MEL now occupies a huge area of workshops and produces effects for shows as well as products used by artists in the industry, including PAX paints, baldcaps and appliances. Starting out as a small lab in 1978, it now boasts some 18000 square feet of facility.
Their website is MEL Products USA and is worth checking out!
Our tour took us from machine shop to foam room, silicone lab and woodshop, all surrounded by a million artefacts from jobs in the past.
We sat and talked about the recent Monsterpalooza weekend, as well as the business of makeup and what really counts. As seasoned makeup artists with many years experience on set, Allan and Brad made this episode of the podcast a gold-loaded listen for makeup artists.
Like Brad says, "If you don't know highlight and shadow, it doesn't matter what you are putting on - it won't look right!". Despite the noise of competing companies vying for our attention and wallets, this really is the key message. Know your subject, know yourself and above all, respect the craft!
Thanks for listening! You can contact us at our Facebook page or email direct firstname.lastname@example.org with suggestions, feedback, or just to say hi.
The blogpost for this episode can be found at.
Til next time
-Stuart & Todd
For my money, this chat with sculpting and creature legend Steve Wang was the most potent use of 20 minutes anyone could have. Steve was in high demand, but Todd managed to get him for a short timeslot on the mic and we jumped straight in with the sculpting talk.
I wanted to get a grasp on why ZBrush was still a mystery to me (and many others) and there is some golden wisdom in here which is worth hearing if you have been left blinking at the apparant dearted ship of digital creativity.
If you feel like you are on the dockside, waving sadly at a ship of endless creativity disappearing into the distance and cursing yourself for missing the boarding window, then you need to it down, listen up and dry those tears!
Putting this together and listening to it put me right back there and fired me up, so get stuck in and listen. Steve has such economy of explanation, he doesn't waste time or fluff around - he gets straight to the point and lands that info sqare in the part of your brain that is ready to go!
This is the first of a series of interviews Todd and I did at Monsterpalooza 2018, a three-day event in Los Angeles which was busting at the seams with visitors, demos and vendors. It was amazing, and Todd and I applied my Bela Lugosi makeup for the Rick Baker Tribute on the enormous PPI Premiere Products Inc stand.
We grabbed Chris for a chat outside the venue as it was far quieter than inside, and talked teeth, drill bits in the mouth, loose teeth, missing teeth and how much hiding in plain sight takes place.
Making and fitting teeth requires the use of some pretty serious chemicals and hardware, and putting these things into performers mouths is a serious responsibility as you will hear.
Fangs FX was established in 1984, and has an outstanding list of credits. If you have never heard of Chris or his team, then you will certainly have seen their work. Check out their facebook page and Instagram @fangsfx.
Richard Coyle from BBC TV show 'Strange' which maks use of swelling provided by a dental plumper rather than an appliance. Makeup by Jan Sewell.
You know who wearing some makeup by Mark Coulier. Nose wiped out digitally, teeth made grim practically.
Michael Rooker from Guardians of the Galaxy, makeup by David White.
Demo by Mark Coulier, reimagining the Nosferatu style Barlow from Salems Lot.
Makeup demo by Stephen Murphy for PPI. Model Ben Palmer.
A Cure For Wellness featured some neat teeth gags.
Paul Kayes' teeth for Mutti Voosht in 'Pan'.
The test makeup with teeth in place for Paul Kayes character Mutti Voosht for Pan, cut ultimately. Makeup by me.
Spencer Wilding wearing a Rick Baker wolfman makeup and some oustanding Fangs FX Dentures.
Tim Vine comedy sketch show wth removable tooth gag.
Naomi Harris in drama series 'White Teeth' missing the front four teeth - a worst case scenario for a practical tooth gag if all real teeth are present.
Gags, where something has to happen, move and perform on cue is a tough thing to pull off...
... but even a moving drill bit appearing through teeth live in-camera is another day for Chris and the team. The stuff nightmares are made of!
Remember to floss regularly!
- Stuart & Todd.
And, depending on responses to my musings, perhaps Stuart and I can extend this into a longer broadcast with tips from you all on how to get rid of unwanted and no longer needed stuff.
Hi. My name is Todd. And I’m a pack rat.
Let’s face it, most of us have too much stuff. Stuff we don’t use, stuff we don’t need, and stuff we don’t even remember getting.
So how do you get rid of it?! I can look around my office, shop and studio and wonder when the crew from Hoarders is arriving. Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, because at least I’m not navigating through canyons of stacked magazines and newspapers, but… it’s easy to lose sight of my office from certain vantage points because of props, molds and masks… I can be looking for something - and it can even be in plain view - but it will take me a bit to see it amidst everything else. I either need more space, or less stuff. The answer is less stuff.
But how do you part with something you may need later? There’s a psychology to it… maybe even a pathology… I’ve been collecting and adding to bins of doodads and thingamabobs (I swear they even multiply by themselves!) for what seems like eons that I know I’ll find a cool use for someday.
I need help. I’m never going to use that shit. Who do I think I’m kidding? 2018 may be the Year of the Dog for China, but for me it is The Year of the Purge. I started reading a book by Japanese author Marie Kondo called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up - The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.
I haven’t finished it yet, but the gist of it is this: Figure out which items ‘spark joy’ and which don’t. The items that don’t, heave ho! I’m still trying to wrap my head around that, but I confess I am making headway.
