Salient-Helio Collaboration: 3D Printed Titles

Earlier this spring, Zach Johaneson of Helio Collective approached Salient about creating physical movie titles for use in-camera (instead of the typical computer-generated graphics we’re all used to seeing) for the opening credits of Red Bull’s recently-released Travis Rice snowboarding film, The Fourth Phase.

From Zach:

“For intro title sequences in films, you always start by identifying how the sequence should contribute to the film at large. For The Fourth Phase, Director Jon “JK” Klaczkiewicz had a vision of starting the film off with an elemental look at the hydrocycle. Helio & Co. has been in the graphics business for about ten years now, but with this project we really wanted to push ourselves into trying something different that would also contribute to the films overarching story. This is where the idea to shoot all of the titles in camera was born, but the execution was a total mystery. After a bit of experimentation, we reached out to Salient Technologies and they helped us realize we could actually 3D print very small titles that we could then place in these different states of water. For one instance, Salient 3D printed an incredibly small and detailed title and a jig so we could freeze it into a solid block of ice and then film it. Their ability to understand our end goal and then engineer solutions to achieve those goals was absolutely critical to our success.”

Salient and Helio explored many methods for fabricating the titles, including SLA (Stereolithography) and SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) 3D printing, laser cutting, decal cutting, and waterjet cutting.

SLS & SLA 3D printed lettering

SLS 3D printed titles on Left. SLA 3D printed titles on Right.

In the end, due to size and quality constraints, we settled on SLS and SLA printing for the titles. For some of the close-up macro shots, the letters were minute – as tiny as 2mm tall. Since they were to to be shot at 6K resolution, the prints had to be very detailed and high-quality. Take a peek at the end result here:

The Fourth Phase: Opening Title Sequence from Helio + Company on Vimeo.

If you were especially perceptive, you may have noticed that “Principal” was misspelled (or misused) in a couple of the images, then corrected in the intro sequence with several more names added. A consequence of actually printing out titles and creating complex setups for filming in-camera effects (as opposed to using computer-generated graphics) is that when there are changes, they take considerably more time to fabricate. Re-printing, finish, setting up the shot, re-shooting, and re-editing is far more time-consuming than editing the spelling or content in a video program digitally, and then re-rendering. To our knowledge, this is the first use of 3D printed titles in a feature film, which is pretty exciting. Being pioneers, and making “firsts” takes sacrifice!

All images in slideshow were provided and used with the permission of Helio + Company. Helio staff featured in photos include Alex Gappa, Zach, Johaneson and Jim Menkol.

To see other work from Helio & Co, go to

Fourth Phase 4K Trailer


SolidWorks Workstation Build

By Steve Sanford

I have always wanted to build a PC from the ground up. Coincidentally, it was always something Joel Switzer (our senior product designer here) wanted to do as well. Around Salient, we were always changing out computer components and upgrading everything “upgradeable” throughout a workstation’s lifecycle. Then eventually, the workstation would be retired and a new (usually Dell Precision) workstation would be put in its place. This time, instead of buying a pre-built workstation, we decided to build two workstations that would be as fast as our budget would allow.

SolidWorks logo

As a certified SolidWorks trainer and tech support provider (in a previous life) I always recommended users buy a balanced workstation. That is, processor, graphics, ram, hard drive speed, etc. should all be balanced for a given budget. In the last couple of years, though, it’s become apparent that less expensive workstation-class graphics cards coupled with the fastest processors resulted in excellent day-to-day results. No one likes waiting around for their CAD system to rebuild solid model geometry, and one core (or thread) in the processor is responsible for that in common 3D CAD systems. Even though SolidWorks is single-threaded–meaning that typical modeling work only utilizes one processor core–other applications, such as photo rendering, video creation, and using multiple programs at the same time can utilize a multi-core processor. At Salient, that’s translated into moving away from Intel Xeon processors and into Intel Core i7 processors for our last several upgrade cycles.

Intel Devil’s Canyon i7 4790k Logo

When Intel announced it’s Devil’s Canyon i7 4790k (the “k” meaning it is unlocked or can be overclocked) and the release new Z97 motherboards, we knew we had try building some dedicated SolidWorks machines. So, with a few tips from Charles Culp and Anna Wood on the SolidWorks forums, an Easy PC builder YouTube video, we used (see this link for our build) to spec out components that would work together.

PC Part-Picker is helpful in figuring out where each component is a good deal, but if you have a Micro Center nearby, they have some great deals on processors and components. Being in Montana–far from the nearest Micro Center…and any other source of components–we found most of the parts we needed on Amazon, Newegg, and Tigerdirect. After they all showed up, we got out our toolkit, slapped on our anti-static wristbands, and set about assembling our two new workstations.

At the same time, we decided to make a timelapse video of the build just for fun. This isn’t meant to educate anyone on putting together a computer, but with a GoPro with suction cup mount and Canon DSLR + intervalometer just itching to be used, we couldn’t resist. Enjoy!

Next up is using these workstations for SolidWorks 3D solid modeling software and Adobe Creative Cloud. After we make sure they’re running smoothly, we’re going to try overclocking, both manually and with ASUS’s AI Tuner to see what kinds of performance gains we can achieve.

Steve Sanford is the President and Co-Owner of Salient Technologies, Inc.


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