A decade ago Weta Digital led the way in CGI, creating wonderful digital characters such as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Now their sister company, Weta Workshop, is doing the same in the printing of 3D props.
Weta Workshop has been using 3-D printing to create props, including the animatronics, for The Hobbit reports Spectrum IEEE.
Pietro Marson, head of Weta Workshop’s animatronics department. says,
“We’ve gone from virtually hand-making everything to utilizing 3-D modelling and manufacturing on most of our work,”
Because pieces can be produced so cheaply and quickly with 3-D printing, animatronics can sometimes be used instead of CGI. In the goblin scenes in The Hobbit : An Unexpected Journey, for example, Marson estimates that 90 percent of the animatronics that provided the goblin eyeballs, facial muscles, lips, and tongues on set were models from 3-D printers. CGI goblins were used for crowd filling and scenes not filmed on set.
“The speedup can be tremendous”, Marson says,” A 3-D-printed eye mechanism might cost $50 to print and a day to fine-tune. By contrast, employing a craftsman to make the same thing by hand, he says, could take up to two weeks. The benefits can also be seen on-screen—computers can’t always substitute for the authentic look and feel an actor can convey when working with a physical prop or set.”
With many CGI companies struggling to survive, it’s great to see Weta leading the way again, with this new and somewhat amazing technology.