Starburns Industries Uses 3D Printing to Bring Greater Realism to Anomalisa Character

Product: CJP Print
Industry: Design and Art

3D printer delivers color, volume and quality to enable Starburns to create “thousands upon thousands” of faces for stop-motion puppets.

“Sad,” “beautiful,” “witty,” “every character fascinating and boldly realized”: These are not words one typically associates with a stop-motion film starring puppets.

But, then again, the film Anomalisa is something that’s not been seen before.

The range of expressive humanity achieved in the film was made possible by the high-resolution 3D color printing of the 3D Systems ProJet® CJP 660 system. Starburns Industries, a full-service production company based in Burbank, California, used the 3D printer to turn out thousands of different faces with life-like details such as wrinkles, smiles, frowns, worry lines and bags under the eyes.

Starburns Anamolisa CJP Printed Faces

Aesthetic Value Meets Productivity

Over the last few years, 3D printing has become commonplace in the movie industry for applications such as prototyping, prop making and creating objects that are difficult to construct in traditional ways. But, in the sheer volume of parts and in the emotional realm in which it is used, Anomalisa sets new precedents for 3D printing in entertainment.

Duke Johnson, co-director of Anomalisa, along with Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), cited 3D printing for helping to establish the inner feelings of the characters and providing a higher level of detail.
But for all the aesthetic value that the ProJet CJP 660 helped bring to the characters, the use of this particular 3D printer came down primarily to productivity: the system is fast, reliable and generates life-like color. 

The ProJet CJP 660 outputs full-color 3D prints in one run without having to change palettes. Its build area of 254 x 381 x 203 mm (10 x 15 x 8 inches) enabled Starburns to turn out dozens of faces with different expressions in a single run within hours.
“Color is the most important attribute for us, along with speed and the volume the machine can produce,” says Bryan LaFata, Operations Supervisor at Starburns Industries. “We were running the ProJet almost non-stop for a year and a half during Anomalisa production, creating thousands upon thousands of faces.”

Thousands of Expressions   

Starburns modeled and printed three basic head designs for Anomalisa: One each for the lead characters Michael and Lisa, and another for what is called the “world face,” a composite face modeled from 20 or more Starburns employees. The world face was used for every character except Michael and Lisa.

The faces for the characters include an upper and lower faceplate. Thousands of expressions were modeled and printed by Starburns for the characters. This gave animators access to nearly every possible expression for a given scene.
“We produced racks full of faces so they could be switched out at any time,” says LaFata. “It could take multiple facial models just to get the right smile.”

Retaining the Look and Feel  

A conscious choice was made by the Anomalisa directors to keep the lines between the upper and lower faces in place without digital airbrushing.

James A. Fino, Executive Producer and Partner at Starburns, explains this decision in an article on the Producer’s Guild of America website: “Recent stop-motion animated features typically erase those lines digitally, but that was not our choice for Anomalisa. Rather than a distracting element, the seams serve as subtle and persistent signs of the incredible artistry on display in the film.”

In a New York Times article by Mekado Murphy, co-director Kaufman explained it this way: “We didn’t want to hide the fact that it’s stop-motion. We didn’t want to paint out the thing that it was…we wanted that feeling of the unseen presence of the animators.”

Starburns also did minimum post-processing of the characters’ faces, retaining the look and feel that came directly from the ProJet 660. Again, this was the directors’ preference.

“We used [3D printing] for a very specific purpose with the realism that they wanted in the faces, and the textures and the differences in color would not have been possible by hand-painting,” says Caroline Kastelic, Starburns Puppet Supervisor, in an IndieWire interview. “And that’s why they have that nice texture on them…I find that aesthetically brilliant and it also saved us a lot of time.”

Local Support 

Creating the thousands of faces, dozens of body models, and the realistic sets for a production such as Anomalisa takes teamwork; not just among the nearly 200 people at Starburns, but by outside partners as well.

LaFata gives credit to 3D Rapid Prototyping, a 3D Systems partner based in nearby Garden Grove, California, for keeping Starburns supplied with materials and even printing face models when needed.

“We were pushing out a lot of faces, often 24/7, and Bill Craig [3D Rapid Prototyping President/CFO] and his team were always there to help us out,” he says.

Big Future for 3D Printing 

Starburns Anamolisa CJP Figures

No matter how fascinating the behind-the-scenes technology is for a film, the ultimate measure of success is how the story is delivered. In the case of Anomalisa, 3D printing is not just a special effect or quirky conversation piece; it is integral to the way the characters perform.

