Tag Archives: prosthetics

The How and Why of Silicone. Part 5

Alright, its been a while coming, but here as promised is the section on Painting Silicone. And yes, I know this says Part 5, and Part 4 isnt up yet, so you may think I’m jumping the gun, but Part 4 is going to deal with seaming and finishing techniques, as well as some interesting manufacturing tips, so bear with me and I’ll get there eventually!!

There is a lot of information here, so read carefully.

Each section has a “WHAT” describing which products we use for each purpose, followed by a “WHY” we use that and not something else, and then finally the all-important “HOW” to do it.

The products available to you will vary according to your location, and you may not have access to a particular thing, but you should be able to find the information here to help you make the most of what you CAN get.

Materials are expensive, so to avoid costly mistakes it is best to research your materials well and talk with your local distributor as well. They are there to help, and have a vested interest in getting you to come back and spend more money with them, so they will (usually) try to be helpful!

 

IMPORTANT NOTE ON THE INTRINSIC COLOURING OF SILICONE:

The best paint job should complement the colour of your silicone, not completely hide it. Painting silicone isn’t like painting foam latex or latex, where you are starting with a very unnatural flat dead appearance and trying to bring it to life. In fact there isn’t a lot of point using silicone for pieces if you aren’t going to take advantage of the very flesh-like translucency it inherently possesses. So the crucially important step is to tint your piece intrinsically before you cast it, to give your piece the best and most lifelike tones onto which you can then paint your ‘skin’ surface.

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REVIEW: BOOK, Todd Debreceni’s “Special Makeup Effects for Stage and Screen” Second Edition

I purchased the original edition of this book shortly after its release in 2009, and read it from cover to cover in a day. Perhaps ‘read’ is not quite the right word- devoured, is probably more accurate! I was certainly hungry for the knowledge Todd had packed into it, and its sleek cover encased a particularly comprehensive guide to making and applying prosthetic makeup.  Now Focal Press have just released the Second Edition, with even more fantastic information and techniques.

Unlike a lot of the standard makeup tomes (although they are valuable repositories of information in their own right) “Special Makeup Effects for Stage and Screen” covers all of the latest industry techniques and materials. Not only does the book provide in-depth explanations, it is illustrated with fabulous photographs, in easy to follow chapters, covering the entire process of Prosthetic Makeups from Design to Application, and more! While perfectly suitable as a self-teaching manual – it is clearly laid out, like any good textbook, it also provides a great reference book for more experienced Makeup Artsist wishing to brush up on industry-standard techniques.

9780240816968

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Dying to Succeed….. Health and Safety in the Workplace

Chemical Safety for Makeup FX Artists and Technicians

When people say they want to succeed or die trying, I dont think many of them mean it literally.  Yet you would be shocked to learn how many people are severely affected, and yes, even killed, by the work that they love so much.
Why? Because in most jobs you don’t have to worry about the quality of the air you breathe in the workplace, or toxins in the things you touch.  In Makeup FX you most definately do!

It is YOUR RESPONSIBILTY to educate yourself on the hazards of working with chemicals and take the proper precautions while you work. If you work for a bigger company they should provide you with PPE- Personal Protection Equipment.

Remember:  Safety gear is like Birth Control- it only works if you remember to USE IT AT ALL TIMES…….

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CHEMICAL SAFETY -IN THE WORKPLACE

Sensitization to Chemicals in the Workplace:

A collection of useful info:

Every day we are all exposed to some level of chemical fumes. Spray paints and household cleaners give off fumes. Different plastics and wood products in your home give off odors from adhesives and finishes, especially when new. But normally these fumes are at such a low level that they cause no problems. However, a number of people become sensitized or allergic to the fumes given off. Their bodies get overexposed to the vapors and become sensitized. From that point on, any exposure to even a minute amount of the chemical causes a reaction. The process of sensitization can make a home unlivable, or a job no longer viable, for people who become sensitized. If you work with chemicals, your risk is much greater.

For anyone who has been in this industry for a while, most would know at least one person with severe allergenic reactions from even the slightest contact with fumes. I personally know of people who can’t be in the same BUILDING as fresh resins or epoxies. So that says that the warning labels on the products we use have to be taken seriously.

Two of the most common reactions from exposure to industrial chemicals are occupational asthma and contact dermatitis.

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The Power of No……

No matter where you are or what your circumstances, pursuing Special Effects Makeup as a career is going to be an enormous challenge.  It is one of the most highly competitive fields in the world, and yet the rewards are not monetary or even fame, but intrinsic to the creative process, and inherent in the actual work itself.  For people who are lucky to live in a time and a place when the business is good, and work easy to come by, they may not understand or appreciate the sheer numbers of people all over the world, in the most remote corners, who desire so passionately to pursue their dream, regardless of the whether or not there is a viable film and media industry where they live.  And yet, they do… WE do…..  all of us, just a little bit mad, and very, very, determined.

