3D printing is undeniably a very diverse technology as it has impacted a broad range of industries, from medical, to automotive, to fashion. One particularly exciting area for 3D printing applications, especially in recent years, has been in the entertainment industry, where AM has been leveraged not only as a narrative tool but has also been used behind the scenes to bring some amazing costumes and props to life.
In the case of stop-motion animated TV series SuperMansion, 3D printing has played a critical role in creating the majority of the show’s characters. The series is produced by Stoopid Buddy Stoodios, the production company behind such animated series as Robot Chicken and Buddy Thunderstruck. According to the Stoopid Buddy production team, 3D printing has enabled it to create its broad range of characters while staying within budget and meeting tight production deadlines.
“We have 3D printed a large majority of the show,” explained Kei Chong, the head of the Digital Design Department at Stoopid Buddy. “Pretty much most of what you see on a lot of the human characters is 3D printed—except for the fabric.”
Equipped with a Perfactory 4 DSP XL 3D printer from Detroit-based EnvisionTEC, Stoopid Buddy Stoodios has the ability to turn out high quality prints (with good surface finish and an XY accuracy of 50 microns) which can then be post-processed and hand painted. The quality and accuracy of the prints is crucial, says the animation studio, as characters have interchangeable parts, such as hands and features, that must fit perfectly and everything must look good in front of the camera.
To achieve the necessary level of quality, the animators work primarily with EnvisionTEC’s Pro Gray resin (previously known as R5 Gray), one of the company’s most popular materials. The material offers a high level of detail to prints as well as durability and functionality.
“Sometimes we do characters with things like really fine crow feet around the eyes or hair detail and scales, things like that,” Chong commented. “R5 Gray has served our purposes for both getting that really beautiful amount of detail but then also lasting throughout the stop-motion automation process.”
Importantly, having a 3D printer in-house has enabled Stoopid Buddy Stoodios to make rapid changes to their stop-motion animation characters. “Within the last three years, we’ve incorporated 3D printing into the fabrication pipeline,” said Chong. “The EnvisionTEC printer has been great for us because we can make aesthetic changes much faster than had we hand sculpted them. That’s one less step that a fabricator would have to take on.”
Rob Ronning, a character fabricator at the animation studio, added: “With 3D printing, we’re able to save a lot of time. Even loving the old-school technique as much as I do, I would definitely say a show on the scale of SuperMansion would not have been able to be done with the budget and timelines without 3D printing.”
Overall, Stoopid Buddy Stoodios is benefitting from its EnvisionTEC DLP printer in many ways. In order to produce all the characters and accessories it needs for its superhero comedy, Chong adds that the Perfactory system is often running twice a day, every day.
SuperMansion, which first aired in 2015 and stars Bryan Cranston, Keegan-Michael Key and Yvette Nicole Brown, recently debuted its third season on Sony Crackle. Fans of the show will also be excited to hear that the SuperMansion: Summer Vacation Special will be released on August 16th.