Behind Lady Gaga at the Grammys — A Few Questions For: 3D Systems

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The glitz! The glamour! The Grammys! The Gaga!

Following this past Monday’s incredible Grammy Awards, a few performances have stuck in everyone’s minds–and Lady Gaga‘s tribute to the late David Bowie (still a hard phrase to type) certainly is chief among these. We took a look just a few days ago at the incredible performance, as 3D technology and Intel had a huge role in bringing this creative endeavor to fruition, beyond what anyone might have imagined a few short years ago. From 3D scans of Lady Gaga’s face to orb-like rings that helped control the show, the process start to finish was an impressive group effort centered around Gaga’s smashing vocal performance.

gagaWe’ve known that Intel played a great role in the tech efforts–and they pulled 3D Systems into the ring, as well.

“As a frequent contributor to a variety of merchandising, animation, costume- and set-design needs, 3D Systems’ Gentle Giant Studios in Burbank is known in the entertainment industry for our on-demand parts expertise and talented artistic specialists. Due to the high involvement of technology in the tribute, 3D Systems was contacted by Intel, Lady Gaga’s partner for the event, for help 3D-scanning and -printing critical show elements,” 3D Systems explained today on their latest blog post.

3dsThe combination at play here is truly unbeatable: combining live performance, David Bowie’s music and legacy, Lady Gaga’s unforgettable showmanship and talent, 3D printing, robotics, scanning, Intel, AND 3D Systems? We frequently cover some awesome projects here, but this one takes the cake for sheer amount of (continuing with the cake theme) ingredients that went into this particular creative oven.

I recently had the opportunity to find out more about the work 3DS put into the project, and I have to admit I was just a little bit star-struck; I’m suddenly just a few degrees separated from Lady Gaga, and those who helped put together a seriously cool show! Karl Meyer, Vice President, Entertainment, at 3D Systems, kindly took the time to answer just a few questions for me so we could exclusively find out just a little bit more about this project.

How did 3D Systems become involved with this project?

3D Systems has done 3D scanning work with Lady Gaga previously and has collaborated with Intel on many projects over the years, so when they imagined this high-tech performance, we were a natural fit.

What made 3DS’ technologies the right fit for Lady Gaga?

For a project like this, there were two critical factors: resolution and turnaround time.

We were tasked with creating a ultra-high resolution scan of Lady Gaga’s head for use in creating that amazing opening segment of her performance—the one where special effects were projected onto her face. Once we captured the scan data, we brought it to life using one of our in-house, large-frame SLA printers, which gave us that incredibly smooth surface finish we were after.

But—like most of our entertainment work—all of this had to be done against incredibly tight deadlines. And that’s where the magic of 3D printing really came into play. From scan to print we recreated Lady Gaga’s head in less than two days. We also had to manufacture the housing for Lady Gaga’s Curie module-based rings against timelines that would make traditional manufacturers’ heads spin.

Those kind of on-demand parts manufacturing services are becoming increasingly important to the entertainment industry—from filmmakers to set designers to visual effects artists—because all of a sudden they can take those last minute creative inspirations and make them a reality. All without running over budget.


Lady Gaga’s 3D printed head [Photo: 3D Systems]

Where would you rank being involved in Lady Gaga’s tribute to David Bowie on the ‘cool’ scale of projects?

As a longtime musician and fan of David Bowie, it was particularly gratifying to have the opportunity to play a role in this project. But we’re also fortunate to get to work on cutting edge projects in the entertainment world every day, from the new Star Wars, to Gravity to the forthcoming Batman vs. Superman. Ranking projects by coolness is difficult in our line of work!

But what made this a really exciting project was that Lady Gaga and Intel both had this shared creative vision of pushing technology into new frontiers. They wanted to do something bold and something that had never been done before. And 3D Systems was able to help make that happen.

curieAs 3DS has further detailed, the Gentle Giant team worked with Lady Gaga to fully 3D scan her face, capturing a “choreographed series of expressions” that would allow for fully accurate templates to work the visual effects at play during the performance. Moving at a madcap pace through some of the most iconic looks of David Bowie’s storied career, Lady Gaga clearly didn’t have time for the many makeup changes that would have been necessary, instead allowing for real-time visuals enabled by the scans, which accurately relayed her facial measurements in a scan optimized “for geometry, texture, lighting and tracking,” allowing for the “digital makeup” to be spot-on.

Furthermore, 3DS’ ProX 950 3D printer came into play before the show to make it all possible, creating the custom fit of the orb rings that allowed for on-stage control. The 3D printed rings provided the necessary enclosure for Intel’s Curie technology. And of course, as with much of the industry’s work, 3DS noted, the work was done fast:

“Beyond delivering a high-quality product, turnaround time was critical to the success of this job. Although tight deadlines are the norm in entertainment, it’s almost impossible to meet them when you have to tool or hand-sculpt for traditional manufacturing processes. Fortunately for all involved, the digital workflows enabled by additive manufacturing allowed us to race the clock and come out singing. In a mere 48-hours, we were able to scan and print Lady Gaga’s head for the tribute’s visual effects as well as create the personalized sizing for over a dozen bespoke Curie rings.”

 The entire project highlights yet again the ways that technology is infiltrating every aspect of our lives–and even every aspect of our entertainment. While stop-motion animation may seem a somewhat more obvious (though, of course, really rad, even award-winning) use for 3D printing technology, the fact that live performance can now incorporate everything from 3D scans to robotic dancing pianos is pretty mind-blowing.

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