The approach seemed to have struck a chord: Beyond Oscar and Golden Globe nominations, Anomalisa was the first animated film to win the Grand Jury Prize at the 72nd Venice International Film Festival. In his five-star review in Rolling Stone magazine, Peter Travers calls Anomalisa a “stop-motion masterpiece.”

Bryan LaFata doesn’t think Anomalisa is a one-off phenomenon.

“The scale and speed at which you can produce full-color models on a machine such as the ProJet CJP 660 is definitely a major benefit,” he says. 

“I think 3D printing has a big future for stop-motion films.”

Cisco Uses ProJet 3D Printing Technology to Help Uphold Scandinavian Design Tradition

Product: CJP Print
Industry: Consumer Products and Retail

“We get prototypes quickly, we refine them quickly, we create new ones, and we derive our elite designs….” – Eskild Hansen, Head of European Design Centre, Cisco Consumer Business Group.

This is the story of how professional designers combined time-honored aesthetic principles with 3D printing technology to produce some of the world’s most elegant consumer electronic equipment.

Devices like wireless routers, the media hub, and the wireless home audio system create what the Cisco Consumer Business Group calls the connected life, a life that’s more personal, more social, and more visual. Constant network connectivity is a given, and the focus is on the content — the music, video, Web pages, and work materials coursing through the home, office, or classroom.

linksys-router-6-hr-mega-menu

As these devices further infiltrate the home, networking gear becomes more central to our lives, moving from the “computer room” to the living space. Thus, like a stainless steel refrigerator, electronics must be aesthetically pleasing with sleeker, less boxy lines, while increasing connectivity, reliability, and intuitive operation. Thus, making functional objects both simple and beautiful is the challenge Cisco engineers face every day.

Challenge:
Upholding traditional design standards in the fast-growing consumer electronics world

Since design excellence is paramount for the Cisco Consumer Business Group, the company recently established a European Design Centre in Copenhagen, Denmark. Here the company continues the venerable tradition of Scandinavian design — functional, minimal, and affordable — without compromising design aesthetics.

Scandinavian design tradition requires the engineer to hold a prototype of his or her creation in their hands, absorb the proportions, heed what the object has to tell them, and ensure that the form ultimately follows the function. The artisan then modifies the design, creates another prototype, and examines the new design just like the first.

The problem is that traditional handcrafted prototypes are time-consuming and expensive to create. Most automated rapid prototyping technologies are just as costly and must be outsourced, adding time and inconvenience to the process. And though many designers rely on 2D screen images alone, they are simply insufficient to create the quality that the Cisco Consumer Business Group demands. The challenge, then, is upholding the highest aesthetic standards while meeting deadlines in the highly competitive consumer electronics business, where time to market is critical.

Strategy:
Investing in 3D printing technology

Using the ProJet CJP full-color 3D technology helps Cisco quickly and inexpensively create the physical models it needs.

3D printing gave the Cisco Consumer Business Group a way to apply its exacting design standards in a way that keeps the development cycle humming, ensuring that products get to market on schedule. The ProJet 460Plus pumps out prototypes in hours instead of weeks and for one-fifth the cost.

“Proportions and ergonomics are paramount, yet too many designers rely on computer screens alone as their design medium,” says Eskild Hansen, Head of Cisco’s European Design Centre. “For our strategic design approach, we depend on physical prototypes and the ProJet 460Plus for each design review, both locally and globally in concert with our design partners in the United States. The ProJet 460Plus provides an easy and effective way to conduct a productive global design review.”

Results:
Lots of models for productive design reviews

cisco-3d-prototype-prints

Cisco uses the ProJet 460Plus to create 10 models per week, on average, for design review. Models are printed directly from 3D CAD files submitted by Cisco designers around the world.

Designers pass around the resulting models, mark them up with pencil, revise designs in the software, print out new models, and repeat the cycle as necessary. The hands-on steps are an absolute must, according to Hansen, who selected the technology because of confidence in the brand and his experience using it in other settings. “We get prototypes quickly, we refine them quickly, we create new ones, and we derive our elite designs,” says Hansen.

ProJets are the only 3D printers capable of simultaneously printing in multiple colors. Color dramatically communicates the proposed look, feel and style of engineering product designs and develops architectural concepts, landscapes, entertainment figures, and medical information.

“It’s inspiring to see what my team can do with what the world has always received as a basic black box,” says Hansen. “Designs like these don’t just emerge from a computer screen. Because design is very important, 3D printing is an important element of our product strategy.”

Monash University Revolutionizes Human Anatomy Study

Product: CJP Print
Industry: Academic

Thanks to McMenamin and 3D printing, the cadaver, in all its full-scale and full-color glory, is gaining a new lease on life in medical universities around the world.

