The stats of most films read in footage shot, actors cast, and dollars budgeted. Not Chase Me, a new short by French animator Gilles-Alexander Deschaud. The world’s very first 3-D printed film, Chase Me’s stats are far more esoteric, and can be measured in liters of resin used (80), number of 3-D prints produced (2,500), and hours of non-stop print time elapsed (6,000+).
In Chase Me, a girl walks through a magical forest, singing. During her stroll, her shadow evolves into a monster who chases her through the woods. According to Deschaud, the movie (which is not yet available online, for fear of disqualifying Chase Me from entering any festivals) is a story about “embracing your fears, and turning them into something beautiful.”
Traditionally, stop-motion animation is sort of like slow-motion puppetry. An animator will take a figure, often made of clay and a wire, and move it just a little bit every frame, giving the appearance of movement when the film is played at 24 frames per second. It’s laborious, time-consuming work, but compared to Deschaud’s work, it’s a walk in the park.
Each frame of Chase Me required its moving components to be separately printed out on a FormLabs Form 1+ 3-D printer. Unlike a traditional stop-motion puppet, the figures in Chase Me aren’t malleable by hand, meaning that every time a figure moved, Deschaud had to totally replace it with a slightly different figurine. Every figurine was printed with a 100 micron resolution, and were minimally finished after being printed, mostly to remove the support material.
Given the scope of the project, we asked Deschaud if he, as an animator, had been afraid of 3-D printing before he started the project. “I think it’s quite the opposite,” he tells Co.Design in an email. “I’m really fascinated by 3-D printers. It’s just so beautiful to see a printer take something you created virtually and transform it into something you can hold in your hands.”
Deschaud says that Chase Me was easily the most laborious project he’s ever undertaken, requiring almost two years to shoot and edit the film (and it’s only a few minutes long). That’s a prohibitive amount of time to spend on such a short project, even in the slow, methodical world of animation. Nevertheless, Deschaud thinks that 3-D printing is going to be an invaluable tool to stop-motion animators, who will be able to leverage its possibilities to create bigger, better, and more complex animations–even if they’re not quite as nuts as Deschaud, and decide to print out every frame of their movies themselves.