Making Minatures a Snap

Report and pictures by: 
Phyllicia Wang

Company uses custom rig to record and make 3D figurines of its subjects
 
As a freelance actress, Miss Shona Woo is used to posing in front of cameras.
 
But three weeks ago, she experienced probably the most unusual photoshoot.
 
It was in front of a wall of 82 cameras that were pointed at her at odd angles.
 
And the result of the shoot was not a photograph, but a life-like figurine that bore a striking resemblence to the 26-year-old.
 
Miss Woo is just one of dozens of people who are getting 3D-printed figurines of themselves made here.
 
“I am quite intrigued by this whole idea where you can create a ‘mini you’, and now 3D printing is really quite in, so I was quite curious to try it out,” she said.
 
“I always see (them) on videos, but I have never really come across one in my whole life, so now I am really experiencing it, it’s really quite surreal.”
 
Her photo shoot was done at Wishing Well Asia, a digital imaging company that can create life-like figurines of its clients.
 
While customised figurines have been around for some time — some are hand-made caricature clay sculptures while others are made using hand-held scanners and 3D printers — the ones done by Wishing Well Asia make use of a unique 3D capture system.
 
Its capture rig, which took about eight months to construct and costs about $180,000, can record the 3D data of a subject literally in one click. Capture systems that use hand-held scanners can take up to 30 minutes to scan a subject.
 
Mr Emile Tan, 30, a producer at Wishing Well Asia, said they switched from the older hand-held scanner method to the new rig because the former required subjects to hold still for up to half-an-hour, while the scan was being done.
 
“We do not want people to keep still because we received feedback (that elderly) people want to be captured along with the whole family, but they can’t because of the issue of the (hand-held) scanner,” he said.
 
Mr Tan said that they built the system from scratch after seeing similar systems being used in other countries.
 
Clients are asked to pose in the centre of the rig, and the photographer takes their 3D scan using a remote shutter release to trigger all 82 SLR cameras on the rig at the same time.
 
Once the 3D data is captured, it is fed into a 3D printer, which prints and colours the figurine using gypsum powder as a base material.
 
The figurines come in different sizes, ranging from five to nine inches in height and cost between $980 and $2,100.
 
Mr Tan said that they get about four orders for 3D figurines each month.Miss Woo was so thrilled with her mini-me figurine that she hopes to add to her collection in the future.
 
“When it’s 3D, it adds another dimension to it. It’s as if a painting has just come to life,” she said.
 
“I probably would want to make this as a souvenir maybe once every five years or every milestone.”