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Rapid Prototyping Brings ParaNorman to Life

by:Bofeng     2020-09-05
Following on from the success of Coraline, the creative minds at Laika studios have stretched the capabilities of stop start animation even further with their latest masterpiece, Para-Norman.
Para-Norman centres around the adventures of Norman a young boy on a mission to save the world from a centuries old curse. With ghost, zombies and a heavily freckled best friend the team at Laika have exceeded all expectations and created visually stunning and virtually seamless characters capable of a host of emotions and facial expressions.
The combination of traditional and modern technologies can be seen from the very start of the film development process. The team at Laika first sketch their characters on paper, before sculpting them in clay and creating a mould known as a model within which a metal skeleton armature is placed to manipulate movement. Having developed the puppet using traditional drawing and model making the team then scan each character to create 3D computer animation files for each character.
While each puppet is created with a mechanical head, the also developed a range of replacement heads to convey different expressions. These replacement heads are held in place by magnets making it easy for the developers to quickly pop on and off the replacement heads as necessary. Traditionally these replacement heads would have been sculpted by clay. With the development of traditional clay models a timely and costly process limitations existed, particularly in the quantity and detailing feasible within project deadlines and budget.
Using 3D printing the team were able to develop and print 8000 different facial expressions for Norman alone. With the printing used capable of baking colour into each of the faces the team could create details such as the thousands of freckles on Normans best friend. This level of detailing would have been impossible using traditional techniques due to time constraints.
With each head created only 3 inches in size the team had to ensure the quality and accuracy of each build as even the smallest shift in part build would impact dramatically on screen. Color matching was also a challenge as the team could not rely on the printed colours matching those shown on screen. While color matching proved a challenge the printed materials allowed the team to achieve surprising effects such as the translucent nature of Normans ears, adding further realism to the film.
For those interested in 3D printing technologies why not let your inner child have an afternoon at the cinema to see just what Laika achieved through the combination of traditional and modern model making techniques.

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