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Q&A with Creative Supervisor of Replacement Animation & Engineering Brian McLean Part 4 of a four part interview series with ParaNorman's creators
Creative Supervisor of Replacement Animation & Engineering Brian McLean
Brian McLean works at animation studio LAIKA, and was Facial Structure Supervisor on the company's Oscar-nominated 2009 feature "Coraline."

It was on the latter that he became central to exploring for the company how modern technology could bolster what was being created by hand, and worked on the company's Rapid Prototyping (RP) advances.

He now oversees LAIKA's RP department.


Q: For those who don't know - what exactly is Rapid Prototyping?

A: It is terminology used to describe a process in which you can go from computer designed object to a three-dimensional, physical object. LAIKA uses 2 different type of Rapid Prototyping machines (commonly called 3D printers):

  • 3D Systems z650 color printers. Powder based printers that drag a very thin layer of powder (plaster and polymer) on a bed and spray CYMK colored binder (or colored glue) This colored binder hardens sections of powder and then another layer of powdered is dragged across the bed and the process is repeated over and over until eventually you have a 3D part buried in powder. When you remove the 3D part it is covered in unhardened powder, once this powder is blow away you are left with a very fragile, but color printed 3D object. To strengthen the part it is dipped into a thin super glue which absorbs into the part and gives it strength. This process allows us to design and animate thousands of faces that are printed out in full color.
  • Objet Polyjet Printers. Resin based printers that spray a very thin layer of liquid resin and water soluble liquid support onto a bed. A UV light hardens the resin and support, the tray lowers and another layer of liquid is sprayed and hardened by UV light. This process is repeated over and over again until a 3D object is formed. When you remove the 3D part it is covered in water soluble support material, once this support material is washed away you are strong plastic object. This process allows use to design and engineer tiny mechanically functioning parts that can be used in anything from puppet heads to props.