Magic Wheelchair

Is it ok to create a tall monster suit before I know who will be wearing and performing in the suit?

edited January 8 in Educator Support
Hi guys! I've got a question that I'm hoping I can get feedback from the community in here.

Would it work if I made a monster suit for someone that's over 6ft tall without casting the monster suite performer yet? I'm looking to create my monster suit that's at least 6 ft 5 inches but I don't want to go out and have to lock in and cast a monster suit performer that's that height right away. I'm doing this for my own hobby / indie movie for now. 

Any thoughts? 

Best Answer

  • Answer ✓
    You can make the suit before having a performer cast, however this will change how you need to design the suit.  You would want to design with adjustment in mind, knowing how sections might need to be cut up for lengthening/shortening, etc.

    I would suggest a modular approach to the elements that make up the character.  So rather than the entire leg being designed as a single piece, you might have an upper leg piece, lower leg piece, kneecap piece, and then some blending pieces that could be used to fill in the gaps.  Just account for how each piece might need to adjust for different lengths or diameters.

    A lot of this will depend on the character design too.  For example, does the design allow for pieces to overlap?  If so, this can help you build in extra tolerance to allow for lengthening or shortening.

    This happens a lot in suits for film too.  You may have a suit designed to fit a specific actor, but may also need versions adjusted to fit stunt performers.

    That said, it's less work if you know the exact dimensions of your performer.  



  • The challenge there is figuring out where (and by how much) pieces overlap to allow for adjustment, and how to hide the edges of each piece.  That will also depend on which piece ends up on top.  Sometimes you can use a natural feature, like the edge of a scale, a large wrinkle, a scar, etc. to help hide the transition.

    Smoother forms are harder to make adjustable as you don't have anywhere to hide edges.  Sometimes wardrobe components can help there too.  Things like belts, cuffs, bracers, armor, jewelry, etc. can be used to cover edges.

    Another factor is how much of it is a suit, and how much is makeup with appliances.  Each has tradeoffs.  Makeup can be easier to adjust for changes in performer anatomy but would have to be redone each time (running new appliances, painting, application). Suit components would be less adjustable but easier to put on each day.

    I would factor in how many shoot days you expect the character to be there for.

    Another thing to think about is how the suit moves.  When limbs bend, do you get material bunching up and creating odd wrinkles? (or worse, tearing)  Having a lot of overlapping pieces (to allow for a wider range of adjustment) can also mean multiple layers of material that might bunch up more or even restrict movement.

    I would try mocking it up at a smaller scale on a desktop figure to help test out ideas.  It's possible changes to the character design may be required.

    Having the script and storyboard helps a lot too.  Spend your effort on what will be seen.  If the character is never seen from the back except for in a dark silhouette, then you can hide your zipper/entry point there.  That said, always expect to be asked for things that are not in the script or storyboard.  Magic and creative moments often happen on set where the unexpected is required.

    Since this is your first monster suit, my biggest piece of advice would be to make the job as easy on yourself as possible.  Remove all possible complications and manage expectations.  Simplify wherever possible and work with the director and cinematographer to figure out creative solutions to get what you need in the shot.  Not having an actor lined up and having to make the suit highly adjustable to unknown dimensions is a massive complication, and makes you focus your efforts on things that are not helping the character look better for what the camera captures or work better for the performer.   Monster suits are a complex undertaking even when you have the actor lined up and full life casts to work with.  There's a reason they cost tens/hundreds of thousands of dollars to make.

    There are so many factors to consider.
    • Applying the suit
    • Removing the suit
    • How it moves/stretches/compresses/bunches (visually)
    • Range of motion for the performer.  What actions does the script have the character perform?
    • Comfort for the performer.  Can they sit, rest, or remove components between takes or while shots are set up?  For example, in the image above there is a tail.  Can it be removed?  If not, do you plan to make a special chair/support for the actor to rest on, or are they expected to stand the entire day?
    • Performer safety (visibility, hearing/communication, breathing, cooling, sweat drainage, drinking, eating, using the restroom)
    • Durability, wear and tear, and the resulting repairs from regular use, stunts, etc.
    • Gags and gimmicks.  Do you need alternate versions of the head, hands (or other parts) for specific shots/gags?
    • How many handlers are needed to help out?
    • Storage and cleaning after each shoot day
    • Are multiple suits needed for backup or stunt performers?  Having just one of anything for a shoot is a big gamble.
    That is a short list off the top of my head, I'm sure I left more than a few things out.

    Hope that helps!

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