September 2018].

Raphael Vangelis. (2018). Analogue Loaders Behind The Scenes. [Online Video]. 30 January 2017. Available from: https://vimeo.com/201632751. [Accessed: 25 September 2018].

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