Creature Building and Durability

edited January 2015 in General

I am new to creature building. I have been asked to do a Shrek creature and makeup with a limited budget. I have been contemplating what would be the most cost effective way to accomplish the task.  My concern is if we would have the ability to re-use the same cowl and prosthetics several times and it still hold its integrity. What is the most cost effective way to do this and what materials would be best?  I have seen some pre fab cowls that are made from a slush latex. Which seems like it may be the affordable way to go. This somehow does not seem durable enough to re utilize over and over. Suggestions on what materials would be the best?

Post edited by Katie Kenworthy on


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    Some appliances can be used a couple times if you are extremely careful, but it will take a lot of extra work to get them looking good the second time.  Your blending edges will need a bit more work.   For example, on an encapsulated silicone appliance you'll have a great blending edge during the first application that gets melted off into the skin.  The second time you apply it much of that edge will be gone, so blending becomes more difficult.  Gelatin appliances will ave a similar issue, as the blending process for them also involves a solvent that dissolves their edges into the skin.  Gelatin also breaks down during shooting due heat (from the actor's body or the set) and movement, so having them survive a day is a bit of a gamble depending on what you are shooting.

    If you are using latex based appliances you'll have some trouble if you are using an adhesive like pros-aide, as the removers for the adhesive also break down latex.  So you may want to use a more expensive adhesive like Telesis 5. 

    One big issue is the general wear and tear an appliance goes through on set, much of which depends on what is required of the character.   Lots of sweating and activity can reduce appliance longevity.  Are there closeups, and how much can you get away with when it comes to repairing blending edges on day 2+.

    If you are working closely with the director and the shoot has not yet been scheduled, see if you can get all your beauty shots on day 1 with fresh appliances, and have your wider shots and action on day 2, 3, etc.

    That said, much of the cost in creating custom appliances is the time/resources involved in sculpting and mold making.  Once you have those molds it should be relatively trivial to run multiple pieces if they can afford the extra material and your time.  It's always a good idea to have backup appliances pre-painted on set, as you never know what might go wrong.

    Reusing a larger piece like a cowl is much easier, as your facial appliances will typically blend out onto the cowl, so its edges are not as visible.

    If you are looking for durability, silicone is the way to go.  But that may not be right material for some applications or where weight is a concern.  Silicone is also more expensive than foam latex or gelatin.

    If your options are having 1 of each appliance in durable silicone or 3 of each in foam latex I would go with the foam latex, just for insurance.

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    Thanks Chris! I really appreciate all the insight.

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    Chris, what is your take on just a full blown foam latex mask/cowel for shrek ? I am on a budget, need it to last................but need to know how much foam latex it might take to do what I need as well. I only was given a $600 budget to accomplish the task. All my work is free on this job, but I want to rock it!
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    edited February 2015
    You would need to adhere the foam latex mask/cowl to the actor with something like Pros-Aide, and the removal process will damage the foam both physically and chemically.

    Foam is just not something that lasts.  You can reuse pieces if your are super careful, but there is no guarantee that it'll not turn to goo from the solvents used to remove the adhesives, or tear from the stress of application/performance/removal.  Your blending edges can also rip off or curl up, so you'll need blenders.

    A one piece mask/cowl might also be difficult to apply without tearing (not impossible though!) and it could also limit the actor's performance much like you see in older movies before makeup artists started breaking applications down into individual appliances.

    A $600 budget might be a bit tight with the cost of all the materials for foam latex, mold materials, paint, and other expendables, but I think you could make it work.  You'll not have much wiggle room though.  Normally a bit of room in the budget to recover from mistakes and have a little extra material is a good safety net.

    Post edited by Chris Ellerby on
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    What is your best advice on pulling this off?

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    One option would be to do gelatin appliances for the face.   Gelatin is pretty inexpensive and you can have unique pieces for each application day.    This gives you good clean blending edges each day so your character can look its best.

    With very little money going to the gelatin you can spend the rest of your budget on the cowl, which could be done in foam latex.  If you can, try and make a backup cowl as well, so you can switch to that if something goes bad, or the first cowl gets damaged from use/removal. 

    You can also make lots of blender pieces to blend the edge of the cowl into the face (as your edges will get rougher each application), and mix up bondo (Pros-Aide and cabosil) to help patch edges.  Life on set can be very hard on appliances.

    Also keep in mind that to run foam latex you'll need access to a mixer, foam injection gun, oven, and molding supplies.  Those could quickly eat up a lot of your budget.

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    Lots to think about. Thank you!

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    Another idea would be to do the cowl in polyfoam.   It's easier to work with and requires less resources & prep, but it is not as flexible a foam latex.

    The advantages are no mixers, injection, gun, fewer and cheaper materials, and you could cast up a couple and have more room in the budget.  (Ideally make one per application)

    The disadvantage is it would limit your actor's performance a bit.  You can also rip out some of the foam on the inside to allow it to move a bit better, which is a trick that works great for foam latex as well.

    With polyfoam you first build up a latex skin inside the mold, mix up the 2 part foam, pour it in and let it expand.

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    Excellent Chris! Thank you for all your guidance. I really appreciate it! I have been researching a lot today. What do you think of silicone 10 for this project?


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    A platinum silicone PlatSil Gel 10 would be great for doing the facial appliances as well.  You can deaden it and encapsulate it with Super Baldiez, or go un-encapsulated if needed.  The recent webcourse  "Silicone Prosthetic Transfer Appliances - Age Makeup with Neill Gorton" covers the process of making silicone prosthetics in amazing detail.  It should be available on demand in the near future, and may be of help depending on when you need to start work on your project.

    Silicone appliances could eat into your budget a bit, leaving less for the cowl though.  And silicone is typically too heavy for large/thick pieces like cowls.

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