- Ben Bornstein is a special effects makeup artist known, among other things, for creating compelling fake burns on TV shows like “Gotham” and “Blindspot”.
- Methods of creating false burns include tattoos, coating someone’s arms and legs with burnt plastic sheets, and hand-made prosthetic parts.
- Covering an actor with realistic-looking burns is a nerve-racking process, but the more convincing they are on set, the better the performance they can deliver.
- Visit the Insider homepage for more stories.
Here is a transcript of the video.
Narrator: Don’t be fooled. These horrible burns are in fact bogus. Creating effects like this for TV and movies is a rigorous and lengthy process that involves complex prosthetics and makeup, some of which are actually lit, and great attention to detail, but the result is worth it. to wait.
Narrator: When a director needs a character who has been set on fire, or maybe the victim of a chemical spill or explosion, they go to someone like Ben Bornstein, a special effects makeup artist. who runs Taking Shape Studio.
Bornstein did all kinds of special makeup work on movies like “The Departed” and “The Fighter”, and he did several types of burns for shows like “Blindspot” and “Gotham”.
Bornstein enlisted the help of stuntwoman Kachina Dechert to undergo this transformation. Any good Hollywood makeup artist knows that actor’s comfort is crucial.
Ben Bornstein: How do we make it enjoyable for them and not so crazy and disruptive for their performance? Our job is to improve their performance.
Narrator: And it can be done without sacrificing realism.
The first step for Bornstein is to figure out what type of burn it is and what the damage should look like. In a hypothetical scenario for this manifestation, the character escaped from a burning building, but not unscathed. This is a new burn and the character has not had the opportunity to see a doctor.
Bornstein: There are all these going story things that we have to think about, from step A to Z. So, let’s say, like you’ve had an iron burned in your face, like a curling iron. You have to think, how hot it was? How long did it last? How long did it stay on your face? We need to think about reality. Does the skin bubble? Would it come off with the iron? Could it be a piece?
I want it to look like she’s just coming out of an explosion.
Narrator: There are cheap and easy ways for Bornstein to do this, methods he would call “out of the kit”. For a burnt arm, he can use a burn transfer tattoo.
Bornstein: It’s kind of like a Bazooka Joe tattoo that you would get as a kid, but on steroids that lasts all day.
Narrator: They are great for makeup artists. They stay on all day and require minimal touch-up. One of the hardest parts of a makeup artist’s job is making sure the cast is exactly the same every day. This method is ideal for continuity. While effective, these tattoos are two dimensional, so they work best for background characters.
Another simple and effective method is to use Glatzan, aka Baldiez, plastic cap and light it on fire. There are many ways to make simple materials look horrible.
Bornstein: So now I’m just cutting a bald sheet of vinyl, and it’s going to make a weird little coarse membrane on top of the burn that Adam is painting. So we’re just going to paste that, and we’re going to blend with the edge and have KY Jelly inside of it, so we can see some depth and translucency to give it more effect.
Narrator: Bornstein can and will go much further for a scenario like this. After all, it’s meant to be a hero character, another term for the main character. Bornstein and his team therefore made large prosthetic parts.
Before starting, he needed to do some research so that he could define a few key elements, texture and color. This research can take strange forms, like looking at pictures of burnt meat.
Bornstein: The textures are cool, but it’s not, you know, it’s not there.
Check it out, man. This is what I was talking about. That’s wonderful. Look at this detail. Look at these colors. If you could see, all black is really the only raised areas here. So, we’re looking at what could be a piece, or even just, like, maybe the Baldiez thing that we just put on top of the paint. All that little oily area and, like, all the yellow, golden yellow, I like it all. And to really notice that the edges are not black. It’s the deeper parts of it are black. Like, if you look, it’s just little black spots. And then there’s a red ring, and then there’s black way above it.
We could almost even probably use some of his tones in there. But I like this picture for reference. I think it’s beautiful.
Narrator: You can see this influence in the prosthetic parts. Look at all the cracks and charcoal and the dominance of red and black.
