A couple months ago we covered a company called Laika that was using 3D printing to create their stop motion characters for their latest film, The BoxTrolls. This was a major step for the film industry, as Laika is somewhat of a powerhouse when it comes to stop motion films. They were behind hit movies like The Nightmare Before Christmas, ParaNorman, and Coraline. Laika has a budget which was able to afford the purchase of nine different 3D printers, with the most expensive one being a $210,000 machine.
Unfortunately, not every company or director has the hundreds of thousands of dollars that Laika does for production costs. Dawn Brown, the creator of House of Monsters, which premiered earlier in the year, turned to crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to raise money for the production of her stop motion film. In total, they raised $20,218, just surpassing their goal of $20,218, laying the framework for a future film.
Brown has told us that they have almost wrapped up pre-production of the film and expect to begin filming in the next few weeks. The pre-production process has relied heavily on a single 3D printer, the Formlabs Form1+, which has allowed the studio to create dozens of faces for each character, with varying facial expressions.
“We are producing two episodes at this time, and they will premiere online early next year,” Brown explained to 3DPrint.com. “Thanks to the affordability and accessibility of companies like Formlabs, this technology is available to small, indie productions like House of Monsters. We’ve printed around 100 faces so far, and I estimate we will have around 300 faces for these two episodes. By purchasing our own printer, we can produce the parts at approximately 25 percent of the cost of using a vendor–or, we can print four times as many parts, however you want to look at it!”
The Form1+, at just $3,299, is well within the budget of the studio, and provides them with the high resolution capabilities they need to produce the high quality faces needed for their stop motion film. The printer can produce several faces at once, and are immediately ready to be painted once they are fabricated.
“We decided to turn to 3D printing for a couple reasons,” explained Brown. “The main reason was that we wanted to raise the quality of our production value. I made a House of Monsters short in 2012, it was just for fun, and the characters couldn’t really emote or act with their faces. The short was well received, and I decided that if we were to keep moving forward with this project, we needed to build the quality of our production.
Warren Manser is our character designer. He did the characters as Photoshop illustrations at first, and then built them as 3D models in Z Brush. It was a huge time saver to have the same artist develop the characters from 2D concept to 3D print.”
House of Monsters originally looked into using local vendors, however, they found that the affordable vendors used FDM printers, producing an inferior, less detailed end product. The vendors capable of producing quality faces for the studio were using expensive PolyJet 3D printers, and charging an arm and a leg for faces. Such prices were not affordable on the studio’s budget. After ruling out both vendors, Brown began to consider purchasing the studio’s own 3D printer. She checked out a MakerBot Replicator, but found that the detail she needed to really define each facial expression was lacking. Finally, they decided on the Formlabs Form1+, as she explained to us.
“They produce an affordable SLA printer that’s easy to use and gives us the quality we require for our project. They were funded by Kickstarter. We were funded by Kickstarter. Let’s keep the party going.”
I certainly can’t wait to catch the first episode of the film next year. Below you can see some of the 3D print and painted faces for characters within the film. Let’s hear your thoughts on Brown’s project in the House of Monsters forum thread on 3DPB.com. Check out the video below for a behind the scenes look at how the studio used 3D printing for this incredible project.
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