The BBC’s 2022 Winter Olympics commercial shows off amazing 3D printed stop motion animation

Tips & Techniques

Whenever the Olympics come around, the BBC always comes up with some fantastic promotional sequences for it – you know, just in case a single person in the UK forgot that the BBC was going to be covering the Olympics. Fortunately, The BBC’s Olympics coverage usually looks pretty good and often seems to be a testbed for new filmmaking tech, techniques and ideas.

This particular one is a technique we’ve actually featured here on DIYP before, stop motion animation using 3D printed models. While there is some CGI in this one from the BBC’s Olympics coverage, there are several sequences that were created by stop motion animation and 3D printed models of athletes doing their thing on the ice and snow.

The blocks of ice with various activities being performed inside them are obviously CGI (at least in part), but the events of the bobsledder, slalom skier and snowboarder were all individually 3D printed and then painstakingly positioned one frame at a time. How do we know this? Well, BBC Creative director James Cross shared a brief behind the scenes video on Twitter which demonstrates how it was done. Fortunately, there’s a higher quality version of the video on Vimeo, too.

From the video, we can see that the entire cinematic sequences were actually created in 3D, along with the camera movements and then each frame of animation was exported out as a 3D model to be printed and then filmed in real life. Sure, 3D printing hundreds of frames of animation certainly is slower than just rendering the CGI they’d already made, but it provides an excellent unique look that CGI would be difficult to recreate.

As for the block of ice… Well, that’s a mix of practical and CGI. The block is real and it is moved and photographed stop motion style one frame at a time and then composited with a sequence of CGI renders to create the look of the fractured internals.

A fantastic use of the technology available and it all comes together for a pretty impressive final result!

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