Jan 11, 2016 | By Alec

Though the results of the actual, extensively covered Oscars (or Academy Awards, to give them their official title) won’t be known until the end of February, the results of their lesser-known cousins are already in. The Scientific and Engineering Awards are awarded separately at a separate event, and focus on technological breakthroughs in the film industry. And just a few days ago, the Academy revealed that the Hillsboro-based film studio LAIKA will receive an award for their fantastic pioneering work in using high quality 3D printing technology in animation.

Now the average moviegoer might not be familiar with LAIKA, but this a Hillsboro, Oregon-based film studio that specializes in stop-motion films. Their first feature was Coraline in 2009, followed by ParaNorman in 2012 and most recently The Boxtrolls in 2014. Such as all their films, the focus is on intricate, colorful and original animation.

While many experts already had an eye on their fantastic work, they are now also being honored for it by the Academy – though they have previously received three Oscar nominations for best animated film. The award will be presented to Brian McLean and Martin Meunier of LAIKA during a dinner event in February.

So what’s so special about their work? Well, LAIKA is one of those few companies that have dared to work with the laborious stop motion animation technique – which involves countless one frame shots of puppets moved into different positions. It creates a very remarkable appearance, but tends to look outdated because budget constraints mean only so many different puppets and expressions can be provided. Impressively, LAIKA is overcoming those problems through 3D printing – which enables them to design, animate and print tens of thousands of replacement facial expressions. The face is bisected into two parts; the upper eyebrow section and the lower mouth section. By swapping out the upper section and the lower section of the face to create different expressions, the end result is that a character in a LAIKA film can have millions of possible facial expressions. This technique is definitely changing what stop-motion animation can be.

For those achievements, rapid prototyping director Brian McLean and former facial animation designer Martin Meunier will receive Academy Awards, technically known as Academy Plaques in this competition. “The RP process has evolved from a crazy idea we had over a decade ago, into a groundbreaking process that has forever changed stop motion animation filmmaking,” McLean said in response.

As Richard Edlund, the Academy Award-winning visual effects artist and chair of the Scientific and Technical Awards Committee, explained LAIKA fits into a wave of absolute high tech innovators that are being honored this year. “This year’s honorees represent a wide range of new tech, including a modular inflatable airwall system for composited visual effects, a ubiquitous 3D digital paint system and a 3D printing technique for animation,” he explained. “With their outstanding, innovative work, these technologists, engineers and inventors have further expanded filmmakers’ creative opportunities on the big screen.” LAIKA’s next film, Kubo and the Two Strings, will be released on August 19 of this year.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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J.pickens wrote at 1/12/2016 5:43:07 AM:

I highly recommend another Laika film, Coraline. I believe it was the first to use extensive 3d printed faces in its animation. And forgetting the technology, its just a great film.

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