For hundreds of years, the human cadaver has been a critical tool for medical teaching, but it’s been problematic for reasons as diverse as cost, transport, storage, spiritual beliefs or just general queasiness.

Monash University in Australia might finally have the answer to a majority of these obstacles: The first commercially available kit of realistic, full-color body parts produced by a 3D printer. 

A paper from Monash University titled “The Production of Anatomical Teaching Resources Using Three-Dimensional Printing Technology” lists several advantages of using 3D printed cadavers, including “accuracy, ease of reproduction, cost-effectiveness and the avoidance of health and safety issues associated with wet fixed cadaver specimens or plastinated specimens.”

Looking inside the body

3D printed, full color hand for use by medical students

Specimens are printed by Monash using 3D Systems ColorJet Printing (CJP) technology. The ProJet series of color printers are easy to use. Most importantly, they produce models in the exact colors that Monash needs for realistic 3D printed body parts.

“The full color is essential to reproducing a combination of realistic color fidelity and ‘coding’—vessels in red or blue, nerves in yellow, for example—that is valuable in teaching,” says Paul McMenamin, director of the Centre for Human Anatomy Education (CHAE) at Monash University.

McMenamin believes his team’s simple and cost-effective anatomical kit could dramatically improve knowledge for medical students and practicing doctors. It could even contribute to better surgical outcomes for patients.

“For centuries cadavers bequested to medical schools have been used to teach students about human anatomy, a practice that continues today,” says McMenamin. “However, many medical schools report either a shortage of cadavers or find their handling and  storage too expensive as a result of strict regulations governing where cadavers can be dissected.

“We believe our kit will revolutionize learning for medical students by enabling them to look inside the body and see the muscles, tendons, ligaments and blood vessels. At the moment it can be incredibly hard for students to understand the three-dimensional form of human anatomy, and we believe this kit will make a  huge difference.”

Realizing an ‘ah ha’ moment
Marcando la diferencia en Liberia

3D printed, full-color model of the brain highlights venous arterial circulation

Cadavers printed in 3D might seem like a logical progression for the medical community, but it took technological progress in 3D printing to make it happen. The 3D Systems machines used by Monash University deliver the ability to print full-color models at relatively high speeds at a cost that provides a marked improvement over plastic models or plastination of human remains.

“I was looking for a way to produce more anatomy prosections and maybe plastinate them, but realized it would take decades and more than a half-million dollars to set up a plastination lab,” says McMenamin. “Each specimen would have to be dissected and prepared and then I would have one of that specimen.

“So we thought ‘why don’t we scan them (CT or laser), make color STL or VRML files, and print them so we can make lots of copies’. Seems obvious now, but it was sort of an ‘ah ha’ moment.”

Thanks to the 3D Systems printers, Monash University can produce parts that range from a full body to head and neck, upper limb, pelvis and lower limb, and thoracic and abdominal regions. A deal with German anatomical model makers Erler-Zimmer makes the cadavers available for purchase online, with delivery within weeks at a fraction of the cost of an embalmed or plastinated body.

The Monash series also includes anatomically correct models that would be impossible to visualize in an embalmed body – such as 3D prints of the vasculature of the brain with fine veins and arteries embedded within the skull.

Making a difference in Liberia

3D printed full color head and torso showing circulatory paths

A recent project showed just how much of a difference a 3D printed cadaver can make to a university in need — in this case, the University of Liberia’s Dagliotti Medical School. 

Inspired by a speech by Dr. Ian Crozier, a doctor who had contracted Ebola while working in Sierra Leone, McMenamin arranged for a full set of 3D prints and a set of posters of histological (a microscopic anatomy of cells and tissues) images to be sent to the school.

McMenamin also volunteered his time to teach faculty and students how to use the 3D anatomy kit. His accommodations and logistical support in Liberia were provided by ACCEL (Academic Consortium Combating Ebola in Liberia), an effort led by the University of Massachusetts Medical School and funded by Paul G. Allen’s #TackleEbola initiative.

In exchange for his donations and teaching, McMenamin has the satisfaction of helping a desperately poor and understaffed medical school provide better anatomical teaching for a new generation of Liberian doctors.

“Helping the medical school in Liberia with the support of my CHAE team and Monash University has been the best thing I have done for my fellow human beings,” says McMenamin. “The students there were just so grateful for any help that was provided. It was very humbling.”

McMenamin is likely to have more achievements in the near future about which to be humble: Using the latest 3D printing technologies from 3D Systems, his team is working on interactive, dissectible 3D anatomical reproductions that could be used to help train future surgeons.

Thanks to McMenamin and 3D printing, the cadaver, in all its full-scale and full-color glory, is gaining a new lease on life in medical universities around the world.