The Magic of Prosthetic and Makeup Effects

Seen ‘Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ and wondered how did they manage to make Brad Pitt look over 60 years old? Or how did they manage to make those Ogres look so menacingly ugly in ‘The Lord of the Rings’? Well, Prosthetic and Makeup Effects is your answer.

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A discipline of makeup, Prosthetic and Makeup effects utilizes various specialized materials and methods to create looks which cannot be achieved with the regular makeup techniques. This discipline requires painting and sculpting skills along with traditional makeup expertise. It is commonly used in film and TV productions.

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Prosthetic and Makeup effects are used to make an actor look aged or young, to enhance/modify existing body part or add a completely new one, it can morph the face of an actor into that of an entirely different creature and much more. For an artist who is adequately skilled in this discipline sky is the limit when it comes to creating innovate yet believable look.

The process of applying this specialized form of makeup usually begins with creation of a mold or a cast. The makeup artist will sculpt a realistic model of the actors face or body part in question and this will serve as the base for the artist’s work. This process of creating a lifelike replica for prosthetic enhancement is called lifecasting and mold created is called a lifecast. These lifecasts are usually made of silicon rubber or prosthetic alginate. The materials used in creating this makeup have to be selected with care as they are worn by the actor on their skin, hence it has to also take the allergies of the actor into accord.

Once the lifecast is in place, the artist will start modifying its look depending on the character requirement. One can add wrinkles, wounds, skin aberrations, discoloration, deformity, specific texture etc. This is how in fantasy movies, the elves get their pointed ears or hobbits get their hairy large feet.

The process of applying prosthetic makeup can be a time consuming one if the character requirement is complex. For Benjamin Button, Brad Pitt had to undergo one of the most difficult and time-consuming makeup processes. His aged look was achieved with a blend of conventional visual effects coupled with makeup effects which at time took over 5 hours to complete.

One of the key factors in this art-form is making the makeup believable, and for this to happen the prosthetic appendages should blend seamlessly with the actor’s skin and body.

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With the increasing use of visual effects in films, makeup artists work collaboratively with VFX technicians to get an enhanced and complete look for the characters. It works incredibly for the budget too, as prosthetics makeup can save huge chunk of money by doing effects that are within its sphere of possibility. Some of the best examples of this prosthetic and computer graphics marriage is the nose less look of Voldemort in the Harry Potter series, the zombie effects in the post apocalyptic television drama ‘Walking Dead’

VFX coupled with prosthetics can achieve looks makeup alone cannot.

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