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10 PROSTHETICS TERMS EXPLAINED: PART 1

Posted: 06 June 2017

10 PROSTHETICS TERMS EXPLAINED: PART 1

The world of prosthetics and makeup FX is full of unique expressions and technical terms. Here are 10 of them to learn or test your knowledge of…


1. Floating off

The process of removing an oil or wax-based clay sculpture from a plaster life cast, to break down a larger face sculpture into smaller pieces such as a nose and chin.  

The detail:
The plaster cast is first coated with a water-soluble release, which dries to a thin film. The sculpture is done on top of this, but when the life cast and sculpture are immersed in water the plaster absorbs the moisture, which reactivates the water-soluble release, allowing the sculpted parts to separate from the life cast without damage. 

Below: old age makeup being floated off during Neill Gorton's Prosthetics Boot Camp

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2. Venting

The process of knotting hairs onto wig lace, a super fine netting material, to create naturalistic looking wigs and hair pieces.

The detail:
This involves using a special needle tool to hook individual hairs and draw them through the tiny holes in the lace, then tie the hair in a knot. This is repeated up to thousands of times to create a whole head of hair. The process is known by the terms knotting and ventilating, which is often abbreviated to venting.

Below: venting practise on our Creative & Character Makeup course

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3. Scumble

An uncured foam latex mix used for patching seams and imperfections in foam latex.

The detail:
To make scumble, the foam components are whipped in a mixer as usual, but the gelling agent is withheld. To use it, you take a small amount of this uncured foam mixture and mix it with a drop of gelling agent. You can then apply it on the area to be patched and modelled into the surrounding foam latex. The scumble will gel soon after and the gelled foam patch can be further manipulated and have textures added with tools and stamps. Heat applied to this patch will cure it to turn it into a flexible foam.

4. Cutting Edge

The part of a two (or more) piece prosthetic mould that creates the   tissue-thin blending edge on a prosthetic appliance.

The detail:
The cutting edge is a thin line of contact between the two moulds, where the prosthetic casting medium (foam latex, gelatine, silicone gel, etc) is squeezed and pinched down to almost nothing by the two halves of the mould coming together at that point. The term cutting edge comes from the fact this narrow point of contact is literally cutting through the casting medium, splitting it in two and pushing material to either side almost like a knife going through butter would.

Below: delicate blending edge from a tutorial on prosthetic mould making in PROSTHETICS magazine issue #4 

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5. Encapsulate

The technique of enveloping sticky prosthetic appliances with a micro thin dry skin to enhance their functionality.

The detail:
This mostly applies to silicone gel filled appliances or GFAs, that tend to be tacky to the touch and won’t hold a fine blending edge without curling up and sticking to themselves. To avoid this, the appliance is given a super fine, micro thin skin of a dry rubber or plastic material. Predominantly bald cap plastic is used these days. This creates an envelope of dry skin that encapsulates the sticky gel, making it possible to get the appliance out of a mould, handle it and adhere it without problems.

6. Plumpers

A shaped dental acrylic worn over the teeth to plump out the mouth from the inside.

The detail:
Marlon Brando’s aged Don Corleone makeup is always mimicked by people putting peanuts, tissue paper or chewing gum between their gum and the inside of their mouths. In reality, Brando wore a plumper. This is similar in appearance and construction to a brace or retainer; in this case a piece of dental wire with shaped dental acrylic was formed over a cast of Brando’s teeth. It created those sagging jowls by plumping out the mouth from the inside. The same technique is used to create facial swellings and even simulate a stroke by distorting the face without prosthetics.

Below: famous makeup on Marlon Brando by the great Dick Smith, using plumpers for ageing effect as Don Corleone in The Godfather, 1972

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7. Laking

An indentation in foam latex castings caused by steam inside the mould.

The detail:
When foam latex gels it goes from a liquid into a solid mass. This mass however is unstable and may still be manipulated and deformed like clay - press a finger into it and it will leave a permanent impression. Steam laking occurs inside moulds filled with foam latex. Foam latex has a high water content and when the mould is heated this moisture can turn to steam. This steam can collect between the mould surface and the foam latex casting and build enough pressure to compresses the foam latex before it’s had a chance to cure, compressing the surface down to create an indentation.

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Above: laking depicted in a tutorial on foam latex in PROSTHETICS magazine issue #6

8. Pango

The brand name of a compressed air gun designed for unblocking drains, that can be customised to create blood splatters for gore gags such as bullet hits and gushing wounds.

The detail:
Made of a chamber in the barrel with a handle that incorporates a pump much like a bicycle pump, the Pango has been commandeered by FX artists to simulate extreme casualty FX. When pumped up, the chamber fills with compressed air; on squeezing the trigger the air is released all at once giving quite a powerful, almost explosive effect. By attaching various tubes and containers filled with blood and gloop mixtures to the gun, it’s possible to safely simulate bullet and shotgun hits. In addition it can be used to crate almost explosive blood sprays from throat cuts and wounds.

Below left: double pango being used for fiming on our Creative & Character Makeup course. Below right: pango by Monument Tools

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9. Bladder

A latex balloon and tube used to create the appearance of swelling.

The detail:
The basic bladder is nothing more complex than a custom made latex balloon attached to a tube. When placed beneath a prosthetic appliance, it can be inflated to create effects such as the werewolf transformations in The Howling and Regan’s throat expanding like a bullfrog in The Exorcist.  

Take a look at the makeup below in the video at the end; final project from our Makeup FX & Prosthetics Creation course with neck that inflates using a bladder

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10. Stretch and Stipple

A technique for creating the impression of ageing on the skin.

The detail:                              Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 15.29.01
The skin is stretched and a predominantly latex-based product is stippled (gently dabbed) onto it with a sponge. The skin is then dried and powdered and when it’s relaxed, fine wrinkles will appear. To create heavier wrinkling, more and more layers are applied to stretched skin until the desired effect is achieved. Famous examples include Marlon Brando in The Godfather and John Neville In The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.

Above right: stretch and stipple used to create wrinkles around the eyes on tutor Stuart Conran who has taught both our 7-week courses


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