The Academy Awards are returning to their roots this year, with a 2016 Oscar statuette inspired by the original 1920s design. In order to capture the subtle details of the Oscar statue from the good old days, the Academy teamed up with design studio Polich Tallix to introduce some digital age technology. With the help of 3D printing processes and a whole lot of artistic skill, the Academy is hoping that the 2016 Oscar statuettes will be pieces of art in their own right.
Since Polich Tallix already had the 3D printing equipment ready in-house when the Academy approached them, it seemed a natural step to combine modeling scans of the original and modern Oscars to come up with something original inspired by the classic form. “Conceptually, there is something profound about revitalizing such a recognizable design with modern technology,” Polich Tallix digital production specialist Daniel Plonski told Digital Trends. “However, simply employing the technology alone does not yield a successful result. Craftsmanship and attention to detail are crucial to the success of any design.”
The historic 1929 Oscar statuette was designed by George Stanley, and is based on sketches created by MGM art director Cedric Gibbons. To combine the original design with a more modern approach, the Polich Tallix team scanned both the traditional Oscar and the modern Oscar using a 7-axis laser scanning arm. Plonski then used modeling software to blend the two scans, and went through several 3D printed prototypes before settling on the final design with the Academy.
The final design was printed on a 3D Systems MultiJet Printer at the Polich Tallix studio. Once the print was finished, the brand new plastic Oscar was turned into a rubber mold, from which artisans then cast wax bases for each statuette. The next step was to coat each wax form in a ceramic shell that was cured and fired at 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit. This caused the wax form to melt away, leaving nothing but the ceramic shell — which was then filled with liquid bronze heated to more than 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. After that, the bronze was supercooled, broken out of the ceramic mold, and then sanded to a mirror finish. The final step was to apply a 24-karat gold finish to every Oscar, which was applied through an electroplating process by the specialists at Epner Technology in Brooklyn, New York.
When the 88th Oscars air this Sunday, the artisans at Polich Tallix will have gone through about three months of work to handcraft each of the 50 statuettes presented on stage and behind the scenes. You may not notice the subtle changes from your living room couch, but the brand shiny new Oscar will bring a little old school glamour to the shelves of every winner on Sunday night, thanks to a combination of new world technology and old school craftsmanship.