Perhaps I need to put in a call to American Pickers. It’s just that I’m in a business that requires stuff, and lots of it. There has to be a way to make do and do well with a leaner inventory and library of stuff. This is my start. Take a listen and let us know what you think.
For the blog post on this, check out http://www.learnmakeupeffects.com/packrat/
I had a splendid time! The three students I worked with all had ambitious, figurative projects which they had been working on for some weeks when I arrived for my five day stint there.
We had a great group chat to discuss how things work there, the education system (It's a free, government paid education which requires an extensive interview process which is a completely different model to the business-style version most makeup education systems work to) and the expected quality of work such a system produces.
One great project they had was to take classic roman marble sculptures and create realistic portrait busts based on them. This was a great project as it revealed the licence artists took to portray an idealised version of someone who perhaps would really have been a good deal less attractive in reality - the photoshop of it's day.
By studying the people depicted, discrepencies between reported ages and health reveal how much the idealised versions deviated from reality.
Pic: The original marble bust (left)and lifelike interpretation by Julian Hutcheson (right).
We also chat about how important beer is, making your own silicone wig blocks, using Monster Clay in a cold environment as well as the re-emerging point of the unavoidable trinity in all creative endeavours:
“Good – Quick – Cheap...Pick two because you can’t have all three“.
Dividing up large appliances
Michael Pennington got in touch through our email (email@example.com) with a question about how best to know where one should divide up appliance sculpts to break them down into smaller pieces. As Todd points out, much of this is a hangover from foam latex and the shrinkage which was inevitable with that material.
Silicone howver has none of these shrinkage issues, so we don't always need to divide it in the same way. That said, there are often good reasons to make a large appliance makeup into smaller, more manageable pieces.
The most logical place to do this is where the sculpture is at it's thinnest, and to try and keep edges in easier-to-hide areas where possible, such as where there is naturally a crease or shadow.
This was covered in more detail in a post from a while back, 'Floating Pieces' where you will also find a workbook with lots of in-depth information:
'Cheap Cheap Cheap' shouldn't be 'Shit Shit Shit'
Whenever we do a video tutorial, I can guarantee that someone will want to do it for less money. This is of course an inevitable occurance, as it is quite sensible to not spend money you don't need to.
However, there does come a point where substitutuing can become so obsessive that eventually the end result can just look like a pile of crap.
I do a wax scar, someone wants to make their own wax becasue it's too expensive.
If I had a makeup using good wishes and exhaled air, someone somewhere would want to economise on that somehow. (I know of people who have made their own wax, but if you don't put a dollar value on your time or you seriously have a great idea to improve it then fine - but to me wax IS the cheaper and quicker way compared to sculpting, moulding and casting an appliance!)
Whilst it is true that skill will 'work well with anything', I can assure you top pro makeup kits do not have packs of cured meats and jam instead of makeup products to use on their screen talent. If mashed banana looks just right for fat, or pus or brains then fantatsic.
Just don't extend that to 'I'll never need to buy another makeup product again'.
Once you've seen outsandingmakeup work done firsthand, then your priorities change. You decide instead of trying to do something as quick and cheap as possible, you would rather try and do something as good as possible.
Like that trinity of choices above, pick two and decide which you would rather have in your portfolio.
Latex is a material that often gets used in colleges because it is cheap and easy to get. Howver, it requires more skill to paint it to appear like real skin than silicone appliances, so there is always a trade off.
We would encourage you to get good at using cheap materials on a small scale, and then gradually scale up as you improve. Beware clickbait and attention grabbing use of foodstuffs - if there was a way of not buying makeup then we can assure you working professionals would be the first in line at the grocery store!
Jam may be fine for a kids halloween party, but it won't do you any favours in a working portfolio.
Till next time.
Stuart & Todd
To help with that, Todd and I figured adding some extra single features to help keep the show moving.
At Pinewood studios, I was teaching a great class which had me thinking a lot about what we teach and why. I seized the moment to share my observations which briefly were:
Links you may find useful which were mentioned:
Until next time,
He is now pretty well known for creating high quality prosthetic transfers, moulds made which contain the appliances and are used directly in their application.
As far as I can ascertain, this system was developed by Conor O'Sullivan and Rob Trenton and involves making silicone mould inserts which contain the appliances during application, speeding up the process in the chair and allowing multiple appliances to be run from the same sculpt.
Sangeet has taken this process and developed many techniques and methods to push it even further. The transfer technique involves a lot of moulding and remoulding, and is not for the faint of heart but the results can be fantastic.
I chatted with Sangeet in his home studio in North London, and we spent four hours talking about moulds, standing on the shoulders of giants, using old-school materials in new ways. We covered a number of topics, including:
If you dig this, then share it! It would really help us out to grow the podcast.
Chris Dombos knows a thing or two about 3D printing, and he is also a massive FX nerd so we got on rather well. Having met him first at LA IMATS in Jan 2017 (I discovered he had some of the original Lost Boys moulds), it made sense to catch up when he came over to London recently. Of course, I figured bring the mic and make a podcast out of it.
