In an interesting case study, Formlabs reported on how Aaron Sims, founder and president of Aaron Sims Creative (ASC), an up-and-coming visual effects (VFX) and design studio in Burbank (alongside large, established companies like Weta and ILM) use a Form2 3D printer to bring to life the monster in season one of hit TV series Stranger Things. Apparently he is not the only one 3D printing a demogorgon.. or a demodog.
The precision of a stereolithographic system such as the Form 2 is essential in rendering the highly detailed figures needed for the TV show’s great special effects. A few years ago this process would have cost too much, but Formlabs decidedly made high res 3D printing technology accessible, not just to TV studios but also to enthusiasts.
The way it works in Hollywood is that after the initial sketch is approved by the directors, ASC moves on to create digital 3D assets. In a typical exchange, these assets would be the end of the VFX studio’s role. After several iterations and rounds of review via a screen or printout and some motion studies, the digital files would be passed off to the film studio. But given Sims’ background in practical effects and clay maquettes, the company looked into 3D printing.
“The Demogorgon was one of the first prints that we did using our Formlabs 3D printers, and we were amazed. Before that, we had always outsourced printing. So to be able to grow it in-house, and see a design that we helped create from the very beginning printed right in front of us, was kind of an amazing thing. It was like going back to the days of when we used to sculpt with clay,” said Sims.
The studio typically starts off with smaller 3D prints to make sure everything is built properly. After they work through minor issues, they print larger one-off models to paint and present to the directors. When digital technology first took hold in Hollywood, it may have felt like the days of practical effects and physical models were coming to a close. But as technology like 3D printing, AR, and VR become accessible to more businesses, the lines between digital and physical are becoming blurrier.
“As soon as you can hold something in your hand and turn it around and run your thumb over the surface texture of it, it feels more real. It feels, in a weird way, more impressive. To actually feel what it’s going to be makes it real. And, all of sudden, makes it worth making it in the end.”
The same process that is helping professionals bring screen creatures to life in movies and TV series is, incidentally, making the same creatures come to life, again and again, in the homes of the series’ fans. Enthusiastic amateur 3D modelers create versions of their favorite monsters to share for free on 3D printable model websites such as Thingiverse. The demogorgon is no different: if anything it seems an ideal model to test one’s 3D modeling and 3D printing skills, due to the high resolution required to render the tiny teeth inside its head-mouth. Some have pushed themselves even further, into season’s demodog…