From the beginning, special effects have always been an important part of the film industry. In order to tell their stories in the most convincing way possible, directors have long used optical illusions and ‘camera tricks’ to fool their audiences into believing what they were seeing was really happening. This tradition has continued over the evolution of the art form, with most modern movies using some form of behind the scenes help. From creating a winter wonderland in the middle of summer, to using makeup to change an actor’s physical appearance, to using computers to simulate a house on fire, we see dozen of special effects employed while watching the average movie.
Nowadays special effects are synonymous with computer generated graphics. We usually think about the extensive world building that made movies such as Avatar and the Lord of the Rings franchise so mesmerizing. However, that is not the limit to behind the scenes movie work. For several years, 3D Printing has been included in the bag of tricks of several special effects companies. Many popular blockbusters were aided by 3D printed props. Here’s one example: Have you seen Skyfall, the latest installment of the James Bond franchise? For the series’ 50th anniversary, the legendary Aston Martin DB5 was featured. *Spoiler Alert* You know where I’m going with this. During the movie’s climax, the car was completely destroyed. Fans and car enthusiasts alike balked. If you were one of those horrified viewers (like me), rest assured. Using their VX4000, a high end 3D Printer, German special effects company Voxeljet recreated a 1:3 scale true to life version of the DB5 and destroyed that one instead. Whew. Voxeljet has this to say on their website: ‘The demanding viewing public demands a realistic representation of movie sets and action scenes. Leading film studios and model builders all over the world favour 3D Printing. (The) high-resolution printers can create concrete objects such as James Bond’s car, or entire make-believe worlds using a process that is rapid, cost-effective, true-to-scale and realistic, while staying true to detail.’
As Hollywood continues to release high octane, big budget action movies, the demand for 3D Printing will only increase within the industry. Here is a few upcoming movies that have used 3D Printing as a part of their behind the scenes work: Robocop (2014), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), X-Men: Days of Future Past. Be sure to look out for them!