Netzly (2000) defines special effects as the process of turning the imaginary events of a film look so real. This can be achieved mechanically through makeup and visual manipulations of images. In the early years of film production, special effects were manually done but in the current generation, both visual effects and makeup can be achieved through the use of computer generated imagery (CGI) (Netzly, 2000).
Use of specialized materials like silicone to creatively transform a film cast into what the director envisages and in accordance with the theme of the film is the work of the makeup and prosthetics artists (Bray, 2009). People who have become industry leaders and most sought after in the world of makeup and prosthetics, learned and sharpened their skills by themselves over a long period of time and experience inspired by their creativity and passion (Bray, 2009). Currently there are many resources and training platforms that one can learn from including schools and online tutorials (Bray, 2009).
Special effects is able to achieve for movies what may not be possible in the real life or scenes that may never be possible to shoot in real life or would otherwise be very expensive (Young Minds Inspired, 2007). For example for a film portraying life or acting in space or mars or the moon, special effects can be used to generate such environments without the actual shooting ever happening in these places. Special effects in films is coordinated by the special effects personnel who are professionals at their skills and work hand in hand with the film directors and the producers within a stipulated time schedule and budget (Young Minds Inspired, 2007).
Films are able to bring imaginary situations including worlds, people, characters and environments to life both in different time and space. The makeup artists and the costume designers with the supervision of the director and producer are able to ensure the film’s casts are physically transformed to look like the film’s characters in order to bring these characters to life (Young Minds Inspired, 2008). While the director advises the producer on what is required to sufficiently come up with a brilliant final film including makeup and visual effects, the producer has to gauge what is possible and what is not on the precincts of time and budget.
All the garments worn in a film are costumes of some sort and are designed by a costume designer (Young Minds Inspired, 2008). The costume designer together with the makeup designer, the special effects coordinator and the director work hand in hand with the actors to ensure the costumes used are able to contribute to the overall story and theme of the film (Young Minds Inspired, 2008). The fashion designer who in most cases is normally a contracted fashion design house should be able to provide garments that are able to meet the costume designer’s recommendation for the movie (Young Minds Inspired, 2008).
Bray (2009) who is himself a makeup artist says that graduating from a makeup effects school does not guarantee one a straight ticket to employment. He says that potential employers will either employ people they already know or those who have showcased exemplary work (Bray, 2009). It therefore requires that for someone who has an interest in pursuing a special makeup effects and prosthetics career, to stretch their creativity limits and also put several hours of practice to achieve an industry level competitive advantage (Bray, 2009). This helps one to develop their own creations and have a portfolio of what they can use to woo potential employers (Bray, 2009).Materials that are commonly used to create prosthetics when the intention is to transform an actor’s appearance into something or someone very different from who they are include solid rubber masks an foam latex (ImpaQt FX, 2004-2014).
In the current generation, the special makeup effects space is experiencing a paradigm shift especially with the advent of computer software that are able to generate what practical makeup effects could at a more diminished cost and space (Bray, 2009). Bray (2009) though argues that not everything will be entirely replaced by computers when it comes to makeup in films. He says as long as human beings will still be cast in films except for animations, practical makeup and special effects will still remain a core component of film production (Bray, 2009). Bray’s (2009) ideology is that as much as digital effects achieved through computer generated imagery exist in the industry, the computer will generate things that are impossible to generate using a live approach while live actions will help achieve what cannot be accomplished using computers. This way both computer generated digital effects will be used hand in hand with practical live makeup and effects (Bray, 2009). In the old times there were several trials and errors aimed at achieving a particular makeup effect. These trials and errors rendered the whole process costly by the time the final piece of the desired makeup effect was accomplished. Unlike those times, several designs are generated by a computer at almost no cost so that a practical effect is designed from the final digital design agreed upon and approved (Bray, 2009). It also ensures that waste of material is eliminated or drastically reduced.
Several computer software have been developed for use in the digital effects industry. One of the most notable one is ZBrush which is widely used and also relatively affordable to acquire even for a single user’s license which is at about $450 (Bray, 2009). Even yet, the use of such software requires such users to be personally creative and often dedicate enough time for practice so that they can be at the top of their game (Bray, 2009).
