Tech Hollywood

Published on January 1st, 2013 | by toptech

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Moulding Movies: How Simple Moulding Processes are Essential to Hollywood

Resin casting and other forms of moulding have become something of a garage nerd’s domain, with lots of people discovering the joy of creating limited run models and figures for themselves or to sell on. But that’s not the only use for small scale moulding techniques. There are lots of professionals out there who are plying a trade in the moulding process, not least in the movie business. But why should it be – in an age of CGI and 3D – that Hollywood needs this old-school technique.

Stop Motion Animation

One of the main areas is the movie niche of stop motion animation. It might be that the golden age of stop motion in live action films is over, with no-one looking to make another Jason and the Argonauts skeleton fight any time soon, but there are still some die-hard directors who turn to this medium to help give extra character and creativity to their movies. Tim Burton is a leading proponent, and the UK company Mackinnon and Saunders is the manufacturing hub of his stop motion dreams.

The Process:

The process begins with a skilled sculpture bringing one of Tim’s sketches to life. This will often require the limbs to be sculpted separately. These are then coated in liquid vinyl which peels off to give a mould, just as with hobbyist moulding. Various materials are used to make the parts of the model: usually fibre glass, silicon and rubber depending on the appendage. These are then given an intricate metal skeleton to allow it to hold any reasonable position during the stop motion filming, and it’s then taken away to be painted. As you may have guessed, this is very labour intensive, and a single model can take weeks to build.

CGI and Sculptures Go Hand-In-Hand

While scale models aren’t used so much directly to produce special effects anymore, they do provide an indirect service, and for that moulding comes in again. When artists are devising computer graphics they often turn to sculptures to render the idea in clay, then resin, before they begin the scanning process that takes it into the world of CGI. It’s a more artistic process than you might think.

Remember, Next Time You Watch a Movie…

So, while it may not be at the forefront of your thoughts when you’re enjoying the latest gothic animation from the mind of Tim Burton or enjoying a good old action flick, moulding does have an important role to play in what you see.

Featured images:

Thanks to James Wellington for this post. James is an engineer from the UK and works at McKinlays Mould Making.

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