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The incredible shrinking machine

November 03, 2002

Gentle Giant Studios in Burbank is a pioneer in using 3-D digital scans to help create action figures, videos and special effects for Hollywood productions such as "Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones."

The huge scanners can capture props on a movie set, or humans who strike a pose on a platform that is surrounded by four mounted boxes the size of a TV monitor. The boxes hold digital cameras that capture the person's image in 20 seconds.

Technicians then work on that image via computer, making sure that the data from the scan are in the right format and desired size. They then feed the information to a 3-D Systems ThermoJet printer, which spits out a three-dimensional wax prototype.

A mold of the action figure is made from the prototype, which is refined and detailed by sculptors. The figure then is cast into plastic and hand-painted.

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