We recorded in a cemetery in London, so there are background noises. The whole gamut of life - cars, sirens, passing people, kids, birds in the sky, aircraft, wind – it’s all there in a place of the dead. It's all background, our audio is clear and we chatted about a number of great topics which matter to anyone who makes things. This includes:
We also mention some great artists. These include:
Software and websites to help include:
Hope you enjoy this episode - It's exciting and scary at the same time for me.
I met up with the Mekashes (Eryn and Mike) at their hotel as they were over for The Prosthetics Event here in the UK.
I was lucky enough to squeeze in a face to face interview and had a frankly wonderful time chatting with a couple of lovely people who also are amazing artists and FX nerds. Listen here, or on Apple Podcasts/iTunes. Soundcloud or whatever podcatcher you like to use.
Her credits include TV shows Glee, Nip/Tuck & Movies such as Flags of our Fathers, Letters from Iwo Jima, My Sisters Keeper. As per her IMDb bio:
Listen here, or on Apple Podcasts/iTunes. Soundcloud or whatever podcatcher you like to use. It's a hefty one, almost 2 hours so get stuck in!
We talk about the great book Leading Ladies of Makeup Effects in which Eryn features, being a department head for FX heavy shows like American Horror Story, how much fun Halloween is at Rick Bakers place and recreating The Lost Boys thirty years on using pieces from the original moulds.
Todd was printing a head of himself to make 'Chocolate Todds' so that's the sound you can hear in the background. Todd discusses the finishing up of his third edition to the well-known FX bible Special Makeup Effects for Stage And Screen! Hear all about the goodies in store there in the podcast.
Incidentally, the antler in question which frankly I think looks like something which needs batteries is this: I think this looks suspect. Is it just me...?
The winner of the Steve Wang Sculpting Tool Set is Darren Pastor - well done fella. These will be on their way to you soon!
My sincerest thanks for the Mekashes for giving up their time so generously and for all the beer and pudding!
Until next time!
Stuart & Todd
There are many things which often get taught again and again at makeup school, but along the way there are also things I noticed which are vital and yet which never seem to get the same level of spotlight.
In this podcast, Todd and I discuss 5 of the big ones which deserve looking at in some depth. We gave this subject as a talk at IMATS LA 2017, but this is a recording done recently (Nov 2017) so we're up to date and happy to hear your thoughts. Our email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blog post for this episode with video:
It helps to know your tools, and in the podcast, he chats about how he started the company and how he paid his dues. We also chat with Mitch of Brick In The Yard again, and we talk about the proliferation of information in the hi-tech age and how having so much information on hand doesn't necessarily mean that it makes it into the brain.
Incidentally, this is what the tribble-like recorder looked like which we mention in the podcast:
Sculpting Tools Tools are something I have an unreasonable desire for, and I have far too many already but I'll be damned if that will stop me buying more. I have done a few posts on tools, manufacture tutorials and loop tool repair. This doesn't mean I don't buy tools as well - just because I know how to make a sandwich doesn't mean I don't go to Subway on occasion!
When I met with Rob at BITY, I had a play with the Steve Wang set, a signature set of tools designed in association with the master creature designer himself! I liked them so much I bought a set there and then for myself, and also got another set for a giveaway on the podcast. See the competition details below to enter!
Makeup Education Todd is busy with the newest edition of his book, and I have had a few cool jobs and loads of teaching spots which led me to reflect on the differences between the job and the education side of things.
There are a few recurring issues I see partly because I think people think 'makeup' sounds like an easy option and partly because academic frameworks don't necessarily make for a good approach to what is a vocational skill.
This being the case, we want to hear from anyone who is/was either a student or tutor in a makeup college/school/course and has a strong feeling either good or bad. What was your experience? What went well and what was pitiful? Did you find yourself surrounded with like-minded artistic souls or was it a difficult mixed group?
I've seen a lot of good thing and great tutors working hard to do right by their students, but sometimes any good they do is despite the system they find themselves in rather than because of it. Am I way off?
Let me know by emailing email@example.com It'll all be handled in confidence - I'm not interested in naming individual schools or people but I am interested in discussing the problem areas and what we can do to address them.
Check out Prosthetics Magazine too, available as print or online subscription. This edition features a ton of amazing stuff, and we have part 2 of our latex tutorial - applying latex appliances.
Until next time!
I wanted to take a tour and chat with Allen about what it takes to keep people scared and the business of running a haunt all year round.
When people think about creating makeup effects, masks and prosthetics, its usually associated with film and TV shows. In the US, Halloween is pretty big and getting bigger every year.
I went for a tour of the huge show floor, and got to see behind the scenes where all the in-house stuff gets made - from sets, costumes, masks, prosthetics and props. The level of the thought and detail that goes into setting up a new show (there are several original new shows a year) is incredible. The team work year round updating and thinking up new ways to keep the screams coming.
There are a few absolute wisdom bombs in this podcast episode which many makers would do well to listen to.
Cap plastic is big....and it's not just for bald caps.
Cap plastic is so called as it was originally pretty much used only for making bald caps, so those with hair could temporarily be without it.
Over the last ten years or so, it's used much more widely as an encapsulant or barrier in a mould so that when silicone gel appliances are cast into it, they come out of the mould with that cap plastic as a surface. This allows glue and makeup to remain attached to it - after all, silicone is at its best a mould material because almost nothing sticks to it!