Rick Baker: Overview
Born Richard Alan Baker on 8th December 1950 in Binghamton, New York in the United States of America, Rick Baker is a male special makeup effects designer, special effects producer, special effects artist, special effects technical advisor and an actor whose creatures makeup and special effects contribution in the Hollywood motion picture and videos production industry is undisputable (Baseline, 2010). His work has been showcased in such notable epic movies as Men in Black (1997), Harry and the Hendersons (1987), Ed Wood (1994), The Nutty Professor (1996), An American Werewolf in London (1981), Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977), How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000), The Wolfman (2010), Planet of the Apes (2001) and the Michael Jackson’s Thriller song video (1983).
Born to Mr. Ralph B. Baker and Doris Hamlin, it is said that as a teen inspired by horror movies, Baker would design and create artificial body parts in his parents’ kitchen. He made his first gorilla costume while attending Northview High School in Covina, California because he was very fascinated by gorillas .His fascination for gorillas would sometime make him sneak and scare people while adorned in his gorilla costume at drive-ins showing the movie Planet of the Apes (1968) .
Baker has worked both as a special makeup effects designer, special effects producer, special effects artist, special effects technical advisor and an actor. His first breakthrough to apply his skills and interest was when he worked as a prosthetic makeup effects assistant for Dick Smith in the film The Exorcist (1973). One of the initial works that gave him mileage was the film The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1974) in which his work made the lead actress Cicely Tyson appear very old .
Baker attended Northview High School in Covina, California and is a recipient of a Doctorate of Humane Letters honorary degree from Academy of Art University because of his artistic contribution to the film industry.
Before his current marriage to Silvia Abascal, Baker was married to Elaine Baker for ten years between the years 1974 and 1984 and their marriage ended by a divorce though they never had any kids . He married Silvia Abascal in 1987 with whom he has two daughters .
Baker has been involved in over sixty film projects spanning over four decades [forty three (43)] years either as special makeup effects designer, special effects producer, special effects artist, special effects technical advisor or an actor (1971 to 2014) . Some of these films have become a huge success at the American box office while some have been nominated and some have won Oscar awards for special effects generated by Rick Baker.
Awards and Nominations
For his exemplary special effects on the movie American Werewolf in London (1981), Baker received the first ever Best Makeup Oscar award at the 1981 Academy Awards . Other films from which Baker won Best Makeup awards include: Harry and the Hendersons (1988), Ed Wood (1995), The Nutty Professor (1997), Men in Black (1998), How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2001) and The Wolfman (2011). In total over his career Baker was nominated twelve times for the Best Makeup Artist award for which he won seven .
Computer Generated Imagery and Makeup and Special Effects
With his role as a special makeup effects artist in Maleficent (2014), Baker retired from an active Makeup and Special Effects career in 2015 citing the role Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) was taking in the production of Makeup and Special Effects in the film industry . It is much cheaper and less bulky thus requiring little space to use CGI to generate makeup and special effects for films compared to when real and practical makeup and special effects are used . The rise of talented CGI artists has also increased competition in the industry and . It is indeed quite notable that the increased use of computer generated graphics when looking at digital visual effects application such as animation and costume design has gained a far greater ground in the film and television production industry .
Baseline. (2010). Rick-Baker biography. (Baseline, Producer, & All Media Guide LLC) Retrieved February 5th , 2016, from New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/movies/person/80455/Rick-Baker/biography
Bray, S. (2009). Learn Prosthetic Makeup: How can I get into makeup effects? learnprostheticmakeup.com.
IMDb. (n.d.). Rick Baker Biography. Retrieved February 5th, 2016, from IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000711/bio
ImpaQt FX. (2004-2014). Foam Latex Prosthetics: Make-up Application Guide. Pasadena, CA.
Lanz, M. (2015, May 28). Monster Maker’ Rick Baker prepares to retire from film biz and auction off career-spanning creature collection . Retrieved February 5th, 2016, from Southern California Public Radio: http://www.scpr.org/programs/the-frame/2015/05/27/42999/monster-maker-rick-baker-prepares-to-retire-film-b/
Netzly, P. D. (2000). Encyclopedia of Movie Special Effects. Phoenix, Arizona: Oryx Press.
Scott, A. J. (1998, March ). Multimedia and digital visual effects: An emerging local labor market. Monthly Labor Review , 30-38.
Young Minds Inspired. (2007). Seeing is Believing. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science.
Young Minds Inspired. (2008). Character by Design. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.