Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Zombies and Hammers

After this post, it's official; one last class on the horizon. I'm still prepping my facial appliance for our final design, but for this last class we focused on the techniques that we learned throughout the weeks. We had an open forum of questions about methods and materials and the best way to tackle certain effects. This included trouble shooting monster suits like Swamp Thing, underwater effects like Fulci's ZOMBIE, and the all kinds of hell Lon Chaney Jr. would put himself through for his craft. This all revolved my favorite piece of mythology; ZOMBIES!

Jacqueline showed me an awesome tip to create veins. Simply take a blue eyeliner and freehand. PRESTO! So easy and quick, don't know why I didn't think of that. Add a dash of powder to bring down the hue and instant veins that any junkie would crave.

Jacqueline also has a new video up on YouTube and if you aren't subscribing to her channel yet, you should.

Kevin was nominated to be our guinea pig. Carl discussed and reviewed several techniques we learned to create an out of kit zombie.

Kevin's face become a quick mish-mash of half done effects to create the walking dead. A quick gelatin mold was cast to make a bulging brain. A balloon and pump can be laid underneath to allow for a pulsating wound. A gelatin worm was glued to his cheek and added a dimension of movement to the effect. Toilet paper and corn flakes applied with liquid latex and painted up is one of the cheapest effects I can attest to as being the most realistic, especially in regards to time. A couple lines on the lip with red and black give a split lip. A blending of black around the eyes deepens the sockets and adds a hollowed look. Adding black eye liner under AND above the lashes will take away any redness that remains.

Here's my sculpted piece with walls built up out of clay. This took about a pound of clay for the sculpt and the walls, but it can all be reused when pulled away. I mixed up about a half pound of Ultracal 30 and poured til all of my sculpt was covered. Due to the cold weather I allowed for two days to fully cure to get out all of the moisture.

You'll notice that I built an almost bowl shape, which worked against me. Take note and safe yourself some elbow grease and heart ache. I should've built up more of a rectangle like box with my walls to allow for easier separation. When I peeled back my clay, I saw that my sculpt and my mold had vacuumed sealed together. I attempted to chisel it out, but in the end it came down to brute force and sacrifice. I took a hammer and as gently as I could, smashed through the bottom base my zombie sculpt. I knew my impression of the zombie piece was completely cured, but I needed that piece more than my original sculpt. I still have the silicone mold of Eva's face if I need to pour another, an option I wouldn't have if I would've taken her impression with Algaenate. Always think of contingencies.

After pulling out the broken pieces of my girlfriend's face, I took up my loop tool and scraped away all the residual clay that was hiding in the nooks and crannies of my zombie sculpt.

Here's a side view to showcase some of the detail of my zombie. I currently have a second coat of liquid latex currently curing on the mold I pulled from this positive. I'll update again with pics of the final effect.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

On my Own

So class was cancelled for this past Monday, but it gave me the opportunity to begin my preparations my final project. Basically the last class we are given the entire 3 hour block of time to utilize all the skills we have learned to present a special effects make-up design of our own creation. I want to turn my girlfriend into a zombie.

To accomplish this, I need to start with the fundamentals. Life casting + sculpting = success ?

Here she is, in all her Kojak-like glory, my love, Eva. She was kind enough to put up with me casting her face and coming in for my final class for the application of the prosthetic I hope to build. Be sure that your model has no make-up or acne treatments on their face. Some acne treatments can have an adverse reaction to certain chemicals and cause a burning irritation. This is also said for skin that has recently undergone a chemical peel or similar procedures.

I applied a bald cap and glued down around her ears and forehead. I marked with a sharpie where her hairline is so as to not sculpt a piece that goes beyond that. She's a trooper for putting up with me. Be sure to apply ample release agent a.k.a petroleum jelly to the eyebrows and eyelashes with a small brush.

I used an equal parts mixed silicone called Body Double. One part is bright pink and the other is electric blue. Mix equal parts of each together in a separate container and stir until it's a nice purple hue. This means it's properly mixed and ready for application.