Chek out the blog post that supports this episode of the podcast.
-Stuart & Todd.
This podcast episode is the belated accompaniment to the blog post.
We had a blast, learned some stuff and made some new friends. It was amazing, and I can't wait until IMATS London when I'll be back! Until then, please enjoy and get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org and our facebook page.
Please also check out the breakdowns of the makeup demos, there is extensive behind the scenes info on the build of both makeup demos:
Thanks for listening!
Stuart & Todd
He sheds some light on the importance of knowing to look at what was before and honours great artists like Gil Liberto (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0508847/) who does incredible work for the likes of at Joel Harlow (Star Trek, anyone?).
Check out this Vanity Fair article about the makeup work on Star Trek: http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2017/02/star-trek-beyond-makeup.
The blog post for this one is here:
When going to trade shows and being asked to speak, Rob likes to share what he has known but he is there to be fed knowledge as well as to feed others. He doesn’t want to be the subject - rather he cares about the craft and wants you to care too.
Thinking about provenance and what went before is a humbling way of uncovering the history of your subject matter, and is utterly fascinating. When you think about the makeups from the original Wizard Of Oz from 1939, the list of makeup crew reads like a who's who of the makeup industry - Jack Dawn, Max Factor, Cecil Holland, Robert Schiffer, William Tuttle, Charles Schram...
Two more names that pop up are the perhaps little know Josef Norin (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0635364/?ref_=ttfc_fc_cr33) and his son Gustaf ('Gus') Norin (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0635362/?ref_=ttfc_fc_cr32) who were Swiss artists who brought their talents over from a background in sculpting and moulding small moulds for jewellery. Gustaf was father of John and Robert Norin, both makeup artists with an impressive line-up of screen credits.
Another aspect we touch on is how many of us working can count on the lack of distractions we had from the internet. Whilst it is fair to say that the internet brings untold knowledge to our fingertips, it also means we need to learn how to focus and channel what is important, rather than allow meaningless information to steal our time away. Social media makes people aware of what others may think of them or their beliefs…this wasn't something we grew up with in the pre-internet age. It is certainly shaping how people learn, and it's important to identify what really matters so one can harness that information and power into a tangible benefit rather than an endless distraction.
Not only is he incredibly skilled at making moulds but he has a passion for the provenance of the techniques which he uses and cares deeply to help interested parties understand so they can be better too.
He also will redirect much of the attention he gets to his predecessors and those peers whom he feels deserve more attention. It's a very generous attitude which I believe is born out of an unabashed passion for the subject and a desire to fan those flames in others.
It comes from a very pure place and it's not often you meet someone with that much knowledge, skill and wisdom and who also is phenomenally approachable and easy to talk to. He'll no doubt blush to read these words.
We hooked up at a pub near the Millennium FX in Aylesbury where he was teaching a class that week, and a few of us slunk off to the lobby of Rob's hotel to talk bronze age axe heads, seamlines and technology.
Full blog post here:
Rob, me, Ivan Bellew and Nat Reynolds. Good times!
The audio is clear, but there is some background noise owing to the nature of a public space. It was around 10pm when we started and we kept at it until around 0130…that's how interesting it was. Just a magical few hours and I'm really pleased we could synch schedules to be able to sit down and talk.
The reason I brought that axe head was to show Rob the seams in it - evidence of moulds which have been used to make essential life sustaining tools and weapons. Moulds have been aroud for so long, and it gave me a bit of thrill to be able to have a modern day master mould maker touch a casting from an ancient mould and admire their handiwork 2500 years on.
(Incidentally, this estimation is based on a bit of research I did into bronze age artefacts. This particular head is a palstave, check out http://www.antiques-info.co.uk/new/pdf/July02/1.pdf).
We mention a couple of videos that are on YouTube which show skills at work - hand making globes from 1955 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4RWcWSN4HhI) and a Disney video explaining the different types of rivet (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDbTUt3OG9s). This was something Disney did to help the war effort, when training many civilians to make military equipment like aircraft required detailed explanations of manufacturing processes such as these. How better to explain these intricate and involved processes than with an animation, condensing time and showing materials in cross section.
Look out for part 2 coming very soon, and subscribe to use on iTunes, Stitcher, iHeart Radio and Google Play Music to name but a few! Thanks,
Rob Smith continues his chat with me about foam latex, blood and other FX related goodies. Also, Todd and I talk about our favorite podcasts, and whether or not the word 'mustard' is actually an expression.
Todd and I will be at IMATS 2017, 13th-15th Jan 2017. How about that.
Email us at the usual address, email@example.com
This episode we're talking about blood, and our guest this time is Rob Smith, blood master as well as an all-around effects bod. He also runs a lot of foam, and makes exquisite soft foam appliances which you really need to feel to appreciate.
He makes his own pieces but runs a lot of foam for other people, and you'll certainly have seen his work if you've been to the cinema in the last few years!
Blood needs to be a number of things:
It also needs to be:
As a product, there are lots of different kinds of things which can be classified as blood. For example, blood as a real biological product does things - like clot, dry, separate, form scabs and flake once dry.
An artificial blood won't do that, so to create all these different possibilities, there are blood effects products like the standard liquid, flowable blood that comes directly out from an opening in the skin to 'clotted' blood, scab, wound fillers and pastes.
