Nov 9, 2007

Special Makeup Effects: Realistic Gunshot Effect Without Explosive Charge

On the indie film front, there is often call for cheap bullet effects. One of the easiest methods for for firing a gun is to do it in post, which is what most of the studios are doing as well. Oftentimes, this is safer and looks even more believable than putting a blank in the gun. In this year's AMERICAN GANGSTER, there is a moment in the film when Denzel Washington's characters puts a pistol right up to the forehead of another character. After a bit of tense "is-he-gonna-do-it-or-not" dialogue, Denzel shoots him pointblank. This would be darn near impossible to do with blanks on the set -- too dangerous. Having worked on the film, I watched this sequence frame-by-frame and the shot was indeed done in post. A single frame or two of flash coming from the nuzzle, a sound effect, and we believe it.

But there's still the problem of the quick-and-easy fix for getting shot in the body and seeing blood squirt out. Rigging the usual blood-filled condom to a person's body with an explosive charge can be done relatively cheaply (Robert Rodriguez did it on the no-budget EL MARIACHI dozens, if not hundreds of times, and to great effect), but not all of us are comfortable working with explosives in that way. There's just too much at risk.

Legendary makeup artist Dick Smith (EXORCIST, ALTERED STATES) created a method of using tubes filled with blood and hiding wax plugs on people's flesh that would be pulled out on cue. Blood would then be pumped over the person's skin from what looked like an open wound.

One ingenious indie makeup artist has figured out a quick and dirty way to make a realistic bullet hit (in a clothed area of the body) in the following video. The cost is only a couple of bucks for a condom, a steel washer, super glue and fishing line. Oh, and plenty of Karo syrup blood. I think we have a future Dick Smith here (actually he looks slightly more Tom Savini-ish, but we'd need to see him with a mustache.