This stuff is a bit sticky, so if you get any on clothes or other surfaces, wait until it's dry and you can peel it off, rather than smearing it about in its wet state. It works best to apply in small patches and smooth out with a small spatula to decrease air bubbles. It takes less than 30 minutes to cure, and once it wasn't tactile anymore I applied several layers of plaster strips to create my supportive Mother Mold. Once that was dry, I was able to pull the mold from my model.

I then mixed a batch of UltraCal 30 and poured into my mold and let it cure. Once it was dry this is what I pulled out. A few spots are needed to be chased out, but over all a very solid pour. I had a bit of difficulty with Eva's nose. Basically her left nostril became slightly obstructed, very similar to what happened with Carl in our first lesson with life casting. I pulled it make her more comfortable, remember your model is always more important than your mold.

I used the flat head end of a screwdriver as a chisel and a hammer and chased away all the excess areas of my face cast. I used a small nail file to smooth out certain edges along the eyes and nose.

Here I began my sculpting using an oil based clay. It works a bit better once you roll it in your hands and heat it up a bit. There is nothing quite as meditative as just sitting and creating with your hands what is in your head.

I want an almost skeletal look to the face. This means building out the eye sockets in particular and sculpting a slightly slanted forehead coupled with narrowed temples. I also hyper-extended the cheekbones.

To fix the problem with the nose I sculpted a grizzly socket of where one should be. I built up the nose to where it would be on her face and then added a bit more clay and sculpted it from there. The idea is for it to fit directly over her nose like a cap. And I made sure to exaggerate the nostrils to ample breathing.

The chin I sculpted as a separate piece. In my design, I want Eva to have full range of movement with her mouth, which latex and other materials would slightly hindered if this was one solid piece. This will lend to awesome chomps and snarls for future photos. Ideally if I had enough time and training I would also sculpt and cast teeth. One day soon, perhaps.

I decided to add a bit more of an under bridge to the base of my eye sockets. This draws the eye to the mouth and works in the rule of 45 degrees. You want your character to look evil/scary, position their eyebrows/eyes at a 45 degree angle. Works every time. The chin is almost to a point, with a Bruce Campbell like bulge. I will then blend the two pieces together with liquid latex and make-up once cast.

But the first thing now is to cast a mold my sculpt. Don't put the cart before the horse or more appropriately, don't congratulate survival when there's zombies still out there.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

There's always room for Gelatin

From last week we cast and applied our hand sculpts in liquid latex. This week we used the same mold with a different material, Gelatin, with very different results.

First we prepped our hand cast, which is my base mold, by drilling a hole through the center where it aligned with mold I had previously used. It's very important to line it up and mark with a pencil as this hole should line up directly over the center of your sculpt. This hole will act as the injection point.

With a much smaller drill bit, I drilled three release holes into my cast mold. These serve as the release holes so you piece doesn't suction together. The mold and the hand piece are coated in a release agent. In this instance, we used PAM cooking spray.

Here Carl preps the molds for injection. With gelatin, a little bit goes a long way. This is cosmetic gelatin, not jell-o, so be sure you're purchasing the correct supplies. It has to be heated to a melted degree, but this is easy with a microwave and a microwave safe bowl. You can use a double-boiler method like you would with chocolate if you don't have a microwave handy. Keep a very close eye on this, burnt gelatin stinks like no other and wastes material. Undercooked and it won't properly flow within your mold. Be mindful of the material in this state as it can and will burn if mishandled.

You can use an injection syringe found at Compleat Sculptor or check your local hardware stores, medical supply stores, and bakery stores to find what will work for you. If you're in the New York City area or not, Compleat Sculptor has the inventory and know-how for all your mold-making and prop fabrication. Be sure you obtain a syringe that can within stand the heat of liquid gelatin. A clear one is ideal as you can see how much material you have and what you have left after injecting your mold. As you squeeze in your material, check on the underside of your mold to see the gelatin poke through your release holes, which also serve to let you know when the mold is full.