Often these are made from the same sugar or corn syrup base, thinned with water or thickened and then coloured with food grade pigments to an appropriate shade. However, as convenient and mouth safe as that may be, it attracts flies especially when shooting in warm climates. Sugarless bloods, drying bloods which are alcohol based and even specialist bloods for use in eyes and mouth are available for use where appropriate.
All this means, of course, a large amount of product range, which we touch on a bit with Rob, who makes a lot of blood, but focusses mainly on the flowable blood which gets used in rigs to pump and splash around on set.
I've done a fair few blood gags (a lot of necks, weirdly), that is makeup effects which use blood that gets pumped on cue, and thinning blood so it flows right under pressure means a fair bit of effort and testing to ensure it looks right.
The thing about a blood gag is figuring out what kind of tubing to use and where to put it - we could do a whole podcast just on the ins and outs of blood gags - but there's all that stuff under the piece which needs to be right, and then the appliance over the top is just to hide that plumbing job underneath.
If blood is too thin and translucent then it doesn't look right, and if it is too thick then it won't move and spray correctly. The fact it needs to travel under pressure, through various different tubes and connectors etc. All that changes the way the blood flows, so knowing this and doing lots of tests to make sure you have a good idea about how that particular gag is going to work is important.
Interview with Rob Smith
Anyhow, listen to some bloody wisdom from Rob Smith, which we recorded in his home.
It's worth pointing out the guitar you're going to hear is Rob, plucking away just for fun as he showed me his guitar collection hanging from the walls in the lounge.
Pretty cool stuff.
We chatted for a long while so I've split this up into two hour-long chats, and we shall release part 2 within the week.
Teaching & Learning Makeup FX
Being in Belfast this week teaching at Titanic Creative Management made me reflect on the various kinds of learning environments I see so I talk a bit about some of the issues I see in colleges, namely that the institutes often fail the tutors. They squeeze the goodwill and best efforts of many tutors and some don't even appreciate the requirements of a course leaving tutors woefully unsupported. I think many of the tutors do a good job despite their faculty rather than because of it.
I have said before that makeup is often underestimated, people may attend a makeup course because they themselves wear makeup so...how hard can it be, right?
The majority of people I've met at colleges really do care about being there, and some are outstanding. However, I've been to other places which fell like it was a crèche for big 20-year-old kids and you know that shit wouldn't truck if they were an apprentice.
I care about the craft side of things and I don't want to see people wasting their time. When college attendance is ruled by 'do you have the money' rather than 'look, this is hard work...do you really want to do this?'
College makeup school tutors, I salute you.
There are people who just won't turn up on time and who skip entire weeks, suddenly to return at the last minute as assessments rear their head. Then that poor tutor has to give up endless extra hours to mend that as best they can because the college took on someone that frankly doesn't want to be there. If that was a freelance apprenticeship, I can just fire you for being shit.
If you've paid to be there, it shifts the power so the relationship between the learner and the teacher is transactional rather than one of mutual reliance. Read that original blog post here: http://www.learnmakeupeffects.com/what-is-the-best-way-to-learn-makeup-effects/
There is of course nothing wrong to pay to learn, I myself pay to learn things and am glad I can do so. However, the people taking the money at colleges and universities are not directly responsible for dealing with the learners on a day to day basis. Private makeup schools, however, usually have a closer relationship with their attendees, and as such, I have seen a marked difference in attitude - they are there for a short time and really want to be there. I suppose also college is the first logical step after school, so many are attending fresh from a school education and are younger. I know I did!
This is what goes through my head when I get asked three times a week which college is best etc. or whether they should go private. It seems a college will provide an academic qualification, and that is the appeal to do that over a private course.
However, If a large portion of the course is endless theory which is not required on a set, you can become 'qualified' whilst being utterly useless. If you pump out thousands of students like that, that serves nobody except the facility which charged you a small fortune for the privilege.
Will Digital Kill The Practical?
Lots of people ask this question, and the changes are new relatively speaking so a thorough understanding of the future effect of it is not something any one person has a full explanation for. The truth is it isn't going away, it isn't taking over everything and it isn't something that you can't take part in.
Lots of people are getting in touch and asking for survey responses, so it's clearly a hot topic. It even made it to the editorial of the latest Prosthetics Magazine (well worth it by the way, I'd recommend it. Get yours here in print and digital: https://www.prostheticsmagazine.co.uk/ )
Transferable skills needed in both digital and practical work remain good basic abilities: good design, ability to render and understand anatomy, and using reference to constantly upgrade what you know. The computer doesn't do it all for you - there is a skilled person behind the keyboard. You could be one of them.
There are a lot of areas which come under the digital umbrella, and the trick is to find a way in if you are interested. If you like sculpting then check out the digital sculpting programs and photo retouching is usually done in Photoshop. This is a paid for programme but you can still get CS2, an old version for free here: https://www.adobe.com/support/downloads/detail.jsp?ftpID=3466
Also check out the free image editing software from GIMP: https://www.gimp.org/
Digital sculpting is changing a lot of things slowly, and programmes like Zbrush and Mudbox make it possible to apply the same editing qualities of a Word document to a sculpture. Clay is great and I recommend using it - you don't need to choose just digital or just clay, I think using both is important. However, for no money at all, you can introduce yourself to the digital sculpting
To check out and download Sculptris: http://www.learnmakeupeffects.com/what-is-the-best-way-to-learn-makeup-effects/
The stripped down version of ZBrush is called Zbrush Core, so check that out here: http://store.pixologic.com/ZBrushCore/.
