Time-Lapse prosthetic application for BBC’s Merlin 5 series

Hello,

please check out this Time Lapse video of the Prosthetic makeup for the final scene in BBC’s Merlin series 5. Transforming actor Colin Morgan into the old tramp Merlin for the present day sequence.

 

next time time-lapse video from World War Z movie!

Witch make up – at UMA in London

Just before Christmas I was thinking about something to sculpt for this year UMAE expo in London in April and sat in my study was a little figure of a witch, and that was that, a Witch it was going to be. The only person I thought I could do this prosthetic make up on would be my wife as I knew it was nearly 5 months away as its hard to lock down someone that far in advance.

After life casting Justyna in Silicone I starting sculpting the Witch over the Christmas period. (the other job I was working on in the daytime just happened to be Avengers: Age of Ultron so i had to try and get the sculpt completed before the new year and before I started back with Marvel)

 

So for the next few months, every evening and weekend I’d come home from work and carry on with my Witch Prosthetic, breaking down the sculpt and starting on the hands.

I also wanted to do a really realistic looking face, old, wrinkly & totally believable (I hope I achieved that…)

The head sculpt was broken down into 10 pieces. Back of Head, Neck, Chin, 2 Ears, Top Lip, Nose, 2 Cheeks, and a Forehead. The hands consisted of a full back of hand piece that went up the arm and then 10 individual finger extensions with Acrylic nails inserted into each end of the fingers, in total a 22 piece prosthetic!

I moulded all the pieces in either Fibreglass resin (Back of Head, Ears & Neck piece) Flat 7315 silicone moulds (Backs of hands, cheeks & top lip) VF2000 (Chin and Nose) and finally the Ebalta Putty System (Forehead) All the moulding materials I bought from PS Composites. All the pieces were ran in PS Composites PRO-GEL 10 and the pieces were softened to 80%.

I pre-painted all the pieces to around 50% as I wanted to get a little bit of colour on the pieces beforehand. They were all pre painted with Oil Colours, and thinned down with silicone diluents and then mixed together with the RS silicone fluid to ‘bite’ onto the pieces, I airbrushed Vein work over the pieces at the end with Skin Illustrators and packed them down for the show.

The week before the Expo is was heading out to Belfast to teach a group of 10 students prosthetics and I wouldn’t be back until very late the night before so I had to make sure everything was boxed away for me on the morning of the Expo in London.

The make up was applied on the PS Composites stand and as we were right next to one of the walkways, it gave people a great vantage point to check out our makeup…and we draw a really large crowd, people where up the stairs to try and get a better view!

I also want to thank David Power & Kristyan Mallett for letting us be part of their stand.

I also want to thank Chris Lyons @ Fangs FX (the number one company in the UK for film quality FX teeth) Sinead Sweeney and her amazing girls at Eyeworks for Film for the beautifully made old age contact lenses! Jo Glover made a fab old Witch costume, Shepperton Wigs supplied us with a lovely old witch that was simply made to fit the Witch. And Vicky Bancroft (one of the best prosthetics artists out there) for assisting me on the application…and of course I couldn’t thank my wife Justyna enough for being such a trooper in the make up, she really got into character and everyone wanted their photo taken with the Witch, it caused quite an amazing reaction in the Expo and i’m so grateful to everyone who has said such lovely things about the Witch makeup, all those long hours after work and weekends were totally worth it.

I have an idea to expand on the Witch makeup…maybe for another trade show of some sort…:-)

The rise of Hydra – working on Captain America

Back in 2010 I started work on the first Marvel film to be shot in the UK, it was Captain America: The First Avenger. I was working for David White and came on board specifically to do the Red Skull Character.

Marvel supplied David with some pretty cool looking designs but we knew from the out set that CGI would have to help us out to remove key features on the Red Skull’s face like Hugo Weaving’s nose.

When we did the first test make up on Hugo we were still working out the logistics of how to make it look real but at the same time create this iconic looking skull shape, the one thing we didn’t want to try and do was the Frank Langella ‘Skeletor’ look from Masters Of the Universe as modern audiences would never have gone for that.

After sculpting numerous concept heads and make up tests we locked down the final sculpt of Red Skull. One of the hardest parts of trying to break down the prosthetic make up into smaller pieces was trying to find ways to hide the edges of the overlapping pieces, there was no room for error and if the top of the head wasn’t in exactly the right position it would send every other piece slightly off.

The pieces were cast in a red silicone (Plat Gel 10) and pre coloured to about 50%. We actually painted the pieces in PAX paint which is something you usually never do on silicone and sealed the pieces in afterwards with a fixer spray. The painting on the day was just to high light the cheek bones and shade in around the skull area then we ‘flecked’ a few colours of light and darker reds, some yellows and a brown all over, it was very subtle but needed those break up colours so it wasn’t one flat red colour on the surface.

