When ITV’s Emmerdale soap opera reached its milestone 50th birthday, the show’s producers marked the occasion with a series of stories that came to a head in a gripping special episode that aired on 16th October. Weaving the show’s past with the present, an all-action climax saw a deadly storm hit the village and, in the run-up, viewers were treated to a powerful trailer, that featured starring cast members recreated as full colour 3D printed models, produced on the Mimaki 3DUJ-553 printer.
ITV contacted Cheshire-based 3D scanning and printing specialist Europac3D to establish the possibility of 3D scanning and colour printing for the project and, as the company’s Operations Manager Danielle Kenny recalls, things soon began to get interesting. “This started out as a very innocent enquiry but grew quickly into an enthralling project.”
“We visited ITV at their offices in Leeds and scanned the cast members using the Artec Leo scanner,” she continues. “We had a full day on site with the team and scheduled the actors to attend specific timeslots, during which they were scanned in costume, holding poses to match the requirements of the animated trailer.”
The Artec Leo scanner is a portable, handheld 3D scanner, and is the first system to offer full onboard automatic processing. With its inbuilt HD screen, the 3D replica can be viewed during the scanning process, to ensure that all areas of the object (or in this case, the actor) have been correctly captured.
Kenny continues, “Once the scanning was complete, we processed the files back at Europac3D to prepare them for print, with every model edited to enable two different sized versions of each to be produced.”
Europac3D called upon UK and Ireland Mimaki distributor, Hybrid Services to create the final models, printing them on the high-end Mimaki 3DUJ-553 full colour 3D printer. “The Mimaki was the only solution available to us to complete the job,” cites Kenny. “We needed full colour output that would stand up to close scrutiny on the nation’s TV screens, and with its ability to print up to 10,000,000 colours, the Mimaki fit the bill perfectly.”
The Mimaki 3DUJ-553 has a build area of 500 x 500 x 300mm, which allowed the characters to be batch printed using Mimaki’s layout software to optimise the print process. Mimaki’s range of full colour 3D printers use UV curable ink in conjunction with water soluble support material to build the models, and once printed, the figures were placed in a water bath to allow the support material to dissolve, before final cleaning. “The non-invasive removal of the support material ensured no time was lost through breakages and ITV’s deadline was hit with time to spare,” Kenny recalls.
Aired in the weeks prior to the landmark episode, the trailer is a 1-minute animated scene, depicting the explosive impact of a huge storm on the fictional village. Key characters are shown in emotive poses, suspended in time as the storm wheels around them, and as the camera pulls back, it becomes apparent that they’re actually portrayed as decorations, set amidst a vast cake situated in the village pub.
“The finished trailer is a really dramatic watch, and the 3D printed models were really put to the test during the filming,” Kenny concludes. “The producers were delighted with the results of the scanning and printing – and It was a privilege to be able to contribute to a memorable bit of TV history.”