Stopmotion animation design using Ultimaker 3D printer

3D printing a movie

  • Written by Herbert Blankesteijn
    Mar 18, 2015

Thanks to computers you can make anything happen in films nowadays. Of course live action movies are full of special effects. But animation has changed too. Hand drawn animation has changed into computer drawn animation, then into animation of computer generated 3D worlds, like in the Toy Story movie series.

Now 3D printing is fast becoming an important tool for makers of animation films all over the world. Somehow it adds to the fun if you first build your 3D imagery in the computer, then print it, then use the physical objects to painstakingly create a stop motion animation and turn that in a digital movie sequence.

One of the earliest examples of this is 'Bears on Stairs,' a very short black and white animation of a bear endlessly climbing a flight of stairs. A 'making of' of this pioneering video, containing the animation itself, appeared on Vimeo less than a year ago. For about six seconds of video, the creators at British animation studio DLBG had to print 50 versions of the bear, each one in a slightly different posture.

While they were at it, the bear's creators had their bears dance as well:

A similar animation is 'Box Man,' a Chinese production. wrote about it in October 2014 Box Man tells a story, and a funny one too, but also lacks colour.

Then there is this commercial for online music platform Hello Play, which shows very clearly how 3D printing enhances a stop motion animation that uses regular objects as well.

This one comes with a 'making of' too:

One of the best and funniest examples of animation using 3D printing is 'In the Boxtrolls.' It's a feature movie about weird creatures who have boxes both as body parts and as shelter. Here's the trailer:

There's a spinoff series of YouTube shorts as well. Here's one example:

And this Gizmodo article explains all about the project and the role of 3D printing in the process. As a bonus it embeds more episodes of the YouTube series.

Finally, 3D printing can be used to explain the making of a CGI sequence to regular folks. The Dutch animation studio Job, Joris en Marieke (who had an Oscar nomination this year with 'A Single Life') recently came up with 'Freeze,' which shows a sequence of a little man jumping around on a desk. Then the video goes on showing 3D prints of all postures of the little guy, printed with an Ultimaker 2, although no 3D prints were used in making the video sequence itself.

These 3D prints now serve in the real world as part of an exhibition in the Dutch town of Amersfoort. It's a unique way of looking at all the frames of an animation at once. The exhibition is called Move On and takes place in Kunsthal Kade in Amersfoort, where it can be seen until May 10th.