Visually, the film seems to nail the aesthetic of the flashy, sleek and sometimes seedy future Hong Kong-inspired fictional Japanese city of Niihama Prefecture. The futuristic technology that gives Niihama its distinctive feel wasn’t created by computers, but instead built by master prop makers from New Zealand’s Weta Workshop.
Former Mythbusters host Adam Savage took the crew from his popular YouTube series Tested to Weta and got a close up look at some of the stunning 3D printed props for the movie.
While the use of 3D printers has become common in the construction of movie props, this series of Tested videos show off the stunning Ghost in the Shell props.
They’ve highlighted just how essential 3D technology has become to modern prop manufacturing.
3D printers were used for most of the film’s props, including a jaw-dropping, full-size robotic skeleton, several beautiful geisha androids, and even the series’ trademark Thermoptic bodysuit worn by Scarlett Johansson.
Thanks to the use of CGI, they seamlessly enhanced real world scenes with technology like 3D printing.
Once again real world props can add weight and texture to a film. The director of Ghost in the Shell, Rupert Sanders, decided to forgo CGI to build many of the amazing props seen in the film, including the life-sized prop of the robotic skeleton under Johansson’s skin!
Savage devoted an entire video to several of the props that Weta constructed.
The challenging of the robotic skeleton includes between 300 and 400 individual parts, each hand finished and assembled.
Several different 3D printing technologies and materials were used, including clear resin and black resin printed with a stereolithography (SLA) 3D printer. The lungs were 3D printed in nylon using a selective laser sintering (SLS) process, and the joints and armatures were 3D printed in steel to add stability and durability to the skeleton.
In total Weta did about a month of testing various technologies and materials before settling on the resin and nylon parts.
Once all the materials were selected, the skeleton was 3D printed, finished and assembled.
In total the finished prop required hundreds of hours of 3D printing and several weeks of finishing and assembly to complete.
“We would have struggled to make this movie in the time we had to make it 2 years ago, because neither was the technology around, nor was the chemistry within the technology around. The skeleton that we built… the materials weren’t even in existence 2 years ago, so we couldn’t have built it. But we can build it today because technology is iterating and growing…” explained Weta Workshop Creative Director Richard Taylor.
Resin materials specifically have gotten far more advanced, and combined with new, state-of-the-art 3D printing software and post-finishing hardware, can be used produce some incredibly high-quality finished parts.
The clear resin used is almost completely translucent, a finish that simply wasn’t possible until recently.
The skeleton was made to fit inside of a life-sized copy of Johansson’s body, which itself was 3D printed using ballistic gel, a material used to simulate human flesh.
The detailed 3D body scan of Johansson was also used to make the iconic Thermoptic suit, that renders Scarlet invisible in the movie.
The suit is as skintight as it looks, and would take several makeup artists and costumers to get her fit inside it. Many of the molds for the suit were designed around Johansson’s body, and various parts were cast in silicone using 3D printed and CNC milled molds.
In total Weta created four complete bodysuits for Johansson and four duplicates for her stunt double.
The geisha were highly detailed masks, built to fit over the faces of real life actors.
Weta also created several animatronic versions of the geisha heads and bodies, with working interior gears and functional cybernetic organs.
Each individual mask was even made to fit exactly on the head of the actor wearing it using a 3D scan of their face. They even included working fans to keep the actors cool.
You can see Savage and Taylor’s conversation about prop making and technology in the video below:
As with movies based on video games, movies based on anime rarely look or feel like the original and usually end up disappointing.
However with the use of modern 3D printing and 3D scanning technologies, the makers of Ghost in the Shell have crafted, at least visually, one of the most accurate screen translations.