Keep on trucking! Remember you can get in touch through email on firstname.lastname@example.org, through our Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/stuartandtodd/ or comment on the blog post,
A little look at the influence of digital technology on the practical effects workflow.
Bear in mind the problems we try to overcome - namely to create an illusion which appears real such as a decapitation, an injury taking place or some kind of transformation - these issues are the reason that we strive for new and better methods. That desire to create is the wind in the sails, and we have always used the best available to get that.
Digital has affected everything, every industry and we have changed along with it. Despite that, it's a tool and one that many of the practical FX side view either with suspicion or glee. We wanted to chat about that and start a conversation about what it means and how we can work with it rather than against it. After all, I think that's the ultimate fear, and I think it doesn't need to be that way at all!
I talk with Steve Johnson briefly about his upcoming volume Rubberhead, Todd reveals his pixelated past and John and Tristan Schoonraad of Lifecast at Elstree studios chat about their 3D scanning work!
Mitch Rogers is the evil genius behind Brick In The Yard (BITY), one of the largest suppliers of FX materials in Texas and from the store, they ship out all kinds of materials worldwide.
Mitch took some time to show me around the shop and hang out so we could talk Gorezone magazine, silicone babies, the craft of making moulds and the perils of homemade explosives.
And why they are not a good idea.
Mitch has a great sense of humour, and the workshop is peppered with motivational posters and ironic stories, many of which stem from insane phone calls from - erm - dare we call them customers? (One demanded Mitch know that "This is create!!!" and became a T-Shirt).
That's how Mitch deals with insane phone calls. He either turns them into T-Shirts or posters, or (if you are a telemarketer with a moral compass as twisted as a barbed wire pretzel) maybe even on YouTube. After all, if they have ruthless sales angles, Mitch (or more often his alter-ego Leroy Thompson) will take that call and wring as much out of it as he can.
Anyhow, enjoy this almost two-hour chat we had at BITY!
As always, email us at email@example.com
If you don't know the name 'Burman' then you must be pretty new to the FX world, because frankly the name is as synonymous with makeup and practical effects as The Rolling Stones is to music.
(The blog post to accompany this podcast is at )
Rob is a third generation Burman, and the name is found in the credits of some of the most well-known horror and Sci-Fi movies ever shot. Being from the Burman legacy doesn't get you a free ride though - this guy has forgotten more than many will know and has a hefty list of credits to prove it.
…if this doesn't mean anything to you, then we can't be friends. Just sayin'….
Even more, he regularly teaches as a guest tutor, demonstrates at trade shows like IMATs where he regularly blows everyone away with his larger-than-life characters (check out the 'Carl' makeup based on the Pixar movie 'UP') and has some excellent lessons on the Stan Winston School for Character Arts.
Known as a great sculptor and teacher, he also has extensive experience with foam latex, which is what we focus mostly on in our podcast. Silicone has been the poster boy material for prosthetics for a while now, and it is an excellent material for prosthetics.
However, foam is not such a squeaky wheel, and as such doesn't get the oil. It never went away, and because of the skill and equipment involved in it's manufacture, many makeup schools don't cover it nearly as much as they should.
Rob has taught the manufacture and use of foam latex extensively, and his new laboratory workshops are certainly worth checking out if you are serious about FX! Check it out at Rob Burman's Laboratory!
Also, if you need pieces (but aren't in a position to make them' then check out Rubberwear, an extensive catalogue of ready-made appliances.
Rob is always busy working on something, so we were incredibly fortunate to have Todd grab him for an interview where he drops wisdom bombs like they were going out of style.
Seriously, grab a coffee, download and listen to this guy because it's worth every minute!
As always, we like it when people say nice things about us, so if you enjoy the podcast then please share it with a friend, like us on Facebook and if you can, leave a short review on iTunes. Doesn't need to be a lengthy paragraph, just a few words to show your support, let us know who is listening and it tells iTunes that we have an active community.
We are also on Souncloud, Google Play Music, Stitcher and iHeartRadio to name but a few - you can listen online or download to listen on a drive to work or walking the dog. Or whatever animal you may need to walk around the block. Also you can email us directly on firstname.lastname@example.org!
Thanks for stopping by!
Stuart & Todd
The last time we talked about making foam latex, the craft and materials involved in actually producing the foam. This time around, we figured it would be a good call to look at painting and art finishing.
Painting foam latex is different from painting skin or translucent appliances like silicone or gelatine, as naturally you have to create the appearance of translucency on something which is opaque.
Thomas Surprenant is long serving makeup artist with a hefty list of credits, from Deep Space 9, Donnie Darko, The Grinch, X-Men The Last Stand… but not only is he a working makeup artist, he also has developed his line of prosthetic paints and brushes which are well regarded by industry figureheads.
You know when Rick Baker calls you up to order some that you're doing something right.
