FX School of Hard Knocks: Intro to the world of Propmaking.
OK a lot of nice people have written to me saying they want to learn how to do what I do and was wondering if I can share some secrets over NOTEs.
I don't want to seem like I'm blowing off you guys who are noobs to the Prop making but there are a few things you need to know before you waste money and time to find out this is not what you had in mind. So this is me giving you a basic picture of what it is like - in words.
First thing you guys need to know is "Prop Making" deals with making REAL LIFE PHYSICAL PROPS THAT ARE MADE WITH CHEMICALS AND A LOT OF MONEY COSTING MATERIALS THAT COULD BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH. We make Real Things that can be seen and touched. We are not making drawings or concept art or some imaginary thing. So anything that is physical will need a lot of production time, creative skill, mental energy and a Whole Lotta materials!
Materials cost money:
- If you want to get into prop making, you gotta have a Day Job, Rich Mommy and Daddy, a Wife that believes in you or a Sugar Mama (that's what I got) to support you!
- If you don't have money just stick to pencil and paper and keep imagining them.
- The materials, if you had the money, need proper space as well to store away from the Sun, heat source or safe from your kids, where u sleep and away from your Pets!
Note: Another reason why I can't tell you specifics about materials cuz its different in every country. What I use and what you have is totally different. Brands of silicone are different and how much catalyst to use is vary by manufacturer and quality. Much of it is trial and error. So the Prop-making forums are your best shot.
- OK There's no freaking way I can tell you guys everything there is to know about making Props, simply because I don't know everything, and there's lots to learn!
- How I learned what I do is mostly from Trial and Error by buying small samples of materials and doing a lot of tests making molds of small stuff and work from there.
- I also watch a lot of movie DVDs with extra bonus features on them on all the creature fx movies like Predator, Aliens and anything with special effects. Other videos are from John Brown Gnomon Workshop videos: the sculptor shows you how to sculpt and mold these things.
- Then everything else is from youtube looking for anything about: oil clay, sculpting, molding, silicone, casting, resin, fiberglass, etc.
- The rest you gotta use Google!
- If there is some reputable FX Studio in your town, no matter how small and insignificant they are, sign up to be their Intern and learn from the bottom up!
Trial by Fire... and resin fiberglass: Mental Preparation
Prop making is all about effort.Mentally, physically and creatively. You will FAIL about 100 times before you get the results you want. It's about skill and technical knowledge to properly use the materials safely and taking care of them. These materials won't just come together and produce nice looking Predator Helmets. Don't I wish? LOL
Most important when going into this Prop making for hobby or business is: Your heart gotta be in it. Otherwise you will give up after a few weeks.
You really must possess a resilient mind that see Failure = Challenge that can be overcome. Whether its mistakes or accidents or simply poor planning you will mess up. You will forget to do something simple like applying mold release or Vaseline, it will mess up days and hours of work and a lot of materials will be lost. Nothing you can do but work through it. Experienced Pros still makes these simple mistakes which is why they work methodically, planning everything and knowing what they need to do BEFORE they do it.
This is something I myself have to learn the hard way and for 3 years I am still forgetting simple things. I've learned to: pre-plan more and do less, unless I know what to do.
But what ever happen if this is something is in your heart and this is something you want to do as a hobby or potential business as an Artist, you will prevail!
I took a personality test (MBTI) and I found out I was a "INTJ". In short I am someone perfect for this Prop making because I see failure, problems as challenges that can be solved. But in any case a strong mental out look and persistence will give you the results you see in my gallery. Without this you won't get anywhere.
Temper Temper: Accidents will happen.
You will see your money go down the drain whether you've add too much catalyst to the silicone or simply Ooops knocked a gallon of resin on the floor and spilled it out and anything similar. Mistakes will drive u crazy but it will also make you learn. So that is why we fuck up. Don't give up. Salvage what you can and if you can't, let it go. "No use crying over spilled resin"
Whether you mess up sculpting, or have a perfectly sculpted piece to have your cat or your clumsy ass elbow knock it on the floor, you gotta chill out. It happens. I don't know how many times I've scraped clay off accidentally cuz I didn't plan my working space well and such. You will get frustrated and very easily. Freaking poltergeists in the studio will mess with you. The Gods of Props will test your heart and whether you have what it takes to make into the Halls of Prophallar.
Very simple. All the materials you use will either produce toxic gases, irritate your eyes and lungs, seep into your fingernails and skin to cause swelling and most of them will eventually give you Cancer! Stan Winston died from a blood cancer that's a result of these chemicals so wear latex gloves, respirators and safety goggles. Read the instruction manuals that come with the chemicals before you even buy it. Smooth-on.com has a lot of MTSD data sheets you can download for any materials you are interested in on how to use it and what precautions you need to take to use it. Learn as much as you can before spending 1 cent on them. If you don't know, email them, call them and find out online as much as you can. Then buy it, take it home and use in small amounts. When you get a hang of it then go ahead and use it!
Have a water machine nearby:
If you work long hours in the studio or in your garage, especially in the summer, prepare to sweat! I now wear goretex athletic type clothing that allows easy evaporation cuz I work hard non stop all day. You will be prying plaster mold halves and carrying gallons of silicone around or simply trimming 20 resin fiberglass masks, you will be sweating a little. Even if you don't do heavy production and its just one mask, you will also feel the heat. OK I'm exaggerating. LOL
It's hard work. That's why you will sweat. If you're one of those people who think "Oh I'm damn talented" Prop making will test you! Professional FX people are so hard core that even when they are totally exhausted working late hours they still need to produce Top Quality results catching impossible deadlines.
In conclusion, Prop making is all about Fun, backed by a lot of hardwork.
Don't sweat it if you mess up. We are all humans. Have fun doing it. I almost gave up many times. But I took breaks, mental breaks, physical breaks and psychological breaks. Give it time you will get the results you want. You will learn. There is nothing I can tell you over notes that will be the "end all be all, ultimate knowledge." I am still learning and I fuck up EVERYDAY. There's no point showing you a gallery or mistakes or maybe I should? LOL.
There are tons of Propmaking forums out there with a lot more people who will put me to shame with what they know. Learn from them as I have. Visit these forums to start. There are more and you can always search with google.
A Video behind the scenes of what I do: vimeo.com/3831765
So have Fun doing it. Once you start to get the results you want, you will feel fulfilled with a sense of accomplishment. This is my true goal: obtain achievement through my hard work.
This FX prop making really builds character. If you can get some materials to come together like a symphony, planning and prepping all steps and perfecting your methodology and creating beautiful music, even if it's only audible by your own ears, you have achieved Perfection
or come close to it, its good enough.
Good Luck and have Fun making Props!
Written by Mike Loh