3D Printed Snails Act as CG Doubles in Creation of a Unique TV Commercial

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snails23We have seen, on numerous occasions, the use of 3D printing in the creation of unique cinema. Whether it be stop motion videos created through the uses of multiple 3D printed objects each fabricated in slightly different positions, or the creation of a totally off the wall animated cinema, created on a FormLabs Form1+ 3D printer, the technology certainly is advancing the industry.

Today, we got word of yet another use for 3D printing in the film making industry, and it involved the 3D printing of those cute, slimy creatures that we know as snails. A company called DeeThree Limited specializes in 3D creations, whether it be physical (3D printed) or digital, and they were hired to 3D print snails for a video commercial that was being produced by an integrated advertising firm called Framestore.

The 30-second spot features a snail named Sheldon who loves watching TV, but never makes his shows on time. What most people who watch this ad won’t realize is that while Sheldon is generated from computer graphics, actually DeeThree Limited 3D printed several snails to aid in the production of the film.

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“The three clear snails were used to align the shots, i.e., they were put in place and then removed to make sure all the shots lined [up],” explained Joe Mitchell, Director of DeeThree Limited, to 3DPrint.com. “The grey snail was used to work out lighting and shadows.”

snailsgrey2The 3D printed snails were created on an iPro 8000 and a ProJet 3500, both from 3D Systems. As you can tell, they came out quite detailed. Even though they didn’t have an actual spot in the film, they played an extremely important role in ensuring that the production went smoothly.

“I used to be a 3D modeler within the film and TV sector, and made the transition to 3D printing, AR (Augmented Reality), and VR (Virtual Reality) when I set up DeeThree,” Mitchell tells us. “So we have a lot of connections within that industry. Our friends at Framestore thought that 3D printing snails to use on set would ultimately save time and money in post, so that is why they chose to go with us. With my knowledge of TV and film pipeline, I can work there file formats and convert them to print easily.”

As you can see in the video below, the film turned out very nicely. Mitchell tells us that his company is also working on 3D prints for more commercials, which he can’t reveal quite yet. Stay tuned!

It tooks the team at Framestore two weeks to build the CG model of Sheldon the snail for TellyJuice, the company for which the film was created.

“TellyJuice were lovely throughout the process,” said Framestore VFX Supervisor, Russell Dodgson. “What’s really nice about this job is that it relies on the staple aspects of what we do: brilliant animation, brilliant rendering and great compositing. There are no big camera moves to hide in, no crazy shots that will always look a little odd, just simple, nice storytelling with a beauty character right up close to camera.”

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What do you think of the use of 3D printing combined with 3D computer graphics? Are these two technologies ultimately meant for each other? Discuss in the 3D Printed Film Characters forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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