We had a double played by the excellent stunt man Rick English and due to the nature of the fight scenes we made his make up as a pull over foam mask that just blended off around the eyes.

Hugo Weaving was an amazing man to work with and shooting that make up in the height of the summer was hard for Hugo, he had to wear a muscle suit and the SS outfit, It was great when his character discarded his leather jacket  so he only wore the black silk shirt.

I also sculpted the cheek split pieces that he wears as Johann Schmidt, that was quite a hard piece to pull off as Joe Johnston the director wanted something on the side of his face but also didn’t want the audience to keep looking at the split lines across his jawline, the idea being that Schmidt is always wearing a fake face and he keeps readjusting it. I applied them as small bondo pieces for the first few days then straight make up took over after that.

It was an absolute pleasure working on this movie and 4 years later it’s nice to be back in the world of Marvel for the Avengers 2: Age of Ultron…

 

 

A World Of Zombies…

Back in 2011 I started work on World War Z for Academy Award winning company Coulier Creatures.

I was one of the 5 key Prosthetic makeup artists on the film.

I came on board the film  to work on the stage 3 make ups which were the most extreme looking of all the zombies characters. Working with Make up designer Mark Coulier, we worked out a way to mass produce the large amount of zombies needed for the end sequence in the film (which one year later we would re-shoot with the new ending) Mark worked out that we would be making up around 60 zombies each day for the 4 weeks of shooting in Budapest (Budapest doubled for Russia in the film.)

Each Zombie consisted of around 10 silicone face pieces which we sculpted on generic faces as there was no time to individually life cast each performer… Once the sculpts were finished we floated them off and broke them down to be flat moulded pieces which was quite an undertaking. Then it was a production line of mass producing literally thousands of prosthetic pieces in time for the shoot.

Unfortunately 90% of what we shot in the Russian sequence was cut out of the film, you only see a few seconds of what we did because they changed the final third of the movie which  now ends in Cardiff, Wales(!!??)…

A year later we came back to re-shoot the end of the movie, the first sequence we were involved in was the plane attack scene. We shot this sequence over 2 weeks and involved making up more and more infected passengers as they attacked each other, this consisted of small pro-bondo bites and transfer vein tattoos.

The main bulk of our work was left for the scene in the W.H.O building (which we shot in a semi closed down factory in Kent, UK) we where there for about 2 weeks and we had around 30 zombies to make up each day which consisted of the original prosthetics we sculpted for the Russian shoot which we remade for the Cardiff shoot.

The original shoot all took place at night so after 4 weeks of night shooting in the cold November Hungarian weather, it was nice to be shooting indoors in the daytime.

Working with a star as big as Brad Pitt on both the Russian and the Cardiff sequence was great, he loved being around our Zombie characters and had a lot of respect for the time it took to get the Zombies ready on set each day.

(Budapest was an absolute blast though and the Hungarian make up artists were just amazing!, The Budapest dancers we used for both the Russian and Wales shoot were the best!)

I really want to thank Mark Coulier for giving me the opportunity to work on such an awesome project, and to make a new style of zombies is always a good thing…And of course working with Brad Pitt isn’t too bad either…

Coming up….The Image Animation years…

Aliens and Beer

A few years after making a pop video with Robbie Williams (previous post), I again worked for Altered States on a commercial for Grolsch beer. The brief was that a group of Aliens land on earth and abduct a local who happens to be drinking a bottle of Grolsch beer (!!!) obviously they get drunk on the beer and fly off.

The agency wanted the look of the aliens to be the classic ‘GREY ALIEN’ look which was great. The eyes would blink digitally but everything else would be prosthetics. This time we had slightly less time than the Robbie Williams make up and we had 5 aliens to do, to cut down on the sculpting time we used the same body sections on each character and i sculpted the lead head then we slightly changed the look of each head there afterwards.

Again all the pieces were cast in foam latex, there was something like 18 pieces for each character and because there was only one make up artist assigned to each alien, it was a time consuming application time, it took something like 8 hours to do each one in the end as they had to be painted from head to toe.

We shot the commercial in Spain which was great but unfortunately we never saw much of the country as we shot at night time in a forest then interiors were done in an old disused warehouse.

What was great about working on both of these projects (Robbie Williams pop video and Aliens commercial) was the turnaround time, 8 weeks after starting on these jobs we were seeing the finished results and especially the Robbie Williams video has since become a really well known promo.

