How 'Raised by Wolves' used 3D printing for otherwise impossible designs
Hello, and welcome to Protocol Entertainment, your guide to the business of the gaming and media industries. This Thursday we’re taking a closer look at Hollywood’s use of 3D printers, as well as the latest consumer electronics ownership trends. Also: a whole new way to brag about your Wordle scores.
3D printing is revolutionizing Hollywood
Hollywood is changing, and not just because everyone is now hooked to streaming. Studios have also begun to embrace new production technologies that take cues from AR, VR and video game development. Game engines and LED walls are part of this new approach to filmmaking, but there are many more pieces to the puzzle.
Even props aren’t made the way they used to be anymore, as Dreamsmith Studio founder Jaco Snyman told me this week.
- Snyman learned the tools of the trade in the mid-’90s and has been making props and prosthetics for South Africa-based film shoots ever since.
- Because of the cyclical nature of the business, he’s had plenty of downtime over the years to teach himself new skills, including animation and CGI.
- Snyman told me that he long wanted to use 3D printers to design props digitally, as opposed to with clay and wire mesh. For the longest time, the tech wasn’t ready, in part because the printers he could afford just weren’t able to make big enough props. “I was never quite able to do it properly,” he said.
- That’s a problem Formlabs CEO Maxim Lobovsky is very familiar with. “Size has probably been the top feature request since day one,” Lobovsky told me this week.
Now 3D printing has finally arrived in Hollywood, thanks to a new generation of bigger printers made by companies like Formlabs that are still affordable enough for shops like Dreamsmith. Snyman has been using 3D printers made by Lobovsky’s company for a number of projects, including on both seasons of the HBO Max sci-fi series “Raised by Wolves.”
- For season two, Snyman manufactured a number of molds that were then used to make silicone masks.
- Traditionally, this would have been a multiweek process that would have included working closely with talent. “You had to actually see the actor in person, put silicone all over their face,” Snyman said.
- Now actors simply need to visit a 3D capture studio somewhere around the world, and Snyman’s team can then use those files to make highly accurate molds. “We can make prosthetics for an actor now before they’re on set or even before they travel to South Africa for their shoot,” he said.
- Snyman was also able to manufacture large props, including an intricate, life-sized biomechanical skeleton that would have been near to impossible to make without 3D printing. “There's certain techniques that are available for sculpting digitally that are really difficult to achieve with clay,” he said.
3D printing isn’t just another tool. Sure, getting props faster that look better is great news for studios, especially those trying to make more and more shows for their growing streaming empires.
- But something as inconsequential as a prop that shows up in a split-second scene is part of a much bigger move toward Hollywood building large libraries of digital assets that can then be re-used in a number of contexts — be it on set, in future sequels or even in game or VR offshoots.
- Not only does Dreamsmith use 3D scanning to digitally fit prosthetics to real-life actors, but it also shares its digital assets with the studios, which can then use them for additional animation and visual effects. “We are now able to work closer with the CG departments,” Snyman said.
- Eventually, this could become a two-way street, with studios sending their raw assets to companies like Dreamsmith, which then return designed physical props and their digital copies.
Virtual production is a buzzword hiding the fact that many of Hollywood’s cutting-edge technologies are actually making filmmaking feel more real; it’s less about adding visual effects after the fact. Instead of performing in the void of a green-screen environment, actors now stand in front of LED walls that show the actual background of a scene.
Directors can preview effects on set, thanks to virtual cameras. And objects that would have been rendered by VFX artists after filming are now being added as real props, thanks to 3D printing. Lobovsky believes this will only continue. In the future, actors may wear physical prosthetics that have been designed digitally and hold physical 3D-printed props that are being tracked to add visual effects in real time. “You can imagine … that everything created digitally has a physical representation,” he said.
— Janko Roettgers
3D printing has arrived in Hollywood, thanks to bigger, more affordable printers made by companies like Formlabs. | Photo: Formlabs/Dreamsmith
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Marie Kondo, but for consumer electronics
Ever feel like you’ve got too many devices in your home? Turns out you are not alone: U.S. consumers have been downsizing this year, with the average household now owning 22 connected devices, down from 25 in 2021, according to Deloitte’s “2022 Connectivity and Mobile Trends” survey out this week.
- Consumers still own about the same number of “tech” devices — think laptops, phones and tablets — but they’ve begun to cut down on smart home and entertainment devices, according to the survey.
- Part of this seems to be an ongoing move toward smart TVs, with people getting rid of their streaming dongles in favor of an integrated experience.
- That trend is good news for smart TV makers like Samsung and LG, which are increasingly monetizing TV sets with ad-supported video channels.
- People continue to upgrade their Wi-Fi setups to make all that Netflix bingeing (and their home offices) work better; 44% of respondents told Deloitte they invested in new Wi-Fi gear, including mesh networks, over the past year.
- 15% of people upgraded their home internet, but only 8% switched their internet provider.
- Another interesting tidbit: Roughly a quarter of respondents said they were overwhelmed by the devices and subscriptions they need to manage. That’s down from 32% in 2021.
- People with more devices get more easily overwhelmed by them, but even tech-heavy early adopters are getting less worked up these days. Among people with 19 or more devices in their household, 31% reported tech fatigue, down from 39% in 2021.
If it doesn’t spark joy, let it go: It seems like U.S. consumers are taking Marie Kondo’s advice by heart when it comes to their gadgets. For the consumer electronics industry, this means companies have to try even harder to make tech that doesn’t frustrate people to get them to upgrade.
— Janko Roettgers
In other news
Interview with OnlyFans CEO Ami Gan. The site’s new CEO wants to double down on its OnlyFans TV streaming app and grow its business in Latin America.
Nintendo’s Switch poised to break records. Switch sales are in decline, the company reported Wednesday, but lingering demand for the handheld console will likely push it from its current 111 million units sold to well past Sony’s PS4 (117 million) and the Game Boy (119 million).
Wikipedia has a new video player. Switching to Video.js finally allows Wikipedia to stream videos to iPads and iPhones.
Logitech and Tencent eye cloud gaming handheld. The two companies announced an official partnership on Tuesday to develop a dedicated device for streaming games over the cloud.
Tinder’s parent company puts metaverse dating on the backburner. Match Group’s new CEO, Bernard Kim, told investors that the company will “not invest heavily in metaverse at this time” due to “uncertainty about the ultimate contours of the metaverse […] as well as the more challenging operating environment.”
Unity may spin off its China business. The game engine maker is considering spinning off its unit in Asia to better help it expand in China’s fraught regulatory environment, Reuters reported Tuesday. Some of the world’s biggest mobile games hail from China and are built using Unity.
Triller’s creator program is a mess. The app specifically targeted Black TikTok creators with promises of monthly income and equity. Some didn’t receive checks for months.Meta’s Quest 2 has a new hand-tracking demo. Meta has published the source code of the demo to encourage developers to add hand tracking to their apps.
Remember Wordle scores? The number of people bragging about their daily feats has notably declined in my timeline, as have the people admitting defeat. Maybe that’s because Wordle itself isn’t quite as popular anymore, or maybe it’s because we all realized that a constant stream of squares and scores can get a bit annoying over time.
So where do players go now to more responsibly brag? Turns out the Wordle industrial complex has already come up with an answer: LeaderbordLe, a site developed by the guy behind Nerdle, makes it possible to track and share all your microgame successes and failures. There’s even leagues to compete against each other, which is great, except what are we supposed to talk about in our group chats now?
— Janko Roettgers
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