Being Human Werewolf Transformation
By Erik Gosselin, Lifemaker FX inc.
When the phone rang at the Lifemaker shop and the producer at the other end asked if I was interested in getting on board the ‘Being Human’ tv series, for the SfyFy/ Space network, I jumped on the occasion. Already a fan of the general concept of the UK version (a ghost, a werewolf, and a vampire sharing an apartment, trying to be somewhat ‘normally human’), I knew there would be many cool make-ups, props, characters and transformations coming our way for at least a year, maybe even 4 or 5!
Like I said before, one of the lucky ones….
I still like to finish my paint jobs with some ‘old school’ brushes and sponges, but the bulk of it is done with my trusty IWATAS.
In this specific scene in episode 1, the ‘Josh’ character, played by the very talented and funny Sam Huntington, ends up discovering that the full moon rising makes his body change, in weird-bad-painful ways. As part of the many transformation steps ending up in the full CG Wolf, we decided to have his chest-ribs-shoulder-blades, extend outward, to get to a more ‘canine’ proportioned abdomen; i.e. more ‘flat’ than ‘wide’.
Including the 3 weeks of design, prep, molding and casting, and the 2 weeks of prepainting and test make-ups, we had a bit more than a month to complete this important set of prosthetics since it would end up being the first ‘reveal’ of this main character transforming for what could be the first of many seasons…
Initial fabrication and design of the prosthetic…
We molded the actor with alginate, and cast plaster positives of his whole upper body.
Using WED clay, a very detailed, ‘organic’ sculpture of our final design was made on Sam’s casts, and remolded in fiberglas to get the master negatives; those cleaned-out final molds were injected with reddish-skin-tinted foam latex and cured in our convection oven overnight.
Because of the size of the prosthetics, and the movements required (bladders would be installed under the pieces to inflate them) we made the early call of using very supple GM foam latex.
Pre-painting the foam pieces…
Each one of the foam pieces we needed to stick to Sam, was prepainted with PAX paints and 99%-alcohol-diluted-acrylic-inks, applied with sponges and my IWATA HP-C.
(no fine details yet…we will be doing those on set, directly on the actor, while we are matching is own skin to the foam)
So, to start the coloration process of the foam pieces, in this pre-painting stage, (and when nobody is hurrying you to ‘get to set now’) I sponge and airbrush some different skin shades everywhere to break-up the red base in the foam, giving it texture and the appearance of transluscency, render the basic shadows, and add some of the highlights with the IWATA HP-C.
A mix of wider shadings and texture details really makes the ‘skin’ pop-out, sculpting with color.
Already, this provides an excellent template for a much quicker paint job on set without being too limiting as final look and details.
For the non-make-up-effects professionals wondering about some technical terms:
WED clay…water-based clay that has some additive to prevent it from drying out as fast as normal water clays.
GM foam latex…liquid latex base, foamed-up with a mixer, needing oven-cure to gain its bounciness and flexibility! Very light and flexible.
Pros-aide… very flexible water-based prosthetic adhesive used in the make-up effects field.
PAX…paint mixture mostly used by make-up effects people that is a blend of acrylic paints and the above mentioned Pros-Aide glue in different ratios; water or matte medium can be added for more translucency.
Sea sponges… Big, natural or synthetic sponges, to apply colors in very organic marbling effects.
99%-diluted-acrylics….commercial transluscent acrylic inks diluted with alcohol for even more transparency.
Skin Illustrator…alcohol-based make-ups that act like the 99%-acrylic mixes; available in liquid or solid form from Premiere Products inc.
Spatter…my preferred way for making paint jobs interesting and life-like…basically ‘spitting’ of small drops with diverse techniques, including the ‘tooth brush’ trick, or the ‘low-pressure-fully-opened-tip-airbrush’ trick…(subject of my next article)
Packed for set…ready to apply…
Once the pieces were glued to Sam, using Pros-Aide glue, the ‘matching’ work started, between foam and real skin;
Having packed whatever colors I used back at the shop, to bring to set, I re-use all the same tones and techniques to blend the edges of the pieces into the skin, adding the same types of textures and colors we put on the prosthetics back at the shop, but to a lesser degree of intensity, since human skin is already translucent.
Marbling with skin tones and reds especially on blending edges and flat-looking areas; veining with the IWATA HP-B using purples and blacks; shading with the IWATA HP-C using mostly dark reds and greens…
…plus some more tints that my ‘eye’ calls for, based on the lights used by the cinematographer.
Toning down colors on one side (real skin), and adding colors on the other side (foam latex) eventually bringing them to the same level of texture and tone, making this make-up look like a realistic entity, organic and uniform.
NOTE on transluscency:
my personal theory on this, based on the magical ‘color wheel’…
it is better to use 2 different colors, overlapping, than using any of the pure ones alone. Let me give you an example. If I need GREEN somewhere, to cancel RED or add some interest to that area, I add BLUE and then YELLOW, on top of each other, unevenly, instead of the straight green! Same goes for shadows; if you want a BROWN shadow, use RED and GREEN overlapping instead of the pure brown. It always did wonders for me, but only after some practice on ratios. The airbrush is the perfect tool to do that, by the way, preventing ‘muddying’ and ‘greying’. Try it.
Once the pieces are blended off nicely, and the werewolf transfo stage seems complete, I use different more colors, subtly and in specific areas, to give the piece dimension and ‘interest’. (skin defects, bruises, birth marks, shaved hair undertones, nipples, veins, freckles, scratches, etc.)
Final touches were done with PPI’s Skin Illustrator colors, liquid (using an airbrush) and palette form (using brushes); as for most of my painting work, subtle ‘spatter mist’ was the last thing I did.
There you go, a human with realistic-looking protruding bones, and his 2x stunt doubles;
four make-up effects artists, 5 hours, some CG-growing hair, inflating bladders, and good acting!
Remember, the final look achieved by combining different techniques, paints and tools always beats using just one of any!
It is more things to carry to set in the AM, but well worth it in the end.
I am proud to say that this first season of ‘Being Human’ has garnered Lifemaker FX, a 2011 GEMIMI AWARDS nomination (basically, the canadian Emmys!) going head-to-head with ‘Stargate’, ‘The Kennedys’, and ‘Pillars of the Earth’.
Thanks team Lifemaker…Thanks SyFy Network…Thanks Iwata Airbrushes!