Here's my mold, taped together to prevent any shifting of material. Using clear tape lets you see exactly when it becomes filled. Simply poke a hole through at your injection point and fire away. We sped up the process of waiting for the gelatin to cool by simply sticking them into the refrigerator. Allow about 15-20 minutes to properly cure. A helpful tip is to leave a bit out at room temperature. When it's effectively cured, you'll be positive those in the ice box are ready for you.

When pulling the mold apart, use a pair of scissors to snip the piece of your injection hole that may not separate. These excess pieces will be further trimmed away, but you want to ensure a proper separation of your mold and material.
This crude illustration of mine illustrates how your mold edges should look. The material should smooth out to the edges, rather than being plopped down like a wad of pizza dough.

The peel is the same as latex, brushing with powder as you gently pull. Exercise caution as gelatin is a bit more susceptible to tearing than latex.
This illustration shows the excess areas of material to be trimmed. When powdering and rolling the prosthetic be careful of the pieces of material from your release holes that may not want to separate. Simply use scissors to snip them away.

Here's the pulled piece. It's a tad bit smaller than my latex one from previously, but then I did paint on latex past the edges. Take the moment to trim the excess pieces of each side from your injection hole and release holes. Add a touch of powder to these spots and you're ready for application.

Application is a dab of ProsAide on the back of the hand, and a bit on the under side of your prosthetic and around the edges. Your edges can be blended after being glued down with a paint brush and warm water. This helps smooth and dissolve the edges to a feathering unrivaled to latex.

Due to the translucent nature of the gelatin, the paint up was really a breeze. I usually spend half my time trying to match my skin tone, but here it shined through and some simple brush ups around the edges blended the effect to the rest of my hand.

Not all molds were probably meant for this material. Here, Erin, who did the fabulous scratches that Becky liked so much, showed what a trooper and artist she was. Having some trouble with the injection of her mold, she salvaged the pieces to create an extremely gnarly set of puncture wounds. This was very interesting to see the same piece used in an entirely new way.

Jacqueline's puncture wound/bullet hole gets better every time. Kinda makes you wanna flip here wrist and see what's protruding from the other side.

Here's my scarification all painted up. I really like the sense of swelling and raised tissue.

I used a flat edge of a sponge and some red paint to streak a line about 2 centimeters away from the edges. I then smudged away from the cut, and blended out into my normal skin. This created a sense of redness that I think really shines through.

The last key ingredient in any successful special effect: BLOOD. I decided to apply a bit less than last time, but blended it out as well to give it a look of "holy hell, this just happened, stop the bleeding" smear.
And there you have it, another successful pull and application from the same mold. I really enjoyed working with the gelatin, it had more of a flesh like property to it and led to a more convincing believability with the effect. It is a bit more work and preparation, but if you have the time to plan it out, I feel it'll deliver every time.

Clean up is the same as latex; simply peel away and wipe with Bond Off and a baby wipe. The gelatin tends to "chunk" away rather than peeling off in one piece like latex, so take your time if you want to save that as a souvenir.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Halloween that sadly didn't happen.

So a while back a friend contacted me about dressing as JFK and Jackie O. post-assassination for Halloween. They were looking for some gory effects to gross out their friends, but that wouldn't wreck their vintage threads. This was 11 days before the big day.

When she heard about the classes I was taking she thought she'd ask me for some costume advice with her husband. I detailed several low cost tips and techniques to produce the effect that I thought they were going for and where they would be able to obtain it all.

Unfortunately, their efforts didn't produce a blood splattered couple of epic proportions like I was hoping. They ultimately abandoned the idea due to lack of supplies and timing. But there's always next year!

What follows is a FaceBook conversation that details all the necessary steps to successfully produce the effect yourself, in theory. I think it also plays well if you put it into the hypothetical perspective of her being a Producer and Halloween being a movie, and what I can provide in a limited time frame with a limited budget. Same process, but should you expect the same results? If anyone feels up to utilizing this advice, I would love to post pictures of your results.

Here's the question that sparked it all...