A dear friend and mentor of mine, a highly respected SFX MUA, said it best- “We are all missing the part of our brain that tells us when to stop…”

Many people ask for information and help on how to get this, that, or the other, achieved on a shoot, “with a very tight or non-existent budget” Fair enough. We all of us, apart from a fortunate few, start out that way, doing work for free or very little and without much to work with, its part of our training and necessary, if you can pull a rabbit out of a hat and get something onscreen that will pass muster when you have nothing to work with, then JUST IMAGINE what you will be able to do once you get some REAL equipment and materials….

But what really riles me, is when I hear “there’s no time to do this”.

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How Time Flies… The Intensity of Creativity….

I was teaching a class in May, as Guest Tutor for PAC Screenworkshop 2, having been asked back as Makeup Instructor once again by Annie Murtagh-Monks, (Casting Director, Managing Director of the Association of Screen Professionals and Co-ordinator and driving force behind the Perth Actors Collective). Annie introduced me as an ex-alumni of the PAC workshops, also of the memorable Creative Intensive residential weekend workshops held at the old New Norcia monastery every year, and she asked me when it was I had done mine. Off the top of my head I estimated at least one of them was around 2005….

Well, out of curiosity, I was leafing through some paperwork in my office, and came across the original certificates of completion- turns out my first Creative Intensive was the 5th to be run, in July 2002, and the second was the 8th C.I. ever, in September 2003…. ( since those heady days they have a single weekend every year, they are up to C.I. 15 this October.) Looking back at the 9 years that has passed since my first C.I. has afforded me a unique perspective… and I just thought it might be interesting to share it with anyone who is currently in the midst of their own creative journey…

For anyone who doesnt already know, I used to be an actor. Admittedly, not a fabulous actor, as in those days I was restricted and restrained by the insecurities of youth and upbringing, my inner shyness and lack of self-confidence… Go ahead, I hear you laughing from here… but (believe it or not) I am actually a very private person and, especially in those days, rather controlled and emotionally self-contained, which is not the best thing for an aspiring actor to be…. I had not yet discovered the secrets of letting go and being myself, but was still in the grip of control issues and inner demons. Yeah- we all got ’em….

I had always held a yearning to act, but working in hospitality in my younger years kind of precluded that ambition, and it wasnt until I had my first child in 1995 that motivation met opportunity, and I joined my local community theatre group, at the local Irish Club.  (Coincidentally I also acquired my love of a properly poured Guinness during this period…).  Like anyone, I contributed to almost every role at some point during my internship in theatre, from Stage Manager, Costume and Sets, through Acting, often at the same time..  then studied Theatre Lighting at UWA and temporarily took over from our Lady of Light, Ms Fiona Reid, who was studying her craft at WAAPA.  I even directed a couple of plays, and had one delightful actor tell me that one day, I would write my own highly successful production and give him, in his own words, “Three Lines And A Gun”.    I still think that would make a great play or even film title, and you have my permission to use it, as long as I get a Thankyou in the credits!! Continue reading


The How and Why of Silicone, (Part 3)

USING YOUR SILICONE:

So you are now fully equipped to choose exactly the right silicone product for your purpose, and you are champing at the bit to get started. So lets look at how to do that.

I’m not going to go into the entire multifaceted sculpting and mould-making process here, it would take me six months, and there are already a lot of fabulous resources out there…. (see post on My Makeup Books) what we ARE going to look at now  is the actual silicone itself and what you need to do to end up with a usable product at the end.

There are several things to do before you even open the product.

FIRST, make sure your workroom, tools and materials are neither too cold, nor too hot   This, I understand, can be tricky…. but especially in your first few attempts with silicone, it will make the process much smoother and increase your chances of success.  (All Technical Data sheets list the estimated geltime and total curing time of your product, at an ideal working temp of around 24C (about 75F).)
Wait a minute- chances?  You mean this isnt a guaranteed, easy peasy, smooth as pie process?  Weeeelllll…. technically, yes, it could be, as long as you follow the instructions perfectly and work in optimum conditions. But Im not going to lie to you- there are many things that can go amiss if you aren’t careful, and sometimes, even if you are…

