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sainsburys$19 billion supermarket chain Sainsbury’s Christmas advertisement entitled “The Greatest Gift” is trending to be one of the most popular ads from major retailers and supermarkets globally this year, with over 12.5 million views on YouTube already. The Sainsbury’s advertisement production team recently stated in an interview that 3D printing technology was utilized as one of the core technologies during the development process of their stop frame animation.

Featuring vocals by James Corden, one of the most successful late-night television talk show hosts in Europe, the stop frame advertisement from Sainsbury’s has garnered positive feedback from its consumers and global audience. Various popularity polls suggested that Sainsbury’s “The Greatest Gift” is catching up to fellow retail giant John Lewis’ Christmas advert entitled “Buster the Boxer,” in terms of impressions and audience feedback.

Sam Fell, the director of Passion Animation Studios, a film production company contracted to develop Sainsbury’s stop frame short film, explained that in the old days, each puppet, toy and prop featured in films had to be made by hand. Traditional manufacturing methods of puppets made it increasingly difficult to add complexity into the characters and impart a particular vibe or aura to the film.

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3D scanning & visualization tool used by Fell

“When I started, you could use clay or sculpt plasticine under a camera or you could build mechanisms within the faces. As charming as they are, both of them have some limitations,” said Fell. “You can’t quite get the range of expressions you want to get to bring the character alive.”

To add a variety of facial expressions, complex features and more intensity into the characteristics of the figurines, Fell and his team utilized 3D printing technology to create figures layer by layer. Fell explained that the precision of 3D printing allowed the team to create figurines and puppets with diversity and unique characteristics.

“So, what we did was use this new method and technology called rapid prototype 3D printing. So with Dave (one of the main characters of the stop frame film), we probably made around 800 different expressions for him in a computer,” said Fell.

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Faces for Dave being 3D printed.

More importantly, the behind the scenes interview with Fell and the rest of the filmmakers revealed that a highly advanced 3D scanning and imaging tool was used to accurately portray the various emotions of Dave. The 3D scanning and visualization tool further enabled the team to integrate a wider color scheme.

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3D printed faces of Dave

Almost immediately after the 3D scanning tool finalized the proportions, a 3D printer was able to print out rapid prototypes or, in this particular case, the final product within a matter of minutes. Through 3D printing, the team led by Fell was able to produce hundreds of different emotions per every character, which would have been impossible with traditional manufacturing methods.

The difficulty in hand crafting these emotions goes beyond time consumption. Sculptures have a limit of expressions and variety of characters they can envision. Thus, it will be nonviable to create facial expressions based on the sculptor’s imagination. With 3D scanning software in place, the entire team was able to weigh in on the development of characters, without having to place the burden on the sculptors.

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Film producers putting glasses onto the 3D printed face of Dave

“There are a lot of different emotions he goes through. Small changes in the face are the most powerful thing,” added Fell.

With various 3D printing technologies, Sainsbury’s and its filmmakers were able to produce some of the most beautiful stop frame shots and animation work of 2016. You can take a behind-the-scenes look at the video’s production below:

Discuss in the Sainsbury’s forum at 3DPB.com.

[All images/video: Sainsbury’s/Passion Animation Studios]

 

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