The Digital Hero is the 3D Festival Award trophy and it is hand made every year by Artist Dan Platt in Los Angeles. Most people (including us at first!) had no idea how much work Dan puts into his Digital Hero Trophies. Read this and you will understand why you would want to win a Digital Hero trophy.

How did you go about making the Digital Hero - from concept to finish?

Dan Platt: The Digital Hero was born by first giving the trophy a name. Calling it the "Digital Hero" immediately gave rise to personality and descriptiveness - to something that is more or less an inanimate object. When I think of "Digital", a computer based medium or solution comes to mind and "Hero", the pinnacle of personal as well as wide achievement. Combining these two ideas with the flavor of a timeless Greek legends, the Digital Hero came to life.

The next thing that I did was to mount my digital camera on a tripod and toss my clothes into a heap on the floor. I then grabbed a cardboard tube (as a stand-in for the sword) and snapped off a few shots. Using a digital camera, I immediately saw the pose take shape and that I needed to lose some weight!

With the pose set, I then designed a wire armature (like our own skeleton but for clay) at the exact 1:1 scale and pose of the trophy, using the 8 heads tall, heroic figure proportion as my guide. Next clay was applied to this wire armature, shaped and reshaped into anatomical muscle groups.

Once the figure was "roughed out" to my satisfaction, a flexible silicone mold was made from this sculpture and allowed to cure overnight. After the silicone set, the mold was opened and the clay sculpture removed and discarded.

Next I poured a proprietary blend of hard sculpting wax into the silicone mold and allowed that to cure. This time, just a few hours. Once the wax hardened, it was carefully removed from the mold and re-sculpted for a second time. Yes, you¹ve read that correctly re-sculpted. This stage gave me the opportunity to take my original sculpture to a higher level of finish, which is difficult and too time consuming to do in clay. With the sculpture now complete, it was then remolded for the last and final time.

When that mold cured, the wax sculpture was removed from its flexible tomb and liquid resin poured into the cavity that was left behind by the sculpture. This plastic-like resin was then set to cure inside the mold for approximately 45 minutes. After the curing was complete, the plastic copy of the trophy was removed from the mold, sanded, painted in 24 karat gold leaf and mounted to a base.

How long did it take you to make the first Digital Hero?

Dan Platt: The first clay sculpture of the Digital Hero took about 5 weeks, the wax refining and base making another 2 weeks and the casting/trophy assembly another week.

Where do you find inspiration, what inspires you?

Dan Platt: Everything inspires me, from the mundane to the fantastic. You would be surprised what becomes a catalyst for a great idea. Personally I am a fanatic for great art books, antiques, "how-things-work" and the uniqueness of nature. But my greatest love (next to my wife) is human, animal and abnormal anatomy.

How did you first come to sculpture as a medium?

Dan Platt: While classically training as an Illustrator, I began to take some figure sculpting courses on the side. It wasn¹t much later when the sculpting courses became far more interesting than the 2D medium I was pursuing. With that realization, I couldn¹t see a lifelong career as an illustrator when I all that I wanted to do, 24 hours a day was to make things in 3D. So, during my third year in college, I decided to focus my attention on special make-up effects, thus affording me the opportunity to sculpt hyper realistic characters in 3D and paint them photo realistically in 2D for the film industry. Best of both worlds, actually.

When did you make the transition to 3D CG?

Dan Platt: About 4 years ago I was looking for a 3D program that could allow me to design one character and infinitely alter it into other characters, but without restrictions to my known style. I knew next to nothing about 3D in the digital sense, but I knew what I wanted. So, after experimenting with a lot of 3D programs, I found one on the Mac called Pixels:3D that introduced me to the organic,digital sculpting world. Soon after that, one could say that I was bitten by the new way of working in 3D, but rabid is a more accurate description. Today, I use NewTek LightWave 3D as my primary package for organic, digital modeling.

Has moving into the digital arena meant you left traditional sculpting behind?

Dan Platt: Yes and no. The markets that I am in now really demand digital 3D solutions over what can be done by traditional means. But in no way is the traditional methods obsolete. Thanks to my classical sculpture training, I can approach digital form creation quicker and with expected results, all in the style that I have been developing and known for, over the years. In a short, it¹s a symbiotic relationship where everyone wins.

Report by Sofia Saile

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The Digital Hero is the 3D Awards trophy hand made by artist Dan Platt in Los Angeles. The Digital Hero is the most coveted accolade in the 3D industry and community worldwide. To have one awarded is a symbol of pride, honor and achievement - a lifetime goal for many 3D artists worldwide. Find out how Dan makes the Digital Hero trophies. More

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