SECOND, assemble your tools and materials.  You will need to make sure your materials and workspace are clean, and all components are compatible with the silicone of your choice- remember your list of inhibitors.  You really need to have an accurate electric scale measuring by the gram for working with silicones, plus a pocket scale that measures by 0.1 grams, especially if you are making prosthetics and the likes that use only small amounts… (see The How and Why of Silicone (Part 2) for some good pocket scales).  Dont forget the calculator and a notebook to write things down- NEVER assume you will remember it all.  Also, you will need to make sure you have CLEAN CONTAINERS. Never try and skimp on this… as my 16 yr old observed, recycling isnt a large part of Special Effects, and although we can re-use some things, it pays to be scrupulous when working with something as fussy and expensive as silicone.  You can save a container you have used for the same silicone before and remove the old cured mix, but if there are uncured parts you are best to dispose of them and start again. Some cardboard cups contain wax that can inhibit some silicones. Clean paper cups, plastic containers or foodgrade plastic buckets are best.
THIRD, it goes without saying that you should ALWAYS test your materials before starting your project.  It also goes without saying that most people simply don’t bother….

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The How and Why of Silicone. (Part 2)

HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR SILICONE    

Ok, so you have your project ready, you are off to go buy some silicone and dive right in….  Whoa!  Slow down, tiger….. There is a whole bunch of stuff you need to know first.

What are you doing?  Is it a big piece, a small piece? Are you making a mould or a cast?  Do you need to make a box mould, a brush-up mould, a matrix mould, a pour mould?  How much are you going to need to fill it?  Do you want a solid coloured, or translucent  silicone? Are you in a hurry or is time not an issue?  Will you need a long or short Potlife?  What sort of Viscosity is required? What Shore Hardness do you require in your finished piece? Do you need to worry about Elongation/Tear Strength/Tensile Strength?

Yeah, working with silicones is a bit like  doing high school chemistry all over again, but trust me, if you understand the basics, it will save you a lot of time, money and frustration.

Lets start with the Product Description. 

When you are searching a website for silicon moulding rubbers, you will usually find somewhere a link to a.pdf saying “Technical Data Sheet”, “Product Overview”, or the like.  In a catalogue there may be aTable giving comparisons between the products on offer.

Note that the information I am discussing here is NOT on the MSDS… (the what? I hear you say? It stands for the ‘Material Safety Data Sheet’- a topic for another time…).  

A Technical Data sheet will give you all of the relevant information you need about a product. Lets go through one step by step, just to give an example.

At the top there will normally be a Product Description.  This will describe the general characteristics of the particular silicone, its category and type, and an idea of its texture, hardness, mix ratio and suggested applications.

Here are a couple of examples I randomly pulled out of my file (you should always keep this info for future reference): Continue reading


The How and Why of Silicone. (Part 1)

Understanding Silicones: The uses of silicon in FX; Tin vs Platinum; Behaviours and Applications.

First point, for anyone who isnt sure, Silicone, the synthetic polymer, is correctly spelt with an ‘e’ on the end, to distinguish it from the metalloid element, Silicon. Technically, it is a misnomer anyway, that dates from their discovery in 1942, it was thought the structure of the compounds was similar to ketones, when they are in fact Siloxanes. However the name Silicone has become accepted and persists to this day.

Right, that’s out of the way, now to business…..

What is Silicone?

Here is the Wikipedia definition: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silicone
The Encyclopaedia Brittanica explanation: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/544410/silicone

and for the real chemistry nuts, Dow Cornings spiel: http://www.dowcorning.com/content/discover/discoverchem/properties.aspx

Does any of that help? Well, maybe, but it wont necessarily help you make that mould/art piece/prosthetic or the like….

Basically, silicone, for our purposes, is a synthetic polymer, which sets, or vulcanizes, at room temperature, into a rubbery material. This is known as RTV Silcone. It comes in hard and soft formulations, is inert once cured, heat resistant, flexible (even in hard kinds) and very very useful! RTV silicone rubber is used in the movie, entertainment and special effects industry, and in theme parks. Soft “skin” silicone rubbers, used by make-up and Fx artists, were developed specifically for sfx makeup artists, and certain kinds are also used in the medical prosthetics industry. It is also used, in an uncured form, as a lubricant, which will be apparent to anyone who has ever spilt uncured silicone on their floor…. it is an immediate shortcut to the kind of slide action Tom Cruise was famous for in ‘Risky Business’…..

So how do you know what kind of silicone to use? That depends on what you are using it for…. First I will go through some basic information that everyone should know before they start. Continue reading


Great Makeup Books & DVDs

If you want to start collecting some good reference materials, this list gives you some idea of where to start looking- it covers a small selection of the books and DVDs in my Makeup & FX Library.

I currently have over  300 books in my collection, not including filmmaking books.  I have books on ‘straight’ makeup as well plus other pictorial period and general references, hairstyling books, medical and forensic books, magazines, etc etc. They are in no particular order but I would start with the first two as they both contain information on the latest industry standard materials and techniques.

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