If you have seen the movie ‘The Walking Dead’, the American horror television series, you must have recoiled at the grotesque forms with horrendous faces that looked more real than what the normal makeup team can manage. The credit for these creations goes to the prosthetic artists. These technology-savvy individuals do with computer graphics, makeup, animatronics, and costumes, what used to be done manually.
Sample the look of Marlon Brando in the Godfather (1972), where he, as Vito Corleone, was made to wear custom-made dental prosthetics that allowed him total vocal transformation to produce the Don Vito’s signature mumble. Even in the Harry Potter series, Alastor Moody’s ‘Mad Eye’, that enables him to see through practically anything, was certainly a masterstroke for the prosthetic makeup artist. Currently, almost all movies take recourse to prosthetics, body paintings and other creative add-ons to make their characters as authentic as possible.
How does a prosthetic artist create such characters?
The first step is to do ‘lifecasting’, that is, take the mold of actor’s body part, usually the face. This now acts as a base for the prosthetic artist to sculpt it into any shape. The material used in these life casts may be alginate or skin-safe silicone rubber. A harder mold of plaster or fiberglass is then created over the initial weak and flexible mold.
The mold is then filled with gypsum that takes the form of the sculpted mold. Care is taken to leave mold points in the lifecast to ensure that the two pieces of the mold fit together. This mold is then cast in foam latex, gelatin, silicone or other similar materials.
The end result is the desired face or body part that can be easily ‘worn’ by the actor. The key to a flawless look is to keep the edges of the prosthetic makeup as thin as possible so that it fits perfectly.
That the prosthetic makeup artists have come into their own is most evident, as an Oscar award has especially earmarked for them by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Rick Baker, a prosthetic makeup artist, became the first to receive the statuette for the 1981 film ‘An American Wolf’.
Check Some Of Their Makeup Talents In The Below Images.