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Hermit crab house shells

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We had a chance to stretch our model making skills by building shells for live hermit crabs in Zoopla’s creative new advertising campaign, "Crab World".

Project Details 

The property website’s new advert features hermit crabs wearing shells, featuring miniature houses modelled onto them. Because of the many pitfalls involved in creating truly realistic computer graphic representations of living animals, Zoopla were keen to use physical rather than digital special effects. To fulfil this desire, shells were designed and built for the crabs.

To ensure that the hermit crabs would be happy to inhabit the shells, they were modelled on samples of real shells taken from the shooting location in Costa Rica. Some of the shells were moulded and cast in resin; others were replicated at different sizes using a laser scanner, 3D CAD and 3D printing.

Prototype shells were sent to Costa Rica in advance, to check that they would be accepted by the local hermit crabs - which, luckily, they were. The test-run was crucial as each integrated shell took around 12 hours to print and a further two days to hand finish and paint. A total of 21 shells were produced for the project.

No animals were harmed in the making of the commercils. Artem worked alongside animal welfare experts including cameraman Doug Allen, known for his work with David Attenborough; chief marine biologist, Ingo Wehmann and three highly-experienced crab handlers, all of whom were on set throughout the week-long shoot. After filming was over, the crabs moved back into their original shells, before returning to the wild.

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Making the shells with houses for Zoopla was a fascinating job. We had to combine CAD software (computer-aided design) and 3D printing techniques with good old model making, while making an authentic shell shape for the crabs to occupy. It all worked out very well and the crabs seemed to be very happy in them.

Simon Taylor

Artem Project Supervisor

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