As you'll hear, his exposure to painting skills and a pragmatic approach combined with creativity produce amazing results, but more importantly than that you'll come to see the depth of understanding required. It makes it attainable, and allows you to see what it is you need to be doing in order to get there yourself.
We think you'll enjoy this as much as we did, it was an education!
Thomas lists a fair few artists as inspiration, and although there are inevitably sinful omissions (we'd appreciate it if you think of some to add them as comments or email us to let us know!), this is a good starting point to grow an awareness of skilled artists whose work has helped set the bar.
Foam Latex was the main material appliances and pretty much anything skin-like was made of for long time. It is only relatively recently that silicone has taken it's place, and with good reason.
There are a lot of benefits to silicone as an appliance material, and because of these reasons it may be that if you're new to makeup effects, you may not have yet laid hands on foam pieces.
It may be that you'll never want or need to run foam latex yourself, but will apply a premade piece and we will look at that in another podcast, as this area deserves some thorough discussion. However, if you are keen to know more about foam latex then this podcast is for you. Check out some astoundingly good ready made pieces from Roland Blancaflor's RBFX studio. Anyhow, check out and download our latest podcast on this from soundcloud or iTunes:
My first ever job was as a foam runner, and I spent three months mixing and running foam latex in the 'Animated Extras' foam room in Shepperton Studios in the summer of 1994. It was a smelly and messy job, but it taught me a lot about materials, moulds and how it all fits into the pipeline.
I cut my teeth on making and applying the opaque material, and when we started using silicone instead for the majority of pieces, it was a revelation to start with a translucent material. Painting foam latex requires a different approach, as the piece needs to be the correct colour but the real challenge is to create the appearance of translucency. Thomas Surprenant knows a thing or two about painting foam latex too - he has an excellent range of PAX paints for painting latex and foam latex pieces. Check them out here. We'll delve more into this later!
Essentially, cap plastic was always sold as a liquid and this made it a 'hazardous' item as far as air freight was concerned should the container leak. It was never an issue for us in the UK where we had things sent by road, but air freight made it a different issue.
However, by selling the raw plastic bead with no solvents, you can now more easily get the beads shipped to you are then melt them in acetone you obtain more locally to make up your own cap plastic.
Also check out the new adhesives, PRO-KEY acrylic adhesive and SIL-KEY silicone adhesive with thinners. I've used these myself and tried them out on a few makeups and can vouch for their quality!
2. Leave a review on iTunes - it doesn't need to be a lengthy paragraph....just a few words to say if you enjoy it is fine! It just lets iTunes know the audience are engaged, and tells would be subscribers what real people actually think of us. This kind soul did:
3. Tell someone else about the podcast! Sharing is caring.
The blog post on this is here: http://www.learnmakeupeffects.com/foam-latex-its-smelly-but-good/
Thanks for listening!
Stuart & Todd
#9 - Symmetry, Schools & Fools
Symmetry in sculpting appliances
Whilst teaching a class recently, a student was hung up on getting the nose perfectly symmetrical. I explained as I often do that the human face isn't symmetrical, so going for complete mirror image reflection necessary.
That said, asymmetry owing to sloppy work isn't good either - the fact that there is little perfect symmetry in nature doesn't let you off the hook!
I remember at college sculpting a full size head and a full size figure from life and using a plumb line - basically a piece of string with a lead weight on the end to keep a straight line. That helps you keep on target with the centre line, and you can use callipers to measure and plot common points to sketch out boundaries like where the eye corners start and finish, where the mouth is in relation to the nose etc.
This sounds like a video to be honest - again comment, write and let us know what you think. email@example.com
Whilst at UMAE last week, I got to speaking with a lot of people starting out who wanted me to take a look at their folios. I like to talk people through what I see, and I know that when I was starting out that I really appreciated good advice from people that took the time to look through my stuff.
Shows like this are good but they can be intense, with groups of people all descending at once when they notice a folio show. There were some good pieces and I will be straight with people regarding the work, and although there are many approaches to folio layout, there are a few solid consistent aspects to a folio that I think remain regardless.
With digital cameras, there's little excuse for blurry or badly exposed images. If images are taken on set where there is low level light, it's fair enough that on occasion the pics would be less than perfect, but if you are responsible for building something, there is plenty of opportunity to take good clear images.
Opt for professional prints - online print developers like Snapfish and Photobox for example will send you great 10x8's (A4 ish) sized photos. You may have a great printer but often this works out more expensive than buying prints, and they rarely weather well over time.
Viewer fatigue is not the intended result of an extensive folio, but I think it's fair to say that after a while, your brain can't take in new things with equal enthusiasm.
If you have extensively documented the manufacture process of something, you need to edit that down to a few choice images unless there is a specific reason to dwell on that aspect. It may be worth keeping your main 'general' folio streamlined with a few selected images from each project, and then keep to hand additional more in-depth folios which drill deeper into things should that be necessary.
If a folio keeps dropping leaves or sheets slide around or can't fold over easy then it becomes a bit of a chore to handle. Make sure you handle a folio and turn the pages yourself before committing to buy. If it annoys you to handle, then chances are it will annoy others too.
It's a tragedy for your good work to not be noticed as the viewer is tasked with wrangling the sleeves or relocating misaligned punched holes.
