Death becomes noms for effects makeup

Demons and corpses and crime scenes -- oh my

HOLLYWOOD — All dead people are not created equal, says Todd Masters, prexy of Masters FX, which creates corpses and does effects makeup for “Six Feet Under.” This year’s Emmy noms reflect that sentiment, with three shows that work with creating realistic looks for the dead — and the undead.

For “Six Feet Under,” “showing a reconstruction is extensive in its use of effects,” says Masters, who received a nom along with his crew for the episode “A Private Life.” “There’s dummy effects, prosthetic effects which are actually on the actress, and you have to bridge those at some point. . .going from dummy head to actress at a critical point without being obvious to the viewer, so the work has to be really tight.”

Building a dummy starts with a photo of an actor or actress. Computer renderings are next, then three-dimensional sketches are done for feedback and approval. Once the look is approved, face casts are made and dummies are fashioned from silicone, which is translucent like real skin.

“We have to replicate skin as tightly as possible,” Masters says. “Everything has to be there otherwise people will notice.”

“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” also deals with bodies, but in an investigative way. So particular attention is paid to the wounds themselves.

That’s where John Goodwin, the shows’ makeup effects artist, comes in. The episode he’s nominated for, “Overload,” involved a construction worker falling from the top of a building.

“Because the guy falls off the building and lands on his side,” he says, “you have to do appliances and apply them to the actor in the same position he’s going to found be in, otherwise you get strange wrinkles and things.”

Since four or five hours in an awkward position isn’t much fun, Goodwin says the cooperation of actors is crucial in getting the job done. “It makes such a difference when the performers are into it,” he adds.

Beyond the grave

For a would-be wedding on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (“Hell’s Bells”), an assortment of demonic guests plus a peek into a character’s future meant a lot of extra work for the makeup crew.

“A makeup artist might choose to put up an aging makeup for an Emmy, or a lot of demons or a very specialized demon. This episode combined all of that,” says Todd McIntosh, makeup supervisor for the episode.

With limited time, McIntosh turned to co-nominees John Vulich of Optic Nerve and Joel Harlow of Harlow Effects to help get things done.

“There would be monsters going on in one trailer and family members in another, and a third trailer with another set of demons. It was a big, coordinated job to try and schedule all that, as it was coming up with that many different things in a short time,” McIntosh says.