part of me in 3d

oh but on the bright side i got an A in art

Here is a cool thing I did: me and Chompsky (Chompsky’s the dog) (he’s great) (I love him) got our bodies 3D scanned, digitized, and printed out as little statues that I can now hide around the house for my wife to find, as a constant reminder of our marital vows (or just as a reminder of how cute Chompsky is if she finds him; that’s cool too)!!

I had no idea this technology existed, but my pal Derek (who helped me turn my head into a bomb) (long story) is all about it!  Here’s how it works.

First, you check your outfit, because you’ve probably posed for a photo before, but not a 3D photo.  I had to look (I MEAN “GOT TO LOOK”) at my butt in a mirror to make sure it looked rockin’ in those pants, because that butt and those pants were soon to be immortalized.  Then you go down to a studio that does this stuff (I went to Selftraits in Toronto) and either waltz right in or make an appointment.  Then they take a photo!  Actually they take over a hundred in a single second??

The photo room itself looks like a transporter room: it’s a white-walled dome, with tons of cameras lining the walls, all set to go off at the same instant.  


A 3D photo doesn’t take any longer than a regular one, turns out, which is really cool.  You just give your dog some treats so he sits nice, pose in a way that makes your butt look good, and they take a few pictures.  The flash comes from ALL AROUND -

- and you choose your favourite one!

Then, a few days later, your Mini Me shows up through magic.  



First, computers take the over one hundred different images of me and Chompsky, all taken in the same instant, and use that to build a 3D mesh of our bodies.  This is the rough mesh, but it’s not fully automated: human artists touch them up, not only cleaning up any mistakes the algorithm made, but also making adjustments if necessary.  For example, individual fingers can break off easily when they’re printed small, so they might bring fingers together instead of having them spread apart.  If I was holding a leash, they’d remove that too: it’d break, and it’d be more fun to put in a piece of string in the final model instead.  Glasses can also be tricky and might need human intervention.

Once the 3D data is done, the mesh gets a “skin” applied (i.e., MY OWN), and then robots assemble me and my dog from parts.

Specifically, tiny parts of dust!

The 3D printing you’re probably familiar with uses plastic that gets melted and placed on top of itself to form a sculpture - that’s what we used when we turned my head into a bomb (again: long story) .  That looks like this:

But there’s different (and fancier) ways of doing it!  And this is one of them.  Technically it’s called Powder Bed 3D printing and it’s basically an inkjet printer, only instead of ink it ALSO applies glue, and instead of paper it prints on powder.  Printing takes a while, since it builds you up, bottom to top, slice by tiny slice.  Printing me and Chompsky took about 8 hours, but there were a lot of other treasures in the box too.  You cram it full with as much stuff as you can, since you’re printing things anyway!

“The box?” you say?  YES.  THE BOX.  The coolest part is at the end, you don’t have a li'l 3D printed object.  You have a BOX OF DUST.  And then you dig through your box, carefully, like you’re digging up friggin’ DINOSAUR BONES (which you could be, assuming you thought ahead and printed dinosaur bones).  It’s a box full of surprises that you give yourself.  I love it!  Here’s a video of that happening, it’s kinda like being an archaeologist on easy mode.

And then you unearth things.  Hey look it’s me! 

They get put in a wash (to remove any remaining dust) and then human artists sand them down to remove any parts that stuck and shouldn’t have been.  That looks like this!

They also use smaller tools for the finer details.  My facial expression here matches my real-life expression when people try to poke me in the eye with giant metal sticks:

Then the figures get a dip in super glue so that they stay together, a SECOND sanding pass to remove any “build lines” - lines that’ll give away I’m actually made out of many tiny slices - and then finally a wax dip to seal everything off and make ‘em shiny, and tada!  YOU HAVE A MINI VERSION OF ANYTHING YOU CAN PHOTOGRAPH.

Anyway I thought this was super interesting, and it really made me feel like we’re living in the future.  And that’s how that one moment in time where me and Chompsky stared lovingly into each other’s eyes was immortalized forever.

I wanna give a shout out to Selftraits for being down to photograph my dog, AND for Derek giving me a tour of their production facility when he saw how big into this whole thing I was.  I LOVED IT.  They have a studio at 545 Queen Street in Toronto (and if you’re not in Toronto then either MOVE HERE ALREADY or there’s probably a similar company doing things in your area too; either way works actually).

I shared these photos on Twitter a while back and people assumed I was just photoshopping myself and my dog into situations for some reason.

And finally, here’s a glory shot of us that someone at the company who knew what they were doing took!  Look at us!  Just a couple’a pals.

anyway that’s the story of how i took a 3d picture with my dog and turned us into statues, the end

So, I started a new model for some practice, and about halfway through I thought, “you know, maybe I could turn this into a tutorial of sorts.” I figured there had to be a few people out there who wanted to get in on the 3D Printing business too.

If you have any questions, feel free to let me know! I’ll be uploading part 2 soon…ish…