Colour 3D/4D Printing for Film

Multi-material 3D printing has the unique ability to mimic the properties of nature, by combining soft and hard materials in one 3D printed object. We move into the realm of 4D Printing, when the objects created have the ability to move and change over time.

The release of the Stratasys J750 extended these organic capabilities, by also printing in the full spectrum of colour. My thesis, "Colour 3D/4D Printing for Film", completed as part of my Masters in Design Innovation at Victoria University of Wellington, explores how this technology may be applied to the film industry. Specifically, it examines how the use of this new technology may bridge the gap between digital effects and live action cinema.

Click the images to read more and watch the final films:

Researching into the Influence of Special Effects in Film

Through the analysis of relevant films, I was able to gain a comprehensive understanding of the position and function of special effects in cinema. I focused on the sci-fi, fantasy and horror genres, as they tend to exhibit the more visible type of special effect. Because these effects tend to be the more impossible and spectacular, audiences will be more critical of when there is an apparent disconnect between "real" and "fake". With the prevalence of digital effects, filmmakers have to work even harder to create the subtle performative nuances that physical effects and props lend to an actor's performance.

I concluded that my 3D printed effects would be successful when functioning as supportive and integral aspects of the film's narrative and setting, while augmenting a character performance that would be otherwise impossible without the use of special effects.

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Material Research

Through material testing and iteration, I was able to gain a strong understanding of how to design for such a unique and complex form of additive manufacturing. As the J750 had only just been release at the start of my research, there were a lot of questions surrounding what would actually be possible with this long-awaited machine. However, as part of my work at the university, I facilitated other students' use of the J750 and similar Polyjet technologies, allowing me to gain a comprehensive understanding of the material's strengths and weaknesses from a thematic perspective.

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Digital Research

As part of my research into the tools that would allow me to create my designs, I analysed the different software and programs available to me, separating them into categories of how they affect surface, area and colour. Ultimately my final designs were created with a combination of Autodesk Maya and Adobe Photoshop CC. While these and the other supporting programs helped me capitalise on the J750's file preparation methods of the time, I have since had the opportunity to explore other programs and solutions. As these technologies develop (along with my ability to use them) I look forward to sharing how these digital tools have furthered the scope of my work.