How Raised By Wolves used revolutionary 3D printing in its special effects

Image: Dreamsmith/Formlabs. Raised By Wolves season 2.
Image: Dreamsmith/Formlabs. Raised By Wolves season 2. /

Before it was unceremoniously canceled by HBO Max earlier this year, Raised By Wolves was one of the weirdest, boldest science fiction shows on TV. It followed the story of two androids, Mother (Amanda Collin) and Father (Abubakar Salim), who seek to restart the human race on the distant planet of Kepler-22b after Earth is torn apart by a theological war. Over the course of two seasons, we watched as they raised their band of misfit children on a hostile planet filled with hostile forces, and the journey was often as breathtaking as it was shocking due to the show’s poignant writing and stunning special effects.

Created by Aaron Guzikowski and produced by veteran filmmaker Ridley Scott, Wolves was one of the most original science fiction shows to come around in quite a while. As it turns out, the show wasn’t just original in terms of its storytelling, but also in its production. Dreamsmith Studio, the makeup effects and prop-making company that worked on the show, branched out into uncharted territory in season 2 by making ample use of the revolutionary Formlabs Form 3L stereolithography 3D printer to create some of its practical effects.

It was a first for the studio, and a trial by fire: before using the Form 3L’s on season 2, Dreamsmith had never used 3D printers as a regular part of its workflow on a project.

The results speak for themselves. Formlabs published a new interview with Dreamsmith founder and Raised By Wolves Lead Prosthetic Designer Jaco Snyman this week that details how the use of these printers enabled the production to not only revolutionize their workflow and save tons of time and money, but also create some effects that would have been nearly impossible without the use of these 3D printers.

Image: Dreamsmith/Formlabs. Raised By Wolves season 2.
Image: Dreamsmith/Formlabs. Raised By Wolves season 2. /

Raised By Wolves used 3D printers in revolutionary new ways

While 3D printers had been an exciting prospect for Dreamsmith prior to season 2 of Raised By Wolves, it was difficult to find printers that could accommodate their needs. They spent years searching for printers that were affordable and large enough to print the kinds of props they needed; say, life-sized body parts for dummies. After nearly giving up on the idea of being able to rely on 3D printing for Raised By Wolves season 2, the company discovered the Form 3L and was finally able to get to work.

The interview with Snyman details a few incredibly cool ways that his team used these printers to accomplish things on Raised By Wolves that they would have been unable to do before. Remember Decima (Kim Engelbrecht), the surrogate mother of the android Vrille (Morgan Santo)? After she tries to viciously deactivate Vrille, the impressionable android goes fully homicidal and murders a whole slew of Mithraic. The capstone to that sequence is that she also kills Decima, slicing her face off and hanging her in the ruins of a Mithraic temple.

The full body dummy of Decima that hangs in that scene was made by Dreamsmith using the Form 3L printers. Before the 3D printers, that kind of a dummy would have taken a month to painstakingly sculpt, and would have involved an uncomfortable mold process with the actor to create a cast that would then be shaped into the finished product. With the 3D printers, Dreamsmith was able to do all the set-up digitally, and then print out all the pieces of the prop itself in under a day. More details were required to get it ready for the actual shoot, such as assembling the various pieces into the full-size dummy and painting its skin, but the time difference that the printer made possible is pretty amazing.

Image: Dreamsmith/Formlabs. Raised By Wolves season 2.
Image: Dreamsmith/Formlabs. Raised By Wolves season 2. /

And since we’re talking about Vrille, remember that haunting mask she wears for the back half of season 2? That was yet another thing that was created using 3D printers, combined with more traditional techniques. “Sometimes a brief is just impossible to create by hand or so impractical and time-consuming that it might as well be,” Snyman explains. “Traditionally, we would have to rely on outsourcing these parts to a machine shop or simply passing the job on entirely.”

Instead, Dreamsmith was able to design the mask digitally, then print out a mold of it, then use that mold to create the final gleaming silicon layer that we see in the series.

Grandmother’s skeleton was only possible to make because of 3D printing

We’ve talked a bit about ways that the 3D print work on Raised By Wolves made the production process more efficient. There were also ways that it allowed the prosthetics team to create practical effects that would have literally been impossible otherwise. The example that Snyman discusses in the interview is the biomechanical skeleton of Grandmother.

After Father unearths the remains of the Grandmother android, he takes it back to his workshop and accidentally resuscitates it, “regrowing” the ancient android. Raised By Wolves‘ take on biomechanical technology was one of its more interesting ideas, and the way the skeleton was distinctly human-shaped while also appearing riddled with holes and complex patterns gave it a captivating, otherworldly quality.

Image: Dreamsmith/Formlabs. Raised By Wolves season 2.
Image: Dreamsmith/Formlabs. Raised By Wolves season 2. /

Snyman says that Grandmother’s skeleton was “an intricately detailed prop with a geometric flow that would have been agonizingly difficult to sculpt out of clay and basically impossible to mold with traditional techniques.”

"The Grandmother Skeleton is a perfect example of a design created purely because we were able to 3D print it. Impossible shapes and interlocking gears have been printed for a while now, but what we needed was the ability to be precise at a useful scale. We needed a life-sized skeleton! The build volume of the Form 3L allowed us to print this entire prop in practical chunks at high resolution."

Thanks to technological advances as well as the fact that the Dreamsmith team grew gradually more comfortable relying on 3D printing to reliably complete tasks, Raised By Wolves was able to feature props like this skeleton.

Something old, something new

While props like Grandmother’s skeleton were created entirely with 3D printing, the show’s prosthetics department also combined this new technology with traditional practical effects work in some fascinating ways. For instance, take the scaly cocoon that enveloped Paul (Felix Jamieson) when he was tricked into delivering a contagious bioweapon to the Mithraic hideout. While the articulated dummy for Paul’s actual body was something constructed the old fashioned way, the studio realized that they would also need plenty of flexible scaly prosthetics to cover it, as well as to stick onto the actors. For these, they turned to the 3D printers. This hybrid approach produced some visually striking results.

Image: Dreamsmith/Formlabs. Raised By Wolves season 2.
Image: Dreamsmith/Formlabs. Raised By Wolves season 2. /

You can check out Snyman’s full interview over at the Formlabs website, where he explains in detail how this new technology was used in Raised By Wolves season 2. And if you’re salty about the show’s cancelation, don’t forget to check out the #SaveRaisedByWolves campaign and the petition to revive the show!

Prey is the best Predator movie since the original. dark. Next

To stay up to date on everything fantasy, science fiction, and WiC, follow our all-encompassing Facebook page and sign up for our exclusive newsletter.

Get HBO, Starz, Showtime and MORE for FREE with a no-risk, 7-day free trial of Amazon Channels