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Behind the Curtain at PlayStation’s Fabrication Arts and Design Group

Picture of Matthew Mensley
by Matthew Mensley
Mar 21, 2017
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At the Sony PlayStation Campus in California, Gary Barth uses stereolithography 3D printing to bring video game characters and items to life.

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Game designers are a particular bunch, especially when it comes to the look of the characters they create. And who could blame them, laboriously creating digital assets over the span of months and even years.

But these works are to be marketed — and shown — in order to be known. And as such, any physical representation needs to be pinpoint perfect.

For Sony’s PlayStation arm, the man behind the physical props and knickknacks made to promote its games is Gary Barth. He is a longtime veteran of Sony Computer Entertainment of America (now Sony Interactive Entertainment). Previously, Barth helped shape the company’s multimedia efforts as the Producer of PlayStation Underground CD Magazine.

Today, Barth operates from a small workshop on Sony’s PlayStation campus in California, where he prototypes various props for live action shoots, collectables, and other promotional items.

Speaking to Formlabs, Barth described the first steps to creating a physical prop:

“Someone will come to me with an idea — sometimes a clear vision and other times more abstract — and it’s my job to help bring the project to life in a way that accurately represents the in-game characters and items.”

Highly accurate prototypes are an essential part of the early production process. Often under the grip of confidentiality restrictions, these cannot be outsourced. Since 2016, onsite SLA 3D printers have served this purpose for Barth.

“It’s been amazing to see the advances in print technology over past five years in terms of resolution. Speed is important to a lot of people, but for me it’s not as big of a deal. The ease of cleanup, the cost of machine, the cost of materials — those are becoming more affordable, and are what make the day-to-day difference.”

PlayStation 3D printed Nathan Drake face
Image: Formlabs Blog

3D Printing PlayStation Prototypes

Recently, Barth took to producing a 20-inch model of character Nathan Drake, from the Uncharted franchise of PlayStation video games.

Using a Formlabs Form 2 SLA printer, he was able to achieve a level of detail reflective of the Nathan Drake’s digitally rendered form:

“There’s something that happens between looking at a likeness on screen and looking at a 3D print. Sometimes it just doesn’t translate as well as you would think, which is why some collectible statues look nothing like their on-screen character. Having the ability to 3D print on-site is awesome because it allows me to easily provide that visual.”

Make Your Own Video Game Props:

He continues: “If you’re making collectible statues, the minute you start sanding, you’re softening detail. With the Form 2, you snap the support material off pretty cleanly and with a little light sanding, you’re ready to primer.”

Promotional and marketing tools aren’t the only instances of 3D printing entering the workings of PlayStation. As recently as March last year, Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. filed a US Patent covering the recording of instances of 3D data. Elements of the recorded scene could then be 3D printed.

We haven’t heard anything from the company regarding the implementation of such a system, but its presence shows they are at least considering the technology’s potential and how it could transect with video games.

Source: Formlabs

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