Anyway, I hope this helps and maybe inspires someone to try it themselves.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Hand Casts & Clay Sculpting Part 3

Here's the exciting conclusion of my clay sculpt and mold pour. I was very happy with how my mold came out from last week, and by giving it the appropriate time to cure I knew there wasn't any moisture left in my mold, meaning no more exothermic heat. I had previously painted about 8-10 layers of liquid latex over my sculpted mold and now was to see if everything would go accordingly to plan. I decided that I would go for a laceration look to the piece over the burn, which in my opinion would need the coupling of another make-up to achieve for my limited time in class.

Here's the appliance piece ready to peel.

Which using latex, it has a distinct characteristic of wanting to stick to itself. When pulling the latex it's important to powder the top and underneath of your piece as you gently, gently, ever so gently peel your piece away from the mold. Imagine this is the President's daughter that needs her band-aid taken off, that's how important it is to be gentle.

If you don't use enough layers of liquid latex, your piece can be frail and susceptible to tearing. I started simply rolling along the edges and spinning the mold so eventually the middle piece was the last piece to pluck out.

Here's the final piece, pulled and powdered. It's roughly the size of a coffee cup lid.

To apply the piece, I dabbed a bit of ProAide on the middle of my hand and a bit on the underside of the latex piece. It's important to apply your prosthetics from the middle and work outward as you apply ProsAide. This insures that your edges are flat and you have the room for adjustment considering you're applying this to a moving person.

One key thing to remember is to stipple around the edges with liquid latex. This adheres the pieces further, but most importantly blends the edges of the piece out to the rest of the applied area.

Once adhered, I began trying to find my skin tone among the options of mask grease paint. You may remember that by adding a drop of GP20 to your kit make-up. I always have the hardest time trying to match my skin tone. Being Italian and German, I get a flushed pale olive hued skin tone in the winter. I tried my best by blending highlights of shadow to contrast the effect.

Remember to blend and stipple beyond the piece and your stippled latex. This helps blend the rest of the skin to the effect.

I've gotten to the point where I'm comfortable with the skin tone and ready to move onto the effect.

Here I began painting into the crevices of the sculpted piece with a dark brown. Take your time because blending with grease paint is a chore and cleaning it an area you mistakenly applied to is even worse.

After laying a dark brown, I then began applying a brighter red to give the look a depth thanks to the duality of color.

There were a few edges that didn't seem to want to stick right, so rather than scrapping it all Carl suggested adding slight bruising. If the eye was going to travel there anyway because of faulty application, then make it travel there to see an effect instead.

I applied a darker purple and blue to create my bruising, but to cut the deep look of it I then applied the base coat of my skin tone to feather out the edges. This crafted a nice, under the skin kinda look for the bruising.

Also I put a small dab of red along the "ring" of the piece. My hopes were that by taking a torn sponge and wiping away from the effect that I would be able to create a look of red soreness.

At this point I was pretty happy with this and decided to apply blood. This worked best by gently filling the crevices of the piece and letting any over flow go where it may.

Here's a close up of the piece all bloodied out. Overall, I was extraordinarily happy with the piece. It's the perfect size to apply to a hand, face, forehead, or chest. Perhaps next time I would sculpt it a bit higher to allow for deeper crevices, but the thinness really allowed for the maximum in believability for a satanic laceration. The maximum for someone who's never done it before...

Here's my finished piece in all it's glory; taken with a proper digital camera. Here you can appreciate the depth (as in measurement) of the prosthetic. Thanks again to awesomely talented Jacqueline for the pic. I definitely need to invest in the tools to properly document my work better.

Removal is fairly easy. Some gentle peeling and a wipe down with Bond Off leaves your skin smelling like cinnamon and another pass with a baby wipe and it's like it never happened. You're left with a piece that can be tossed away or save for posterity's sake.

Another student did a festering bullet wound. I particularly like the vein work she painted on that extended past the applied piece.

This claw scratch from another student was amazing in its application. The edges are so faint that it truly looked believable.

Next week we'll pour a gelatin prosthetic of our molds to show how different materials can yield different results from the same mold. Only 3 more classes left to go...