Modern Vintage

85 3D Printed Figurines Create “Film Without Film”

Film Without Film

French artist creates a “Film Without Film” by combining 85 3D printed figurines, and a mechanized projector. The result is stunning. 

What’s cooler than 3D film? Films made without any film. French artist Julien Maire has used 3D printing to do just that with his “film” Relief.

Equipped with 85 stereolithographic figurines, and a mechanized projector, Maire has both re-imagined film and fused printing with technology.

Film without film uses tiny 3D Printed figurines (Image: iMAL)
Film without film uses tiny 3D printed figurines (Image: iMAL)

How does it work?

The 85 figurines are lined up on a projector system. They are rotated in and out of the light, much like an old film reel from the early 20th century. The result is what appears to be an old film – though there is absolutely no film involved. The illusion of a motion picture is caused entirely by principles of light.

«Relief» is part of Maire’s digital manufacturing residency at the iMAL Center for Digital Cultures and Technology in Brussels. Using gear from their FabLab, he created the original parts himself: the 3D printed figurines, the projector, and sculpture mechanisms.  For more than 10 years, Julien Maire has mastered and used in unexpected ways advanced technologies such as CNC mills, laser cutters, precision optics, etc. Today, 3D printers are naturally also part of his toolbox. His tools included an Ultimaker and Mendel DIY Printers as well as a laser-based Form 1 3D Printer.

With 3D Printed Figurines into Media Archaeology


This particularly cool piece of art is also particularly abstract. “Media Archaeology” is the study of how our perception is transformed through the camera lens. iMAL described audiovisuals as “a soundtrack, a visual tracking shot moving in parallel to us; pictures and sound are visual fictions that moved away from reality, but disrupt and influence our relation to reality.” Maire mixes old and new technologies, and also with the viewers expectations. What seems to be a film is something different entirely.

The title «Relief» is also much more logical than it first sounds. In French, “3D Cinema” was also known earlier as “relief cinema.” The term went out of fashion, but that’s exactly why Maire revived it. As his 85 3D-printed figurines move in and out of the spotlight, the image of a man endlessly moving dirt from one side to the other appears. Much like new and old technologies, there is always a back and forth.

Read more at the iMAL page here.