Sainsbury’s Christmas TV Ad

For ‘Dave,’ the main character in the storyline, more than 800 different facial expressions were 3D printed with the Stratasys full-color J750 3D Printer.

An eagerly awaited holiday tradition is the British supermarket chain Sainsbury’s Christmas TV ad. Drawing on hot trends in both popular culture and technology, this year’s spot is proving to be a winner. Shot entirely in stop-frame animation, the Sainsbury’s ad is a touching and funny mini-musical called “The Greatest Gift.” Composed by Bret McKenzie, half of the comedic musical group Flight of the Conchords, and sung by British actor-talk show host James Corden, the ad features a number of different engaging characters. The characters’ faces, which required hundreds of variations to make the three-and-a-half minute film, were 3D printed on the Stratasys J750 3D Printer by 3D Print Bureau and Tri-Tech.

The short film was directed by Sam Fell and centers on the character of Dave, who discovers a way to spend more time with his family at Christmas. According to Richard Pickersgill, workshop supervisor at puppet makers Mackinnon & Saunders, the elaborate production needed a technology capable of delivering fine detail and rich, high quality color, but within a strict timeframe. “As it turns out, without the use of 3D printing and the capabilities of the Stratasys full-color, multi-material J750 3D Printer, we simply could not have completed the build in time.”

1,400 Faces – An Amazing Expression of the Power of Stratasys Full-color 3D Printing!

Sainsbury’s Christmas TV Ad

The Stratasys 3D printed faces for each character expression have finished full-color capabilities, ready to be assembled with hairpieces and accessories.

What the puppet makers wanted was a clear, but demanding, set of criteria in order create the characters’ faces to the desired standard. “We needed to be able to print quickly in full color and ensure consistency while also retaining all of the detail of the digital sculpts,” said Pickersgill. “The 3D printing materials used also needed to be robust enough for handling and provide minimal shrinkage.”

The full-color, multi-material Stratasys J750 3D Printer won out over traditional figure molding. “A total of over 1,400 3D printed faces were required for this production, including 800 separate models depicting different expressions for the main character alone,” Pickersgill explained.

Sainsbury’s Christmas TV Ad

All figures featuring in the short film have 3D printed facial expressions. A total of 1,400 3D printed faces were created in all with the Stratasys J750 full-color 3D Printer

The large quantity of faces required for this project also favored a technology that would limit the amount of post-processing work by eliminating the need to remove and clean up the physical support structure and painting. The 3D Print Bureau – the service bureau contracted to 3D print the hundreds of faces – enlisted the assistance of Stratasys reseller Tri-Tech to fulfill the huge order.

“We were printing almost non-stop for several weeks, but managed to complete the project within deadline,” explained Gary Miller of the 3D Print Bureau. “The results look spectacular and underscore the unique capabilities of the Stratasys J750 3D printing system.”

Currently being broadcast on television in the UK, production of “The Greatest Gift” required the close collaboration of several separate parties, including the animation studio Passion Pictures, puppet makers Mackinnon & Saunders, the technical CG modeler Glen Southern of Southerngfx, and the 3D Print Bureau and Tri-Tech.

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