American Television Series ‘Better Call Saul’ Uses 3D Printing for Production

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[Image: AMC]

It has been revealed that Better Call Saul, a television series surrounding its main protagonist Saul Goodman — the attorney for Walter White, a chemist, meth dealer and the most notorious criminal in Albuquerque made famous in Breaking Bad — has utilized innovative technologies including 3D printing to produce its latest season.

Better Call Saul special effects on-set technician Joseph Ulibarri incorporated 3D printing technologies such as 3D modeling and motion graphics in order to ease the production process of the TV show and film more efficiently in terms of time and expenses.

In season 3, Ulibarri focused on utilizing various 3D printers and open source programmable hardware Arduino to significantly reduce manual labor and on-set preparations prior to shooting major scenes. For instance, with the usage of Arduino and programmable lights, the production crew of Better Call Saul was able to smoothly produce certain episodes without having the light effects crew manually direct lighting and background. The Arduino programmable hardware autonomously carried out complex tasks.

“But today [with the Arduino], I can just program that I want an LED to go half as bright as it was before. It has been a real game changer for what we do—writing apps and Bluetooth’ing stuff to happen on cue rather than using playback,” Ulibarri told ArsTechnica in an interview.

For the Arduino to function properly, Ulibarri and Better Call Saul props assistant Jason Delap incorporated innovative 3D printing methods to create retro-inspired devices such as one aesthetically based on the Magellan Trailblazer, a GPS device from 1993, to be used during season 3.

[Photo: Joseph Ulibarri via Ars Technica]

Traditionally, props assistants and manufacturers would provide actors with nonfunctional prototypes with outer frames. For the viewers, such props may seem realistic but for the actors and production crew, the incorporation of nonfunctional props could result in serious difficulties while shooting.

One of the signature props the Ulibarri and Delap created was the tracking device, with the look inspired by the early ’90s GPS. The outer layer and framework was created using 3D printing technologies and printers, using 3D modeling and scanning methods to accurately portray the GPS decide from more than two decades ago. Upon the completion of the 3D printed outer layer, the Arduino hardware was positioned inside, to operate as an actual GPS device.

“Sometimes, it’s difficult to give him [Vince Gilligan, writer of Better Call Saul] what he wants, but that’s what I love about working with him. He knows what he wants, and that makes it easy to work towards,” said Ulibarri.

[Photo: Joseph Ulibarri via Ars Technica]

According to Ulibarri, the innovative vision of Better Call Saul writer Vince Gilligan pushed himself to try alternative methods to create more realistic props to be used within the show. More to that, 3D printing enabled Ulibarri to show Gilligan simple prototypes at his request, which significantly reduced the planning, research and development stages of Better Call Saul.

“We figured out what components we needed—using the Arduino, deciding what kind of battery and screen we needed—then we put together a couple prototypes. That’s what’s so great about 3D printing: the next day I can have a prototype to show [Gilligan],” Ulibarri added.

Some other aspects of the show including the notable “The Winking Greek” character, the mascot for a Greek store used by a character as a drug trafficking front in the TV show, were created using 3D printed prototypes.

3D printing is coming into increasing use in television, with shows such as Game of Thrones and Gomorra among the many turning to the technology to prototype and create finished screen-ready props.

Discuss in the Better Call Saul forum at 3DPB.com.

[Source/Images: Ars Technica]

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