Geomagic 3D scan software and Creaform scanners enable superfast creation of accurate 3D data of dolphin for visual effects.


Working with children and animals is a prospect that often terrifies movie makers. The recently released movie called ‘Dolphin Tale’ (Warner Brothers) combined both resulting in a stunning piece of work that is based on a true story.

A photo of the real Winter the Dolphin in her home at Clearwater Aquarium, FL. Photo. credit. Clearwater Aquarium.

The movie “Dolphin Tale” tracks through a real life story of Winter, a young dolphin who lost her tail in a crab trap and Sawyer, the 11-year old boy who befriends her. Sawyer meets the rescued dolphin at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, a marine rehabilitation center where she lives. Sawyer rallies friends and family alike to save Winter by convincing a pioneering doctor to create a unique prosthetic attachment to restore the dolphin’s ability to swim. The prosthetic was developed by Kevin Carroll at Hanger Prosthetics, who combined an innovative gel ‘sock’ with a replacement tail to allow Winter to start swimming again.

The prosthetic took 18 months to design and create.  The ongoing development of the gel, now called ‘Winter’s gel’, has further assisted in the use of human prosthetics to aid with comfort and fit. Carroll is now also said to be researching further gel materials that will stand up more robustly to salt water conditions. As a result of his work, Winter has regained the ability to swim, although she had to relearn many skills and also learn new skills for working with the prosthetic.

Winter the dolphin plays herself in the movie assisted by an animatronic dolphin and 3D visual effects. Ashley Judd, Harry Connick Jr., and Morgan Freeman also star.

The completed, fully water-tight 3D surface model of Winter, for use in visual effects for the movie.

To achieve the desired outcome, the studio seamlessly combined real footage of Winter the dolphin – the star of the story - with animatronics and accurate 3D data to bring the movie the realism it needed. NeoMetrix Technology Inc., a Florida-based provider of 3D scanning, reverse engineering and rapid prototyping, assisted in delivering accurate 3D data of Winter, the dolphin at the center of the story, for use in the movie.

15 year-old Aaron Perreault (son of Neometrix president Dan Perreault) uses the Creaform scanner to complete the work on the scan.

Using a Creaform MetraSCAN 3D scanner and Geomagic reverse engineering software, the NeoMetrix team scanned the animatronic dolphin used in the filming, so that the movie makers could easily and accurately combine 3D visual effects with the real-life footage.

“This was a great project to do as it demonstrated how effective 3D scanning is for capturing complex shapes accurately,” said Dan Perreault, president of NeoMetrix. “Creating a model like this from scratch would take forever. Using Creaform and Geomagic, we had the dolphin scanned and processed into watertight 3D data within a couple of days.”

Visiting Clearwater Marine Aquarium, where Winter resides and where filming was completed, the NeoMetrix team combined their expertise in scanning and using Geomagic software to enable a fully-watertight 3D dolphin model to be quickly created. This allowed the visual effects studio involved with the movie to easily deliver realistic footage without stressing Winter with repeated takes and scenes.

Video of the scanning process, where the NeoMetrix team scanned the animatronic version.