The UMAe stand for United Makeup Artists expo. It is a smaller UK trade show, but perfectly formed. I had a great time but it was exhausting. There were loads of demos going on all day, and this year I had my own stand, spoke to a lot of people, did a demo makeup and a presentation on the stage for blood rig effects.
I wanted to do a thing on blood rigs as I have done quite a few for shows over the years, and plenty on gags for Game of Thrones, and NDA's stop me from showing anyone how I actually do them, so I decided to do a demo of my own so I could show the process from start to finish without showing anything from the show.
I had a couple of cool people helping me out too - Alice Pinney and Jess Heath who applied loads of pieces I made, so thanks for the help guys. You worked hard!
Also thanks to Leanne Hicks who helped me out loads as well as patiently modelling for my makeup demo, a creepy kind of stern looking businesswoman was the idea, but it kind of ended up looking like an evil politician. I called her Angular Merkel, but we settled on The Wicked Which of the Westminster.
I'll do this as a blog post if anyone is interested - please get in touch and leave comments under this blog post or podcast
Show was nice feel to it - you can actually go up to the people and speak to them. There isn't a stadium sized crowd to navigate so it's not a huge task to speak to the people you want to talk to. Nor are there tanning booths, teeth whitening or champagne and strawberry bars.
Said hey to Richard Redlefsen, and I gave him a few sculpting tools I had made which was a nice touch - I made a bunch of tools for a makeup school called The Iver based at Pinewood for which I did a class at the week before. I knew he would be at the show so I made a few extra, and I got a kick out of giving them to him - nice guy and very talented makeup artist. He did a Phantom of the Opera makeup, and it was pretty cool.
Also Dan Gilbert was demoing for PPI, and I needed some PAX. He dashed up to his room to grab me some which he had, which I thought was rather dashing of him so thank you for that Dan. True gent!
Makeup School Observations
There are some things I noticed about work I saw from makeup schools, and I think it needs bringing up. Essentially, I saw work from someone who had travelled to LA from the UK to attend a makeup school for some months.
There were pictures of work in there which seemed both extensive in size but poor in quality. Now I know students are by definition learning, and there is going to be mixed ability but there seems to be an irresponsible approach when allowing large scale sculpting to take place when there are some fundamental areas which need addressing.
Makeup schools are a business so it's only right they charge for their service, but I have heard and seen many examples of people who travelled far and spent a lot and when you see what they have taken away from it then you wonder if it is a fair exchange.
As with any business, there are some sharp practitioners and some outstanding examples. I think it would be a good idea to run this checklist over when considering a makeup school.
I've met a few of the contestants from the show, and to be honest they seem pretty cool - they need to have ability and character to get selected for sure. Hoever, the show is largely concerned with ratings (it's a TV show after all) and less concerned with processes which is what I care about.
We riff a little about the effects of the show, and how annoying it is that people whose only exposure to the industry is watching a few episodes feel qualified to comment on what we may be doing wrong. "It didn't look that hard on Faceoff..."!
Face casting disasters
We’ve all heard of the anecdotal face casts that went hideously wrong – the result of phenomenally terrible practice on the part of people doing it. Things like using bare plaster all over the face, bears and eyebrows becoming stuck or undercuts locking heads – it’s common sense mostly but that is not as common as you’d imagine.
Anyhow, check out these howlers, and if you know of any outrageous lfecasting videos which are not here, please do get in touch and send us a link so we can share it! Let’s show everyone how NOT to do it!
Incidentally, this video collaboration I did with Klaire de Lys shows a way to lifecast safely without taking insane risks:
Stuart & Todd
Make Small Things Well
We'd recommend making small things well, and then expand sophistication and scale once you gain confidence. Wounds and casualty effects are a good way to begin, because if you do make pieces to stick on, and things go a little wrong, you can smother a bit of blood or bruising over the offending edge or error. Then, as you get better, try to step away gradually from gore and try to hide your efforts less behind the red stuff.
Noses are great things to do, and if you can do a flawless nose which looks great, the scale up to noses and eyebags. Then cheeks, chin and a neck. If the nose isn’t right, then figure that first. Nobody worth their salt is impressed with huge full body appliances painted badly or with terrible edges if it doesn't display a high level of skill. So get that skill by not spreading yourself too thin on big makeup jobs.
Looking at the work of the current masters of the trade is a great way to be inspired (and sometimes a little upset by how good the work can be) and then being able to place yourself more accurately on a continuum - where do you sit on the scale? It’s well worth checking these artists out if you haven’t yet seen any of their stuff. This is by no means a complete list - no doubt I will be blasted for the glaring omissions but it serves to start you off.
Cap plastic (not ‘cat plastic’ as some have misheard) is a flexible plastic usually supplied as a concentrated thick liquid, and thinned down with solvents for use either by conventional brushing or with an airbrush. Naturally, for airbrushing it needs to be thinned considerably to avoid blocking the fine nozzle. Clean the airbrush out after with the appropriate solvent.
Traditionally, bald cap plastic was acetone based and used to pretty much just make bald caps (although latex can also be used very successfully for bald caps), and the edges could be melted with acetone.
As silicone appliances began to use bald cap plastic as an encapsulant, so it was that more cap plastic was being used on the face instead of just as bald caps. The notion of a bald cap material which could be thinned with alcohol came about as a much less aggressive solvent to use on the skin.
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