Ain't No Mountain High Enough

Replicating the Canadian Rockies with a 3D Printer

Canadian Rockies

Visual effects company Corbel 3D scans and 3D prints the largest mountain in the Canadian Rockies, and is featured on the Discovery Channel.

Corbel 3D is a 3D printing and 3D scanning company based in Vancouver which specializes in engineering and visual effects.

Inspired after a trip to the multiplex to see Mad Max: Fury Road, they wanted to see how big they could go with digital capture for large natural landmarks. So they chose one of the most prominent objects in the vicinity — Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies at an incredible 3,954m!

The ambitious project, and the technology used to scan the largest peak, was filmed in a six-minute documentary featured on the Daily Planet’s “Anything for the Shot” week on the Discovery Channel. You can also read about it on the Corbel 3D official blog.

What’s Mad Max got to do with digital capture, though? For the recent film, visual effects supervisor Andrew Jackson used 3D scanning to capture rock cliffs in Namibia, allowing them to use real landscapes, cracks, stains, and erosion as a starting point to build a key setting called the Citadel.

How the Canadian Rockies were scanned and 3D printed

On a chartered helicopter flight, the Cordel 3D team used a digital camera to capture nearly a thousand images of the mountain from different angles. The 3D scan was completed using a technique called “Photogrammetry”, which uses hundreds of photographic images from a camera to construct a three-dimensional model.

mount robson

“We had no idea if this was going to work, especially considering the weather conditions that naturally exist at that kind of altitude and the equipment we were using,” Patrick Wirt of Corbel 3D told Vancitybuzz.

An unrestricted view of the peak was essential but could not be promised thanks to the notoriously bad weather surrounding Mount Robson.

Once they had procured the images, the team creates a 3D printed replica in full color using a 3D Systems ProJet 660. The final model captures all of the complexities of the terrain, and brings beautiful details from the natural landscape to life.

What do you think about the 3D printed mountain? Do you think this technology will cause an “avalanche of change” in the film industry?