The Grolsch commercial won a BTA award for best prosthetic make up in a commercial.

Till next time :)

Undressing Robbie Williams!

Back in the early 2000’s, I got the opportunity to work on 2 very different but very interesting jobs that weren’t film related.

The first project was a pop promo which just happened to be for Robbie Williams. It was the first single released from his album and the song was ROCK DJ.

I got the call from Altered States FX based in Shepperton studios and the brief was to have Robbie dance in front of all these rollerskating models. He wanted to gain their attention so he starts to remove his clothes until eventually he’s down to his naked body. As the models still  aren’t interested in him, he decides to go one further and remove his skin…then muscles…until he’s a skeleton!

We only had 3 weeks to pull off this complex make up effects gag, so Robbie came into the workshop to be full body lifecasted which was done by the excellent John Schoonraad.

Because we didn’t have time to sculpt the whole make up in one full prosthetic and float it off we decided to break the sculpt down into individual pieces beforehand and hope that they overlap which it did thankfully.

Everything was made in Foam Latex and everything had to be super thin too as we didn’t want to bulk out Robbie too much.

On the day of the shoot the make up took around 7 hours to glue on and paint as there were so many pieces to apply onto him. He only wore the make up for one day and on the second day we brought in a body double so he could shoot all the back shots and the close ups of the chest being peeled off…

The director wanted Robbie to peel off various muscle sections and throw them to the girls, it sounds easy but was quite tough because they couldn’t be glued onto him and yet they wanted to keep filming without us running in and re sticking the muscles back on, so we came up with the idea of using very sticky bloody that would hold the muscles on long enough for the shot but when Robbie needed to rip them off he could do without too much hassle.

The video caused a lot of controversy at the time and was actually banned for a while, but went straight to number one in the charts. The FX work still holds up today even though its nearly 14 years old.

Rock DJ won an MTV award for special effects!

In the next blog i’ll talk about Aliens and Beer! (this was the second project for Altered States FX)

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… – Working on Star Wars : Episode 1

A long time ago…

…in a studio near Watford England I worked on a film called Mortal Kombat Annihilation which Nick Dudman came in to run the creature effects. While we were working on that film at Leavesden studios, Nick said he had a meeting with a producer about an upcoming film set in a galaxy far far away…

When Nick finally told us what it was, we flipped! It was Star wars: Episode 1: The Phantom Menace!!!!!!! (yes we all know how hated Jar Jar Binks was but remember this was the first Star Wars film since Jedi, and the creatures in Jedi made me want to make monsters!).

About a week after Nick got the confirmation about Star Wars, myself and the rest of the Mortal Kombat crew headed off to Thailand to shoot the rest of the film for the following 10 weeks…To be honest it was hard trying to keep focused on Mortal Kombat when Nick was back in the UK prepping Star Wars.

I remember the day we started on Star Wars which was March 1997 because it was when the Special edition of the original film came out and the film crew were treated to a special showing of the 1977 updated classic!

The creature workshop was such a great place to be, we had loads of the original creatures from Jedi that we cleaned up and used in the background as well as reproducing newer versions of these characters. I’d sculpted quite a few Aliens from Jabba’s palace to fill out the background scenes. At one point George Lucas had asked Nick if his creature crew wanted to design a few Jedi council characters and one of my designs got picked. I designed and Applied SAESEE TIIN. Seeing this character sat in the Jedi Council scene was pretty cool as we got to see Frank Oz perform Yoda, a lot of the crew turned up for that day to watch the Jedi Master at work!

Another iconic character I got to sculpt & apply was Bib Fortuna, it was such an honour to be handed this character as I knew that my boss Nick Dudman has made this character in Return of the Jedi.

This time Bib was played by a great actor called Alan Ruscoe, but his role was in a small scene in the senate sequence which was a shame. In the pod race you see Bib standing next to Jabba the Hutt and if you look closely you’ll see that he looks different to the images I’ve posted of Alan in the make up because this scene was shot much later on over at Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) I’m not even sure who wore my Bib Fortuna prosthetics for this scene…

I also got to work on Jar Jar Binks, sculpting the body suit for the actor to wear as a lighting reference on set. Who would of thought that this character would be disliked as much as he was. A few years later while we were working on Harry Potter 1, Nick got asked to get involved in a few days of pick ups on Attack of the Clones, the main film was shot over in Australia but they did the pick ups over at Ealing Studios, So myself and a few other creature prosthetics Artists went back into Star Wars universe were we stood on vast green screens with our characters.

Its hard to believe that we started on Star Wars Episode 1 nearly 17 years ago, where did the time go!…

Til next time…who knows what galaxy I’ll be coming from then…