Ghost in the Shell Special Effects a Triumph of 3D Printing & CGI
Rebooting the ground-breaking Ghost in the Shell (GITS) anime of 1995 was so significant that it had to be done with the latest cutting edge effects technology available. The final film is a technical masterpiece of live-action, CGI, animatronics and – yes – 3D printing.
The shelling sequence of Ghost in the Shell – the creation of Major – involved the filming of a full-scale 3D-printed endoskeleton plus a one-and-a-half scale head. To create the skeleton, director Rupert Sanders turned to Weta Workshop in New Zealand. A concept artist designed the skeleton and Weta printed it in more than 1,400 parts.
The endoskeleton was printed of clear and black resins, with steel joints, nylon lungs, covered over with a gel layer that represents the body of actress Scarlett Johansson who plays the part of Major. This was then filmed in blue-screen and combined with CGI to create a seamless sequence of Major transforming from a human brain encased by an endoskeleton to become an almost invincible cyborg weapon.
Similarly, the Robo Geishas were also partly 3D printed, after a young Japanese actress called Rila Fukushima who was scanned, head-cast and digitally redesigned. The masks were then 3D-printed, post-processed and then added to an animatronic head where the face could actually split open in parts, much like doors to a cabinet. Other masks were used over human actors.
3D-printing was used to create the miniatures of the New Port City of 2029, looking unsurprisingly like Hong Kong, then 3D scanned and enhanced into the finished CGI cityscapes.
These and many other components of the film, were 3D-printed and woven seamlessly with miniatures, live-motion and CGI to create a total universe where the viewer would be unable to tell whether what he sees is real, an animatronics character or just computer generated imagery.
All these are a quantum leap over the cutting edge technologies that were employed in the making of Gollum and other motion-capture creatures when Lord of the Rings ruled over the movie world in the early 2000s.