×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

BigRep’s 3D Printer Takes ‘First Man’ to the Moon

Production designer Nathan Crowley was strolling through the Brooklyn Navy Yard during the shoot for “The Greatest Showman” in fall 2016 when he passed a building with a 3D printer printing a chair.

“The lady inside told me it was a machine from BigRep,” recalls Crowley. “I said, ‘When’s the last time you had a filament jam?’ She said, ‘About a month ago.’ And I was like, ‘OK, I need that machine.’”

Crowley didn’t get to use it for “The Greatest Showman,” but he rented two BigRep One models for his next film, director Damien Chazelle’s “First Man,” rounding out an arsenal of 18 3D printers used make everything from knobs and joysticks for the lunar module that puts Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) on the moon to a 14-foot-tall scale model of a Saturn V rocket.

“The benefit of large-format printer like the BigRep is you don’t have to either reduce the scale of the part or chop up the part into many pieces and glue it together,” says Frank Marangell, president of BigRep America.

Working with miniature unit supervisor Ian Hunter, Crowley created 3D computer models based on photos and NASA blueprints, which were then printed out in pieces, painted and assembled.

Popular on Variety

“Anything that was a basic tube would be made by the carpenters and then detail added,” says Crowley, who’s up for a production design Oscar for “First Man” along with set decorator Kathy Lucas. “Then you could print a whole ramp in one go, and those are complicated shapes.”

Crowley has been using 3D printers since 2014’s “Interstellar,” directed by frequent collaborator Christopher Nolan. But back then he used them strictly for concept models.

On Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” trilogy, “we did models by hand for the Batmobile, and it would take weeks,” says Crowley. With 3D printers, “it was a game-changer to be able design and output something, have a look at it, change something and do it again and again without having to handmake each design.”

“The Greatest Showman” marked the first time Crowley used 3D printers to create objects seen on screen, most notably a forced-perspective scale model of New York City circa 1860 with more than five hundred 3D-printed buildings.

The 3D printers use a variety of different materials (ABS plastic, resins, photopolymers, etc.) to build objects, layer upon layer, leaving behind horizontal lines.

“On ‘The Greatest Showman,’ it kind of looked like brickwork,” says Crowley of the lines. “Obviously, that didn’t work on spaceships, because we had to sand stuff down.”
Crowley says the hardest part about working with 3D printers is learning the idiosyncrasies of the different models.

“It’s like owning a classic car, every machine is slightly different,” Crowley says. “The BigRep will run through the end of the print pretty reliably, but with the other printers,
we have to assume that we’ll get a 20% failure. And there’s nothing worse than getting a day and a half into a complicated print and then something goes wrong.”

More Film

  • Macao Project Market Participants

    ‘Dear Wormwood’ Claims Macao Project Market Prize

    Philippines director Dodo Dayao’s supernatural horror project “Dear Wormwood” claimed the top prize on Sunday at the IFFAM Project Market, part of the ongoing International Film Festival & Awards Macao. “Wormwood” is a tale of five women living together in a remote house in the forest, where a mystery illness strikes one of the quintet, [...]

  • International Film Festival and Awards Macao

    Macao Industry Debate: Streaming Not Done Reshaping Indie Film Business

    New viewing habits brought on by the rise of streaming have hastened the demise of the mid-budget American indie, changed the very definition of arthouse cinema, and shaken the indie distribution business. But theatrical is still here to stay, attendees of the Macao International Film Festival’s closed-door industry panels concluded Saturday. Panelists gathered to discuss [...]

  • Arab and African Filmmakers Are Increasingly

    Arab and African Filmmakers Are Increasingly Focusing on Genre Films and Series

    2019 has been an excellent year for films from Africa and the Middle East, with a higher presence in A-list festivals, and kudos for films such as Mati Diop’s “Atlantics,” which won the Grand Prix at Cannes. The “new wave” of Arab and African cinema includes a small group of films that explore links with [...]

  • Producer Said Hamich on 'Zanka Contact,'

    Producer Said Hamich on Atlas Workshop Winner 'Zanka Contact,' Upcoming Projects

    Two projects from Franco-Moroccan producer Saïd Hamich won big at the Marrakech Film Festival’s Atlas Workshop this year, with the upcoming Kamal Lazraq-directed feature “Les Meutes” nabbing a development prize and the recently wrapped “Zanka Contact” winning an $11,000 post-production grant. “Zanka Contact” director Ismaël El Iraki was on-hand to present 10 minutes of footage, [...]

  • Major Film Festivals Are Becoming Key

    Major Film Festivals Are Becoming Key in Promoting Films From the Arab World, Africa

    Looking back at the lineups of key festivals such as Cannes and Venice this year, 2019 stands out as a banner year for movies from the African continent and the Arab world. During a panel hosted at the Netflix-sponsored industry event Atlas Workshops during the Marrakech Film Festival, Rémi Bonhomme, who works at Cannes’ Critics’ [...]

  • Robert RedfordRobert Redford tribute, 18th Marrakech

    Robert Redford Talks About Potential Next Film, U.S. Politics, Life Philosophy

    During a 90-minute onstage conversation at the Marrakech Film Festival, where he received an honorary tribute, Robert Redford spoke about his life-long quest for truth and freedom, and his political engagement through films, as well as a long-gestating project he’s considering producing, despite having announced his retirement. When he has spoken about the project, “109 [...]

  • For Sama SXSW Cannes Documentary

    'For Sama' Wins Best Feature at International Documentary Association Awards

    Syrian Civil War diary “For Sama” has won the best feature award from the International Documentary Association for Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts. The award was presented by Frances Fisher on Saturday night at the 35th Annual IDA Documentary Awards at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles. The first-time award for Best Director went to Steven Bognar and Julia [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content