As with all prostheses, it started with a cast of the head. Bornstein used this casting to create a sculpture of Dechert’s head. From there they got a plaster version of his head and a rubber mold negative. This negative was used to construct the silicone parts. His team sculpted to achieve the perfect texture.
As they worked, they had to keep in mind that this was a new burn rather than an old scar.
Bornstein: Like, it just happened, and she still smokes, but she’s extinct.
Narrator: Prosthetics like this are necessary, especially if there are to be a lot of close-ups of a burnt character.
Bornstein: You can’t pretend. You need the textures there.
Narrator: Everything had to fit and be perfectly mixed and follow the right color scheme to make it look like a really fresh tank. The team also had to build around their wardrobe. They knew what costume she would wear and that it would be ripped apart by the explosion. Although they didn’t have to make prostheses for her whole body, they had to decide if there would be any visible sores in the areas where the skin was exposed. If there were any open areas left blank where there should be a burn, it would make the overall performance less convincing.
Bornstein: We’re going to stick that on it, and maybe we’re going to merge it into a device or something like that. Here is the start line. Its good. We’re gonna do a number on you, Kachina. It’s gonna be dope.
Narrator: Hair was a factor as well.
Bornstein: I want the part to be flat with the edge. We will blur the edge, then the hair will go over it. So all of that hair has to go that way.
Narrator: To maximize the star’s comfort, they saved some of the less comfortable prosthetic pieces for last.
They started early by sticking on the big breast piece. Mixing it into the skin is the key.
This scaly piece could have been placed on Dechert’s leg, but the team decided it made more sense on his arm.
Bornstein: I love the little black one. And these little edges, we should also paint them black. I like this.
Narrator: And do you remember those burnt sheets? They were placed next to the two prosthetic pieces, stacked and mixed together, so it was sometimes difficult to tell the difference between the two.
They decided to rely more on the burnt plastics for her legs while sticking to the color palette and painting directly over yellow wherever they could.
Bornstein: So I see a big hole. We’re going to paint that.
Narrator: Then that massive piece went right on Dechert’s stomach. Notice how the edges were peeled off and the piece was blended into her skin. The last prosthetic piece they attached was the face piece, which only covered the left half.
Bornstein: It was most of the meat of the construction, it was the making of this part. His ear will go through that, and then I think we’ll put some black charcoal to connect it.
Narrator: While they could have covered the ear to make it look like it fell, Bornstein thought it would have been too obvious and instead liked the idea of ââkeeping it but getting it dirty. He also had to consider that the eyebrow would have been burnt, so Bornstein simply painted on it so that it wouldn’t appear under the mask.
There are many different final touch-ups to make sure they look as fresh as possible.
Other materials, like “clean dirt”, have been added to the color scheme. The last room was also the most uncomfortable: contact lenses. This step required a lens technician.
In the end, it was all mixed together so well, it’s hard to tell what is the paint and the silicone. The real winner of the day?
Bornstein: I think it was, honestly, the Glatzan sheets we put on her. He really sold it. I wanted to mix some sort of reality with, for example, a superhero look where half of his head and hair is missing. The fact that we decided to take the sculpture to the roots of the hair. Because if it was right here, it doesn’t look good. So we wanted to go the extra mile and have it around our heads.
Narrator: Applying makeup to remove everything took over four hours. Computers and visual effects have enhanced the work of makeup artists and special effects artists.
Bornstein: If you marry the two, we can, like, hollow out some crazy areas of the face or body that we can’t do with makeup. It should be made a false head.
Narrator: So why didn’t Bornstein and his team just create the burns using CGI? Especially when, as is the case with Two-Face in “The Dark Night”, the minimal practical makeup could just be covered with a CGI layer? Because the practical effects will not only give you a better movie, but also a better performance.
Bornstein: We can bring something to the table that looks organic, feels real, and improves the performance of the actor. If they have nothing on them, they may not be as emotional. Maybe they’re lying on a hospital bed looking at their hand. Maybe it will help them cry more in front of the camera. We give them tools to work, but most importantly, we give them tools to work with the camera so that they don’t have to do it in post-production.