Company NewsDecember 14, 2023

The Inventor: Taking da Vinci’s inventions from sketch to silver screen

Academy Award winning Jim Capobianco’s “The Inventor” premiered this year, featuring virtual renderings of Leonardo da Vinci’s inventions in the 3DEXPERIENCE Lab.
Avatar Shoshana Kranish

What if we could bring the inventions of the Renaissance to life?

Not the ones we make use of already today, nor the ones that have been updated and reimagined, but the ones whose drawings and sketches never made the leap from 2D to 3D.

Very recently, a film premiered that focused on exactly this premise. “The Inventor” premiered at the Annecy International Film Festival in June, was released in September in the United States and will hit theaters in France in January 2024.. It centers on Leonardo da Vinci and more specifically, on his inventive years in France. A stop motion film featuring hand-drawn animation and voiced by a star-studded cast, it’s a film fit for kids and adults alike. As the title suggests, it focuses more on da Vinci’s work as a thinker and inventor, rather than as an artist. Starring actors like Marion Cotillard and Daisy Ridley, it brings big names to the silver screen – although the biggest among them, of course, is da Vinci himself. 

But for years, the same exploration has been taking place right here at Dassault Systèmes. The Open Codex community, created in 2012, focuses on empowering hobbyists, creators, engineers and others to take da Vinci’s ideas from sketchbook to 3D model. For years, the community has hosted competitions to see just how creative people can be. 

The writer and director of the film, Jim Capobianco, is a major name in Hollywood. At Pixar, he worked on films including Monsters, Inc., Ratatouille, Finding Nemo and Up. But for years, he’s held a specific fascination with da Vinci and his works. In 2021, he served on the judging committee for the 3DEXPERIENCE Lab’s Leonardo Da Vinci 3D Design Challenge, which tasked engineers and inventors with transforming da Vinci’s paper-bound ideas into physical realizations. 

The winners of that competition constructed paddle boats, a swing, cannon and car from da Vinci’s drawings. Each 3D replica was featured in “The Inventor” and their creators are given a nod in the film’s credits. 

Frederic Vacher, founder of the 3DEXPERIENCE lab, expressed his excitement over the collaborative film. “As an engineer this is a dream: Being in 3D engineering for more than 30 years, I was always inspired by Pixar movies and at the real beginning of computers by the animated lamp Luxo Jr (Pixar’s jumping lamp logo). This project connects engineering & the arts, inspires young generations and contributes to making a great story…this is so exciting,” he wrote on LinkedIn. 

The contest was the second iteration of a da Vinci-inspired competition at Dassault Systèmes. In 2014, modeling enthusiasts took part in the Da Vinci 3D contest. In that iteration of the Lab’s Innovation Challenge series, participants were given access to some of da Vinci’s original codices and used those as inspiration to create 3D models of his ideas. That year, the winners designed his battleship, mechanical drum, chariot and even his flying contraption.

In 2019, an interactive event series held at a castle in France commemorated 500 years since da Vinci’s death. That series, called Effervescences, showcased exhibits featuring virtual realizations of da Vinci’s ideas made through the 3DEXPERIENCE platform. 

Da Vinci, a true Renaissance man, is widely seen as the inspiration behind so many of humanity’s most important inventions, like airplanes, helicopters and cars. It’s not a stretch to say that even Dassault Systèmes has been in some way inspired by the work he did.

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